It's getting to be that time of year. Here I'll look over each game of the week and examine the potential playoff implications. With Houston right in the thick of things and my focus on the playoffs instead of the draft I'll probably be doing these each week until the end of the season.
Ever since Corey Smith arrived in the Big Apple there has been a general feeling of positivity about the team in the media. So far the results haven't lived up to the goodwill. With a 3rd straight double digit loss season looming on the horizon, the Jets are surprisingly still very much alive to win their division. A win here would set up a week 15 matchup with division leading New England(6-6) that could put the Jets in first place(if the Pats lose to the Bills this week).
The Rams are out of contention in the NFC West and are currently a game behind the 6th place Bears in the wild card race. With Seattle coming to town in week 15 this is as close to a must-win as a game that's not technically a must-win can get.
The Giants trail the Redskins by one game in the NFC East race and the Bears by one in the wild card race. This game against a Cleveland team that's hanging by a proverbial thread is one they should win. That would allow them to either keep pace or catch up to Washington leading up to their matchup in week 15.
As far as I can tell the Browns won't be mathematically eliminated unless the Ravens win this week. A loss would obviously kill any hope, but Cleveland isn't going to the playoffs this year without a miracle.
Despite being 2 games back, the Ravens are in position to control their own playoff destiny. With another matchup with Pittsburgh in week 17, as long as Baltimore runs the table they will win the AFC North. Failing that they also play the Chargers, who are currently the most likely rival for a wildcard spot.
The Steelers are very close to clinching their 6th straight AFC North crown. A win here over the Ravens won't quite seal the deal since Baltimore would own the tiebreaker if both teams finish 10-6, but it would obviously provide quite a bit of breathing room.
Phillip Rivers has to be confused. He took the Jaguars to the Super Bowl last season and was playing as well as he's ever played and then he gets benched for a rookie again. He's back now, but the Jags would need the Titans to beat the Texans this week and then BOTH teams to lose their last 3 in order to even force a tiebreaker, which I'm not going to bother looking up. A wild card run is a possibility now that Rivers is back in the starting lineup, but they must win out.
The Packers are 7-5 and now lead the suddenly struggling Bears for the NFC North thanks to a head to head sweep. As long as Green Bay can keep pace with Chicago they will win the division, and winnable games like this one and two out of the last three against the Vikings seem like good tidings for the Pack.
The Cardinals have actually already clinched a wild card berth, so this game doesn't technically mean a whole lot. I'm sure Adarsh would like to win the division and grab a first round bye though, and with Seattle taking on Tampa this week it's a perfect time to take a lead in the division.
Minnesota looks dead in the water, but they could make a run if they can pull this upset off. With Green Bay on the docket twice more this season, they could play themselves in to a division crown or even a wild card shot if Chicago struggles down the stretch.
The Bengals are currently sitting on 1.2 and have been eliminated from the playoffs.
The Cowboys have lost 5 in a row and have been hit with some lousy injuries over the past few weeks, but they should win this game. With the very beatable Saints and Falcons sandwiching division leading Washington, there's an opportunity to get a foot in the door out there for Dallas. That said, they're pretty much all must-wins from here on out.
The Redskins are a game up on New York for the division lead, and with all 3 NFC East opponents on the schedule over the next 3 weeks they have a chance to personally claim the crown.
A loss to the Redskins here would officially eliminate the Eagles from contention in the NFC East, and effectively end any playoff hopes in general.
The Chargers would need a monumental collapse by the Raiders in order to catch them in the AFC West, but are positioned well to grab a wild card spot. The Chargers most dangerous opponent for the 6th seed is Baltimore, who awaits in week 15. After that they get the Panthers and Jets.
Sometimes I forget that the Saints are hanging right in the middle of the wildcard race. At 6-6, New Orleans is trailing the pack by just one game, and if they could pull of this win they get the struggling Cowboys, Lions and a Bucs team that could very well be starting backups in week 17.
The Bears were flying high until a tough loss to the Texans and an even tougher one to the Vikings brought them back to earth. Now trailing the Packers thanks to a head to head tiebreaker, the Bears need to grab this win over Detroit. With Tennessee and Arizona in weeks 15 and 16 before finishing the season with another Lions game, it's crucial that the Bears get this one in the bag.
The Lions reportedly quit on this season sometime around week 3 or 4, and the results have reflected that. Though not technically eliminated, the Lions are only competing for a top 10 pick at this stage in the game.
Carolina is eliminated from playoff contention and a loss here would draw them one step closer to potentially nabbing 1.1.
The Falcons are eliminated from playoff contention and in the driver's seat for 1.1.
The Raiders can clinch the AFC West with a win and a Chargers loss.
The Broncos are out of the AFC West race and must win each game from here on out in order to have any hope of a playoff run.
Miami has been eliminated from playoff contention, but probably don't care since they have 20 1st round picks to look forward to for the second straight season. This season pony up for the stud QB Ben.
Once upon a time the 49ers were 5-2 and looking like a contender. 5 straight losses later and they're eliminated from their division and would likely need to sweep to even have a hope at the playoffs.
The Bills have won 1 of their last 8. A win here against the division leaders would pull them within a game with the struggling Colts in the batting box, but the Seahawks and Cardinals in weeks 16 and 17 makes this look like a tough hill to climb. If they lose, they are out.
The Pats can eliminate the Bills with a win this week. A subsequent victory over the Jets in week 15 would clinch the AFC East.
The Titans have won 4 straight and 7 of 8 but haven't gained any ground on Houston in weeks. A win over the Texans would give the Titans first place and the head to head tiebreaker.
The Texans can claim what would effectively be a 3 game lead on the Titans with a win here, since they'd clinch the division record tiebreaker.
The Chiefs can't win the AFC West, but are still alive for a wild card berth with the Bengals, Browns and Broncos on the docket after this one.
The Colts have been eliminated from AFC South contention and would likely need to win out and get some help to get a wild card. A friendly schedule of Bills, Jaguars and Jets makes that possible.
The Seahawks are looking to keep pace with the Cardinals for the AFC West. A win over the Bucs would accomplish that, as well as giving them a very valuable tiebreaker in the race for homefield advantage. Unlike the Cardinals, the Hawks haven't quite clinched a playoff berth yet, but a win here would do that.
The Bucs have clinched the NFC South and now look to secure a first round bye. A win here clinches that and gives Tampa a leg up for homefield.