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.
The Bills' loss last week against New England eliminated them from playoff contention. If the season ended today Buffalo would own 1.4.
The Colts keep hanging around despite losing Matt Schaub to injury on a couple of occasions this season(color me shocked at that by the way). Indy is out of the AFC South race but could very feasibly be 9-7 by the end with the 5-8 Jaguars and Jets left after the Bills. If they do run the table they'd still need a ton of help in the form of meltdowns by San Diego and/or Tennessee.
Oakland can clinch the West with a win in Carolina and a Chargers loss. They APPEAR to have clinched a wild card at worst already, but there are some more complex scenarios I'm not going to bother going through since it seems to be a sure thing that they'll be in either way.
Believe it or not, I don't think the Panthers have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet. That said, 7-9 is almost certainly not going to cut it. Carolina would have 1.5 if the season ended today.
Kansas City is still alive at 6-7 but much like Indy, they'd need a ton of help to get where they want to be. With a miserable conference record(3-6), the Chiefs would essentially have to win out and hope that either Tennessee or San Diego lose out.
The Bengals are sitting on 1.2 and own a much weaker strength of schedule than 1-12 Atlanta. That means a Falcons win would put Cinci in the driver seat for 1.1F Madden gets it right, which it didn't last season).
The Steelers can clinch the AFC North with a win or a Baltimore loss. Currently sitting at #2 in the AFC, they will want to keep pace with the other 10-3 teams(Oakland and Houston) and assure themselves a playoff bye.
The Browns stayed alive by upsetting the Giants last week, but it still appears like a fruitless effort for Cleveland. They'd need either San Diego or Baltimore to lose out and none of the slew of other teams ahead of them to finish better than 8-8 to even be in the discussion.
Denver, much like the other teams chasing the AFC Wild Card, needs to finish strong and get a lot of help from here on out. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they're playing the current top seed from each conference over the next two weeks.
The Buccaneers have clinched at least the #2 seed and can lock up homefield with a win and a Cardinals loss.
The Falcons just need to lose 3 more to assure themselves of 1.1.
The Eagles are out of the NFC East race and would need to win out and get a ton of help to have a chance.
Houston got the huge win they needed over Tennessee last week and can now clinch the South with a win or a Titans loss. Even if they lose and the Titans win this week, they could clinch a wild card with a Baltimore loss.
Miami is out of it, unless "it" is the Jonathan Higgins race. Currently at 1.3 and with 5 1st's in their pocket it shouldn't be too hard to move up if they have to.
As far as I can tell, the Chargers will clinch a wild card berth with a win here. They would also keep themselves alive in the AFC West race for at least one more week.
The Ravens' best chance to get back in to the wild card is to win this week against the Chargers. I can't say for sure if that would put them in control of their own destiny, but it would definitely give them the tiebreaker over San Diego barring a 3 way tie in the standings.
The Giants blew their "gimme" against Cleveland that could've made this game for first place. New York needs to win to stay alive in the East. They'd also keep themselves very much in the hunt for the 6th seed with a win. BTW, best wishes JP, stay strong brother.
The Redskins have been the center of controversy, as QB Chad Henne was suspended for the last 3 games by the head office for conduct detrimental to the league. Despite that, the Skins can clinch the division this week with a win and a Cowboys loss.
The Vikings have a fairly simple path to the playoffs: win. If they can win the last three(which includes GB twice), and the Bears lose at least one game, then the Vikes will win the NFC North. On the other hand, a loss here eliminates them from the division race and would be a huge hit to their wild card hopes.
The Packers can clinch the North with a win and a Bears loss.
Like the Browns, the Jaguars need to win out, have either San Diego or Tennessee lose out and get some more help on top of that.
The Lions could potentially finish 8-8 and force a logjam at the top of the division, but I can't find a scenario in which they'd win the tiebreaker. They could maybe get in to the wild card with a ton of help.
The Saints and Cowboys are just 2 of the 6(!) 6-7 NFC wild card hopefuls who currently trail the Bears in the race for the 6th seed. While the Cowboys still could make a push for their division, the Saints can not. Whoever wins this one will give themselves a shot to catch Chicago who has a tough matchup with the Titans, as well as keeping pace with any of the other 6-7 teams who may win this week.
The Cardinals blew their golden opportunity to take control of the West last week by losing to the Vikings. They're still tied with Seattle, and still have a wild card berth locked up.
The 49ers are just another 6-7 team chasing the Bears, which is a big improvement over the past few seasons.
The Seahawks loss to Tampa didn't end up hurting them in the West race thanks to a Cardinals loss. Even better, they clinched a wild card berth while they were at it. A win here can't clinch anything, but every game will count in the battle for the NFC West and the likely #2 seed.
The Rams, another 6-7 team chasing the Bears for #6.
The Pats will clinch the AFC East if they win this game.
The Jets can give themselves a fighting chance with a win. They'd still need to win out and get at least one more Pats loss, but the odds go from microscopic to miniscule with this one in the bag.
The Titans lost a frustrating game to Houston that means they'd have to win out and Houston lose out in order for them to win the South. The good news is that they still control their wild card fate. I don't believe they can clinch anything this week, but a win could go a very long way to doing so.
The Bears have probably been brought up more than any other team this week. Not only are they in the middle of a tight division race, they are currently a game ahead of 6 teams in the race for the 6th seed in the NFC. A loss here would open up a huge can of worms that Chicago wants no part of.