It’s essentially the most wonderful time of the 12 months. Snow is falling. Frost is biting. Playoff football is within the air. Let’s put our feet up and solid our eyes to the fringes of playoff contention.
1. Buffalo Bills (11-3); 2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3); 3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4); 4. Tennessee Titans (7-7); 5. Baltimore Ravens (9-5); 6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6); 7. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Latest England Patriots (7-7)
After the debacle at the tip of last week’s game, the Pats are back to .500. Their offense stays broken. Their defense stays the very best within the league – since Week 5, Bill Belichick’s group has comfortably outpaced the league in EPA per play, a measure of down-to-down performance. Belichick and company could be deluding themselves, nonetheless, in the event that they think they’ll wriggle into the postseason and cause any sort of disruption with the present state of the offense. Mac Jones can barely get a play off in time. There’s no rhythm. Receivers create no separation. Apart from the running game, they’re unable to generate any sort of explosive plays.
They face a frightening final three games: home to the Bengals and Dolphins; on the Bills. At this point, avoiding the playoffs altogether sounds preferable to sneaking in and being shellacked by the Bills or Chiefs in the primary round.
Probabilities: Time to show to the draft
Latest York Jets (7-7)
In the event you squint close enough, you’ll notice there’s not an excessive amount of distance separating the Jets and Patriots. Each have best-in-class defenses. Each have issues on offense: One is broken by design and dodgy quarterback play; the opposite is beset by injuries … and dodgy quarterback play.
The Jets have lost three on the spin, failing to attain greater than 20 points in two of the three losses. The backbone of this Jets’ roster is sweet enough to compete deep into the AFC postseason. They’ve speed in any respect three levels of the defense. They create pressure with 4. Sauce Gardner walked into the league because the game’s top cornerback – and continues to (someway) improve with each passing week.
The difficulty: Who’s lining up at quarterback? Mike White will miss the week’s game with the Jags with a rib injury, which implies one other start for the wild stylings of Zach Wilson. Latest York’s offense functions more seamlessly, more efficiently, with more rhythm, with White on the helm than with Wilson. In an idealized world, the Jets would ask Wilson to play it secure over the next weeks. To sacrifice a probability at wow plays in exchange for some order and certainty. To limit the turnovers and put the ball within the hands of the defense alone to make a decision games. But that may be like asking Mr Blobby to perform Hamlet.
With the Jaguars, Seahawks and Dolphins left on the schedule, it can not be a simple near the season. However the Jets have a shot. They walk into every matchup knowing that with their line of defense they’ve the highest overall unit on the sector – one which can create enough chaos to hold the team to nine wins.
Probabilities: Doomed by the quarterback room
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8)
You may not have noticed, however the Jags still have a shot to win the craptastic AFC South. They usually should! The Jags are the very best team within the division, records be damned.
They’re young, explosive,and maddeningly inconsistent. Close your eyes and you’ll be able to picture it now: The Jaguars sneak into the playoffs on the strength of Trevor Lawrence’s arm and the team’s frenzied defense and lose within the wild-card round by 40. There’s also a world by which the defense coalesces, Lawrence continues his ascension toward superstardom, and Jacksonville goes on a Cincy-inspired run all of the approach to the AFC title game. No other team has such a varied degree of outcomes.
That is what young teams are alleged to do. They lose big. They lose close. They win close. They win big. The Jaguars have shifted to that third point along the timeline. It wouldn’t be a stunner to see them hit the fourth landmark before the season’s end. They close with games on the Jets, on the Texans and residential to the Titans, in what might be a winner-takes-all matchup.
We all know this obviously: No playoff team desires to see Lawrence and the Jags’ uber-athletic defense running onto the sector in January.
Probabilities: Not great, but might be worse
Can Trevor Lawrence steer the young and maddeningly inconsistent Jacksonville Jaguars into the playoffs? Photograph: Melina Myers/USA Today Sports
Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)
The Raiders have found their footing over the past month. A few of the ghastly offensive execution has vanished. The one-score game luck has swung of their favor after some brutal bounces of the ball, ropey coaching decisions and officiating miscues cost them earlier within the 12 months. Over the past five games, they averaged 27 points, going 4-1, with the lone loss coming within the what-were-they-thinking Thursday nighter against Baker Mayfield and the Rams.
Something has clicked. The offense has more flow. They’re hammering individuals with the run. The defense, outside of Maxx Crosby, has shown a pulse. They’re not an entire team – they could not even be team – but they’ve enough difference-makers on either side of the ball to beat anyone.
Their schedule the remaining of the best way is fairly light. First up is a beatable Steelers side. Then they host the Brock Purdy-led Niners, a difficult but not entirely daunting task. Then it’s an end-of-season matchup with the Chiefs, who may already be locked right into a playoff side and subsequently resting their starters.
