NFL Playoff Picture standings, updates, odds for Week 14: Seahawks almost locked in, Steelers in trouble
Everything you need to know about the NFL playoff hunt as Week 14 rolls on
The Steelers have been consistently good under Mike Tomlin, but they have also been consistently difficult to figure out. Few teams play down to their opponents in weird spots like these Steelers and Sunday, in a huge spot, was no exception. The Steelers strolled into Oakland as a 10-point favorite and left with a horrible loss that could eventually leave them sitting at home during the postseason.
Pittsburgh had plenty of chances to put the Raiders away and just never did. Now they're 7-5-1 with two very daunting games on the immediate docket: next Sunday at home against an angry Patriots team and Week 16 on the road against a Saints team fighting to land homefield advantage in the NFC. The Steelers likely won't be favored in either game.
Lose both those games -- not likely, but certainly plausible -- and the Steelers' playoff odds will drop to 32 percent. Beating the Bengals at home in Week 17 is a likely outcome, but if they lose the next two weeks, they will likely be putting their fate in the Ravens' hands.
Baltimore, nearly a winner on Sunday against Kansas City, plays the Bucs at home in Week 15, the Chargers on the road in Week 16 and the Browns at home in Week 17. Based on Vegas odds, they're likely to go 2-1 down the stretch. Pittsburgh can't really catch the Chargers, who are almost secured in the playoffs at 10-3. The crowded AFC is essentially fighting for one wild card spot.
Making matters worse for Pittsburgh? There are three more contenders at 7-6 lurking to steal their spot. Let's say the Steelers go 2-1 down the stretch. That's a reasonable scenario. They would finish at 9-6-1. That would beat a 9-7 team, obviously, but not a 10-6 squad. Which means any of the Colts, Dolphins and Titans winning out would doom the Steelers if they don't win the division.
Here's the really crazy part: the Steelers could actually lose their spot in the playoffs to the BROWNS. Yes, the Browns. As John Breech wrote,. If the Browns win out, they'd be 8-7-1. If the Steelers lose out, they would be 7-8-1. Pittsburgh probably won't lose to the Bengals in Week 17, but the Steelers probably shouldn't lost to the Raiders in Week 14 either. Weirder things have happened, although the Browns going to the playoffs while the Steelers stay home because Hue Jackson and the Bengals beat Pittsburgh would be right up there.
Conversely, the Seahawks just beat the Vikings on Monday night and moved to 8-5. That puts them in a great spot to make the postseason; at this point it would be stunning if they didn't end up as a wild-card team thanks to games against the Cardinals (home) and 49ers (road) remaining on the schedule. Seattle's going to be -- at worst -- 9-7 and that's good enough to get in, especially with several tiebreakers in their favor.
As Brady Quinn pointed out on Tuesday's Pick Six Podcast -- it's a daily NFL show that's jam-packed with fantasy info, picks and football analysis with a heavy dose of mirth, subscribe: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google -- the Seahawks look like the NFC version of the Chargers. Just a wildly underrated and dangerous wild-card team who can make life miserablle for people in the bracket.
Here's how the rest of the NFL playoff picture looks, as well as a snapshot of some games that could impact what it looks like after Week 14 and beyond.
AFC: Who's in
1. (x) Kansas City Chiefs (11-2)
The Chiefs had a battle on their hands against the Ravens on Sunday, with Baltimore storming into Kansas City and nearly pulling off the upset before falling 27-24 in overtime. Credit Patrick Mahomes for doing Patrick Mahomes things and to the defense for putting pressure on Lamar Jackson late (and to the refs who threw tons of flags on Baltimore). K.C. clinched a playoff berth and can clinch the division with a win over the Chargers on Thursday. Patrick Mahomes also had his "MVP Moment" with a fourth-down throw across his body to Tyreek Hill that set up the Chiefs win.
2. New England Patriots (9-4)
The Patriots suffered a brutal loss in their quest for a bye, losing in horrific fashion to the Dolphins, who beat them on the final play of the game, a walk-off, lateral move to Kenyan Drake that he took 69 yards to the house. The good news for New England is some of its competition lost as well, but the one seednow that they're two games back of the Chiefs. That's huge because it means no home-field advantage in a potential playoff game with the Chiefs. Their matchup against the Steelers could determine whether New England gets a bye.
3. Houston Texans (9-4)
The Texans finally hit a speed bump, losing to the Colts at home and falling short in their quest to win 10 straight games. That loss really opens up the AFC South too, although Indy and Tennessee are still two full games back. Houston should win, but it's going to be difficult for them to secure a bye with the Patriots holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over them. What the Texans really need to be concerned about is falling to the four seed and potentially having to host the Chargers in the wild-card round.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)
The Steelers lost to the Raiders on Sunday, an ugly loss that featured no James Conner and Ben Roethlisberger coming on and off the field. Chris Boswell had a potential kick to win the game and the Steelers botched it. Brutal loss. They're not a lock to make the playoffs all of a sudden.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3)
The Chargers didn't win by a lot, but they won! They love playing down to the competition and they did just that against the Bengals, coming away with a close win that sets up an excellent Thursday night game in Kansas City that will have divisional implications.
6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Brutal loss to the Chiefs, even if the Ravens were heavy dogs in that game. Some of us have Ravens over eight wins and that would have been a pleasant surprise. More importantly for the Ravens, it really puts them in a bind as they try to chase the Steelers. 8-5 would have been a great spot for Baltimore, who saw Lamar Jackson go down late with an injury. And even more importantly, Baltimore is now fighting tooth and nail to keep the Colts and Titans and Dolphins out. Tennessee is behind the Colts in the tiebreaker standings based on the division tiebreak (head to head record). The Colts are eliminated from the three-team tie with Baltimore and Miami because of conference record and Baltimore is ahead of Miami because of a better record in common games. So, yes, their hold on the sixth seed is tenuous at best.
