By Mike Corcoran ‘19
With Week 14 wrapped up, we are beginning to look ahead to the postseason. As it has been for years in the NFL, 12 teams are going to make the playoffs. For those of you who don’t know, the winner of each division, plus four wild card teams will make a postseason appearance. With 3 weeks remaining in the regular season, every team is scrambling to make the playoffs, in hopes to win a Super Bowl title.
Let’s start with the AFC.
After 14 weeks, three teams have clinched the playoffs. One team out of the NFC that has is the Kansas City Chiefs. They are sitting in first place atop the AFC, but are neck and neck with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers currently have the second best record in the AFC, sitting at 10-3. The AFC West is looking rock solid and will almost definitely put two teams into the playoffs, but the Denver Broncos are looking to make it three. With new addition to the roster Case Keenum leading the offense, the Broncos are looking like a contending team. They are currently sitting at 6-7 with two easy games remaining before hosting the Chargers in Week 17. The Broncos have a genuine chance to snag the second wildcard spot if they can somehow take down the red hot Chargers.
The AFC East didn’t exactly have anyone on the edge of their seat. As always, the New England Patriots dominated the division and currently sit at 9-4, two games ahead of the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are in a solid spot, but have some tough matchups against the Vikings, Jaguars, and an away game in freezing, cold Buffalo. With a great home record but a below average away record, it is going to be a tough finish for the Miami Dolphins.
The most underwhelming division this year is the AFC North. We usually see a tough Pittsburgh Steelers team run through the division, but this year has been a rough ride. The Steelers, currently playing without all-star running back Le’Veon Bell, are sitting at 7-5-1. They are only a half game ahead of the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens, and that might not be enough to hold out. They still matchup against the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Cincinnati Bengals, which is always a great rivalry game. The Ravens could end the year atop the AFC North, and the Pittsburgh Steelers could end their year before they even reach the postseason.
This division is no way set in stone, as the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are still threatening. They are both two games back and each have two crucial, must-win, division games remaining. Keep a close eye out these next three weeks, as it is going to come down to the wire for the AFC North.
The final AFC division, the South, seems to have a reversal of fortune this year. Flashback to the 2018 playoffs – the Jacksonville Jaguars were in the AFC championship game. With a frequently injured Leonard Fournette and some confusion at the quarterback position, they are now sitting at 4-9, out of playoff contention. The rest of the division is doing exceptionally well. Houston leads with a record of 9-4 after losing their first three games of the season. A strong minded defensive team, mixed in with a young DeShaun Watson at quarterback, is almost a guarantee playoff team. But the division is still up for grabs as the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans are bringing up the rear, both standing at 7-6. In week 17, these teams will face off in what could be a deciding game for a wildcard spot.
The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders, all have their sights set on the offseason and the next season, as they will not being playing past week 17.
The NFC, in my opinion, has been a much more exciting division this year. Obviously, being a Chicago Bears fan, I am ecstatic about what is happening in the NFC right now.
The Bears currently sit atop the NFC North, and have just nearly clinched a playoff spot, with a two-and-a-half game lead over the Minnesota Vikings. This has been a heck of a season for the Bears, and they have great momentum after getting a win over the then top seed Los Angeles Rams. Statistically, it is still possible for the Vikings to win the division, but it’s pretty much set in stone that the Bears will win it. It is also still possible for the Vikings to make a wildcard spot. The Green Bay Packers still technically have a chance to make the playoffs, although there is like a .01% chance.
The NFC East has had one strange year. Defending Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles, are currently sitting in second place with a 6-7 record. Somehow, the Dallas Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper, and ever since, it’s been smooth sailing for the Cowboys. They are on a five-win streak and continue to ride this solid lead into the playoffs as they will most likely clinch the NFC East. The Washington Redskins are tied with the Eagles at 6-7, but have lost their starting quarterback Alex Smith. It is safe to say the Redskins playoff hopes have disappeared. The Giants can also technically still make the playoffs, although their record is only 5-8. They would have to at least win the next three games, as well as have a bit of luck on their side.
The NFC West is the division I personally thought would have the most success. The San Francisco 49ers have obviously had a major letdown season. Jimmy Garoppolo, the starting quarterback picked up an injury, and it just went downhill from there. The Arizona Cardinals have had struggles all around and have just not been able to get on track. The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, have turned it up and are absolutely tearing up the NFL. They are on a four game win streak and have only one more tough contest against the Chiefs. And of course, the Los Angeles Rams are sitting atop the NFC with a record of 11-2, but have a matchup against the defending Super Bowl champs coming up, as well as two easier division games. The Rams have clinched the playoffs and essentially have a 99% chance to win their division.
In my opinion, the division winners out of the AFC will be the New England Patriots out of the AFC East, the Kansas City Chiefs out of the AFC West, the Houston Texans out of the AFC South, and the Baltimore Ravens out of the AFC North.
The division winners out of the NFC, in my opinion, will be the Dallas Cowboys out of the NFC East, the Chicago Bears out of the NFC North, the Los Angeles Rams out of the NFC West, and the New Orleans Saints out of the NFC South.
The four wildcard spots will go to the Seattle Seahawks out of the NFC West, the Minnesota Vikings out of the NFC North, the Los Angeles Chargers out of the AFC West, and the Tennessee Titans out of the AFC South.
With the playoffs just around the corner, it is an exciting time for fans as their hometown team looks to secure a postseason spot. But the question still remains… who will win the Super Bowl?