Probabilities: Creeping steadily upwards
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1); 2. Minnesota Vikings (11-3); 3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4); 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8); 5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4); 6. Latest York Giants (8-5-1); 7. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)
Detroit Lions (7-7)
Just one time in league history has a team made the playoffs after starting 1-6, but Detroit is on its approach to joining that club.
The Lions are the hottest team within the league. Every thing they touch on offense results in yards and touchdowns. They’re hitting more explosive pass plays through the air than any offense within the NFL aside from the Dolphins. With the sport on the road, they’re throwing passes on third-and-7 to their All-Pro-caliber left tackle. Ben Johnson, the team’s OC, has risen to the highest of the league’s head-coach-in-waiting rankings because the coaching carousel starts to roll around. Johnson has tapped into the strengths of Jared Goff, with the quarterback playing his best football since he piloted the Rams to the Super Bowl.
There have been signs of life on defense, too. As Dan Campbell predicted back in August, it was going to take Detroit until Week 8 to learn to tackle. And since Week 8 … the Lions lead the NFL within the fewest variety of missed tackles and explosive runs conceded. That, plus a newfound tenacity within the secondary, has seen the Lions’ defense vault up essentially the most essential of metrics: efficiency (18th) and turnover margin (sixth).
It’s been fun watching the Lions work through the early-season malaise. They’re not essentially the most talented team. But in an iffy NFC, they’ve enough pieces to sneak into the playoffs and to win a postseason game on the road.
Probabilities: Just shy of fifty/50
By some means, there remains to be a path for either Carolina or Latest Orleans to squeeze into the playoffs if either win two of their final three games. Photograph: Eakin Howard/Getty Images
Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
The playoffs essentially start this week for Seattle. The Seahawks head to Kansas City to tackle the Chiefs before they return home to play the Jets in week 17. They Might want to win of those games – one a possible shootout; one against the league’s most stubborn defense – to have any shot at playing in January.
One thing they’ve going for them: They will rating with anyone. Nobody has more deep passing yards or scores this season than the mixture of Geno Smith, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett – and this in a league with the Miami trio of Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Seattle are one in all only eight teams to have scored greater than 350 total points all season – a bunch that puts them among the many elite of the elite (the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Eagles and Cowboys).
Yet of that group, the Seahawks are the one team to cross that 350-point threshold to have a net-zero point differential. And while the Lions’ defense has been on the rise, Seattle’s has began to say no. It’s a high-variance group reliant on turnovers to beat talent disparities.
Probabilities: Must win in Arrowhead (oof!)
Green Bay Packers (6-8)
Any shot the Packers have at rescuing something from this shipwreck of a season will come right down to whether or not they’ll beat the Dolphins on Christmas Day. Miami have lost three in a row, albeit against three playoff sides – and two of the 4 best teams within the NFL. The Packers are on a two-game winning streak, albeit against two sides already more focused on next season.
Green Bay’s offense has found a latest gear for the reason that horror show in Detroit almost two months ago. That matchup represented the nadir of the Aaron Rodgers And His Rookie Wide Receivers Experience. Since then, the Pack have averaged 26 points a game, a high-water mark from any five-game stretch this 12 months.
More troubling than the once-sputtering offense is the defense. Banged-up, overly passive and sometimes devoid of fresh ideas, the Packers’ defense has cratered. It opened the 12 months nineteenth in EPA per play, keeping games tight as Rodgers and the offense worked through their identity crisis. But since Week 6, the group has collapsed. They’re now twenty eighth in EPA per play with an allergy to third-down stops.
Probabilities: Need a Christmas miracle
The NFC South trio: Carolina Panthers (5-9); Latest Orleans Saints (5-9); Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
On this silly, polarized climate of haters and dubious “well, actually” takes, there’s one thing we are able to all agree on: The NFC South needs to be booted into the ocean. Considered one of these teams goes to make the postseason, which is the sort of crime against football that may surely result in a prosecution within the Hague.
The winner of this division will host a playoff game. The Bucs currently lead the pack with six – count them: six! – wins. But one game back within the loss column, there remains to be a path for any of Carolina, Latest Orleans or Atlanta to squeeze in in the event that they win two of their final three games.
Panthers – v Lions; at Bucs; v Saints
Saints – at Browns; at Eagles; v Panthers
Falcons – at Ravens; v Cardinals; v Bucs
The very best bet is that the Bucs will hold serve. But when not, the Panthers are the most certainly to be waiting. They’ve been a distinct side since Steve Wilks took over as interim coach – at the same time as the front office threw the roster to the wolves. They’re smart, physical and execute the little things that result in wins. In the event that they can hang with the Lions this week, then they’ll have a shot to play spoiler in Tampa Bay and to perhaps slip into the playoffs with a losing record.
Probabilities: So that you’re saying there’s a probability?