AFC: Who's out
7. Indianapolis Colts (7-6): The Colts had to win to stay alive in the playoff hunt and they did just that against the Texans, pulling off an impressive and dominant win over Houston on the road. T.Y. Hilton now averages more than 100 yards per game for his career over the Texans. The Colts hold the tiebreaker over Miami based on head-to-head record (1-0).
8. Miami Dolphins (7-6): The Dolphins were dead ... Kenyan Drake taking it to the house, Miami kept itself in the playoff race, although they have an uphill climb to get the No. 6 seed. The Dolphins are behind the Colts but ahead of the Titans based on head-to-head record.. Thanks to
9. Tennessee Titans (7-6): The Titans manhandled the Jaguars on Thursday night but did not get favorable outcomes for most of the afternoon games, although the Ravens losing certainly was helpful. They're eliminated from any four-team tiebreak because they're behind the Colts in the AFC South. And then they're behind Miami because of their early-season loss to the Dolphins.
10. Denver Broncos (6-7): The Broncos gave up 200 (!) receiving yards to George Kittle in the first half (!!) and eventually lost this game. They're probably toast in terms of trying to make a playoff run and it's fair to wonder how that impacts Vance Joseph's job status.
11. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1): The Browns picked up another impressive home win, and it's hard not to look at this team as a playoff contender if they'd been better coached early in the season. Cleveland still has a puncher's chance to make it but it's certainly a long shot. Baker Mayfield looks like the real deal.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8): The Bengals tried hard against the Chargers but just couldn't get it done. They're fighting but too short-handed with their injuries.
AFC: Who's Eliminated
NFC: Who's in
1. (y) New Orleans Saints (11-2)
The Saints looked like they were going to lose their second-straight game for a long stretch in Tampa on Sunday, before quickly turning things around and actually managing to clinch the NFC South, a dangerous division that's been a disaster this season. Carolina lost and is now five games back in the division. The Saints will keep gunning every week to try and get home-field advantage throughout.
2. (y) Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
The Rams lost in Chicago to the Bears and now have to at least concern themselves with the Bears walking them down for the No. 2 seed. (The Rams are probably going to finish 14-2, but it's at least on their radar.) They don't control their destiny for home-field advantage either, as the Saints have the tiebreaker on them based on their head-to-head record.
3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
The Bears dominated the Rams offense -- Bradley Sowell, a Chicago offensive lineman, had more touchdowns than Los Angeles in this game -- and put themselves in a great position to win the NFC North and secure a playoff berth.
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
The Cowboys took down the Eagles in overtime with Amari Cooper going nuts and for betting against Jerry Jones and that trade. The Cowboys basically have the division sewn up at this point. It's about time to hand out some extensions.
5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
The Seahawks got yet another controversial win in primetime, but it doesn't really matter: they were always going to make the playoffs and they're going to make the playoffs now. With San Francisco and Arizona left on the schedule, Russell Wilson and Co. are basically locked into the postseason. They are basically locked into the fifth seed too at this point, which should encourage the Bears and Cowboys to try and avoid the No. 4 seed.
6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
The Vikings offense struggled badly against the Seahawks on Monday night and there is plenty of reason to question whether this is a team capable of making a deep playoff run, but it might not matter for now, because it's hard to picture the Panthers, Eagles or Redskins catching Minnesota. The Vikings get the the Lions and Dolphins down the stretch before a Week 17 matchup against the Bears in which Matt Nagy might rest his starters.
NFC: Who's out
7. Carolina Panthers (6-7): The Panthers are in the middle of a five-game skid that's caused them to swerve out of the playoff hunt. They've got the Saints remaining twice on the schedule, making it unlikely they will be headed to the playoffs and putting Ron Rivera's future in doubt. Carolina is the first team out because Washington is removed from a three-team tie via the NFC East tiebreaker (Philly beats them). Then Carolina is ahead of the Eagles based on their head-to-head win over the Eagles.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7): The Eagles lost a season-killing game to the Cowboys on Sunday, falling to 6-7, probably too far behind the Cowboys to catch them in the division and in very bad shape for a wild-card run. The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins based on their head-to-head record.
9. Washington Redskins (6-7): The Redskins had to bench Mark Sanchez for Josh Johnson, in case you're wondering how things are going in Washington. They are not eliminated but they might as well be. Washington is behind the Eagles based on their head-to-head record -- even though they beat the Panthers straight up, they are taken out of the three-team tie at 6-7 first because of tiebreaker procedures.
10. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1): Don't look now but here come the Packers? Green Bay has to play in Chicago, but Aaron Rodgers has a chance to at least make things interesting if they can get a couple friendly breaks their way.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8): The Buccaneers won another game and might actually finish in second place in the NFC South somehow. Tampa holds the tiebreaker over the Giants and Lions based on their better conference record.
12. New York Giants (5-8): Are the Giants in the playoff hunt? I mean, no, but sort of maybe and kind of. It's weird. They're putting together a respectable season. The Giants have a better conference record than the Lions which puts them ahead of Detroit.
14. Atlanta Falcons (4-9): The Falcons kind of no-showed their game against the Packers, getting manhandled. Things are ending in an ugly fashion for Atlanta with a Super Bowl coming in their home stadium. It's awkward.
NFC: Who's Eliminated
15. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)
16. San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
(x) - clinched playoff berth
(y) - clinched division
(z) - clinched first-round bye
(*) - clinched home-field advantage
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