It is even possible that the league could expand this season’s playoffs to more than 14 teams if the coronavirus pandemic results in a rash in regular season games being canceled, but we’ll move on with that number for now. Here are the chases after the season in the NFC and AFC with the end of the 11th week and a look to the future.
1. New Orleans Saints (8-2)
Remaining schedule (combined win percentage of opponents *: .451): Broncos, Falcons, Eagles, Chiefs, Vikings, Panthers
2. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.450): 49ers, at Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, at Seahawks, Cardinals
3. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.467): bears, eagles, lions, panthers, titans, bears
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)
Remaining schedule (.567): Seahawks, at Packers, Saints, at Cardinals, at Cowboys, Washington
5. Seattle Seahawks (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.342): at Eagles, Giants, Jets, at Washington, Rams, at 49ers
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)
Remaining schedule (.460): Chiefs, Vikings, with falcons, lions, falcons
7. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.475): at Patriots, Rams, at Giants, Eagles, 49ers, at Rams
Remaining schedule (.433): at Packers, Lions, Texans, Vikings, Jaguars, Packers
Append to: Minnesota Vikings (4-6), Detroit Lions (4-6), San Francisco 49ers (4-6)
Technically alive but not happening: Carolina Panthers (4-7), Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
NFC East Chaos: New York Giants (3-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Washington Football Team (3-7)
The NFC East gets its own category because all four teams were almost equally horrific – which is why everyone has at least one reasonable chance of winning the division and finishing number 4. Philadelphia is half a game ahead of everyone else, but the Eagles also have the toughest schedule and may have to consider benching struggling quarterback Carson Wentz. The Cowboys have the easiest schedule of the four, at least on paper, and their offensive has been reinforced with the return of quarterback Andy Dalton. The Thanksgiving game between Dallas and Washington and the date of the 17th week with the Giants could determine the NFC East winner.
New Orleans did well in their first game without Drew Brees, taking a one-game lead over the rest of the field, including the Packers. If Green Bay can catch the Saints in the standings, it will hold the tiebreaker after beating New Orleans in Week 3.
The Rams won a very significant win against the Buccaneers on Monday evening, which put them in second place due to a better conference record than the Packers. Tampa Bay’s hopes of winning their division have already been shaky because the Saints swept them, but the Bucs still remain in a good position to advance to the playoffs.
Given the ugliness in Chicago and the losses in Week 11 elsewhere on NFC Nord by the Vikings and Lions, the Rams also seem well positioned for at least one placeholder.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
Remaining schedule (.542): Ravens, Washington, at Bills, at Bengals, Colts, at Browns
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
Remaining schedule (.508): Buccaneers, Broncos, Dolphins, Saints, Falcons, Chargers
Remaining Schedule (.517): Chargers at 49ers, Steelers, Broncos, Patriots, Dolphins
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-3)
Remaining Schedule (.500): Titans, Texans, Raiders, Texans, Steelers, Jaguars
5. Tennessee Titans (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.483): Colts, Browns, Jaguars, Lions, Packers, Texans
6. Cleveland Browns (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.450): with jaguars, with titans, ravens, with giants, with jets, steelers
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.383): Falcons, Jets, Colts, Chargers, Dolphins, Broncos
Remaining schedule (.442): at Steelers, Cowboys, at Browns, Jaguars, Giants, at Bengals
Remaining schedule (.475): at Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, at Raiders, Bills
Hang on: Denver Broncos (4-6), New England Patriots (4-6)
Technically alive but not happening: Los Angeles Chargers (3-7), Houston Texans (3-7), Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Eliminated: New York Jets (0-10)
The Steelers are unlikely to play 16-0. A trip to Buffalo on December 13th seems like a good place for a blemish, but Pittsburgh should be able to take home advantage in the playoffs.
The Chiefs did their first job this week: revenge in a Sunday night rematch with the Raiders who inflicted the only loss on Kansas City last month. To overtake the Steelers for the top seed, Patrick Mahomes and Co. Pittsburgh not only have to lose, but ideally at least once within the conference.
The Colts took command of the AFC South with a week 10 win in Tennessee and almost consolidated their division grip when they meet again in Week 12. The Titans won arguably the most important matchup Sunday of the week in terms of the playoff race, defeating the ravens on the road.
The Raiders have a very foreseeable future ahead of them, so even Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs may not do much to derail their postseason trajectory. However, a week 16 matchup with Miami could have big ramifications.
Baltimore is now on the outside with a coronavirus outbreak on its hands, not to mention a tough test in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, but it ends the season with five games that it appears to be very profitable.