Ahead of Week 13 there were 12 postseason berths up for grab. Now, heading into Week 14 only eight remain.
New England secured the AFC East for the ninth time in 10 years Sunday with a win over the Miami Dolphins. Denver won a second consecutive AFC West crown with a victory over Tampa Bay. At the same time, that Buccaneers loss handed Atlanta the NFC South division for just the second time in eight years. Houston also secured a Wild Card berth at the very least with a win over Tennessee.
Now teams can start to panic. With playoffs spots set to vanish quickly, it’s time to win, win, win. Of course, the best chance for any team is to win its division, thus doing away with any Wild Card shenanigans. Here’s a look at the teams that have the best chance of doing exactly that.
Baltimore (9-3, 4-1 Division) Remaining: @ WAS, vs. DEN, vs. NYG, @ CIN Odds: 1/3
Pittsburgh (7-5, 2-2 Division) Remaining: vs. SD, @ DAL, vs. CIN, vs. CLE Odds: 7/2
Cincinnati (7-5, 1-3 Division) Remaining: vs. DAL, @ PHI, @ PIT, vs. BAL Odds: 7/1
The AFC North will have a terrific finish this year, thanks to Pittsburgh’s win in Baltimore on Sunday. The Ravens, favorites still to take the division, have the toughest run in, but that two-game cushion is exactly that; a cushion. A 4-1 division record with only Cincinnati to play could also act as an additional game on the lead. Pittsburgh could easily run the table whilst Cincinnati has to play both the Steelers and Ravens, which is a tough task for anybody.
Take: Baltimore – The Ravens might not play as well as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati but they’ve done (just) enough already this season to have the necessary advantages if necessary.
Houston (11-1, 4-0 Division) Remaining: @ NE, vs. IND, vs. MIN, @ IND Odds: Off
Indianapolis (8-4, 2-1 Division) Remaining: vs. TEN, @ HOU, @ KC, vs. HOU Odds: Off
This one’s real simple; one win gives Houston the division championship. Indianapolis can have a say by beating the Texans twice in the last three weeks of the season, but that would still require Houston to lose to both New England and Minnesota. There’s a reason this one’s already off the board.
Take: Houston (if you can find someone silly enough to still be offering the opportunity).
NY Giants (7-5, 2-3 Division) Remaining: vs. NO, @ ATL, @ BAL, vs. PHI Odds: 5/9
Washington (6-6, 3-1 Division) Remaining: vs. BAL, @ CLE, @ PHI, vs. DAL Odds: 13/4
Dallas (6-6, 3-2 Division) Remaining: @ CIN, vs. PIT, vs. NO, @ WAS Odds: 7/2
The Giants are favorites to take the NFC East but they’ll need to improve on recent performances, especially with trips to Atlanta and Baltimore on the slate. Don’t expect the Falcons to roll over just because they’ve booked their place either. Once Baltimore is finished with – win or loss – this weekend, Washington has a very winnable schedule, while Dallas has been so erratic this season that you wouldn’t want to put your money anywhere near them. But then again, an upset could be in the making.
Take: Washington – Both the ‘Skins and Giants could very much end the season at 9-7. The tiebreaker will go to the Redskins with their superior division record, providing they beat either Philadelphia or Dallas.
Green Bay (8-4, 3-0 Division) Remaining: vs. DET, @ CHI, vs. TEN, @ MIN Odds: 1/2
Chicago (8-4, 2-1 Division) Remaining: @ MIN, vs. GB, @ ARZ, @ DET Odds: 3/2
Minnesota (6-6, 2-2 Division) Remaining: vs. CHI, @ STL, @ HOU, vs. GB Odds: Off
Three losses in four weeks have the Bears on the wrong end of a streak, and with news that Brian Urlacher might miss the rest of the season, things are not looking good for Chicago. That being said, the Bears have a winnable schedule, almost. Three on the road is not ideal and that game against Green Bay could make all the difference. In fact, it will make all the difference. Green Bay also has a winnable schedule, more winnable than Chicago even. The Vikings aren’t mathematically eliminated but a two-game lead is too much to make up now, particularly with both Chicago and Green Bay left on the schedule as well as a trip to Houston.
Take: Green Bay – A win at Soldier Field will prove to be the big difference maker here.
San Francisco (8-3-1, 2-1-1 Division) Remaining: vs. MIA, @ NE, @ SEA, vs. ARZ Odds: 1/5
Seattle (7-5, 0-3 Division) Remaining: vs. ARZ, @ BUF, vs. SF, vs. STL Odds: 7/2
St. Louis (5-6-1, 1-3-1 Division) Remaining: @BUF, vs. MIN, @ TB, @ SEA Odds: Off
First thing’s first: throw St. Louis out of this equation. The bookies have. Secondly, that tie looks mighty ugly on San Francisco’s record. Could it be costly as well? It could! Seattle is unbeaten at home and faces three of the final four at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks’ remaining game is a trip to Toronto to take on the Buffalo Bills, a winnable game, especially as Seattle finally got a road win this past weekend. San Francisco faces a tough matchup in New England in Week 15, which could easily result in a loss. That would leave (in theory) the winner of the Niners-Seahawks Week 16 game to take the division.
Take: San Francisco – Seattle certainly has the capabilities of winning out and edging this one from the Niners, but the Seahawks have been riding their luck all season and it figures that one of these games will be a bust. Don’t be surprised if it’s that final game against the Rams.