In our latest NFL playoff projection, we've left the Giants out. That's right, based on their remaining schedule, we don't think the 8-4 Giants will be good enough to get in the playoffs this year.
That's based on the fact that Jason Pierre-Paul is banged up, their offense has looked disatrous lately and they close the season with the NFL's third hardest schedule.
So who will be taking New York's place?
Let's get to this week's playoff projection and find out. As always, we'll be including data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of SportsLine.com in these projections.
One more thing: We'll totally understand if 49ers, Browns, Jaguars and Jets fans stop reading now since reading about the playoffs will probably only make you feel worse about the fact that your team is already eliminated.
Note: Remember, this is a projection based on how we think the regular season will play out. If you want to see the current playoff standings, click here to see Will Brinson's thorough breakdown of what the playoff race looks like as we head into Week 14.
AFC Playoff Projection
1. Patriots (14-2), AFC East champion: To get the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, the Patriots are probably going to have to win out, which actually shouldn't be a problem. For one, two of their remaining games are against AFC teams at home. Tom Brady is 50-1 since 2006 against AFC teams at home. So there's that. However, those two road games in Miami and Denver could be tough, especially since both teams will likely be fighting for their playoff lives.
Patriots' remaining schedule: Baltimore, at Denver, N.Y. Jets, at Miami (25-23 combined record, tied for 16th most difficult remaining schedule)
2. Raiders (13-3), AFC West champion: The Raiders can basically put the division away this week if they can knock off the Chiefs in Kansas City on Thursday. However, even if they lose, a division title wouldn't be out of the question. If Oakland ran the table after a potential Kansas City loss, 13-3 would likely be good enough to win the division. Of course, the crazy thing about the AFC West this year is that it's very possible the division produces just the second 13-win wild card team in 26 years. Since the current playoff format was implemented in 1990, the 1999 Titans are the only playoff team that won 13 games but didn't win their division. That could be good news for the Chiefs-Raiders loser: That Tennessee team made it to the Super Bowl.
The number crunchers at Sportsline like the Raiders to win the division, but just barely. The computer gives the Raiders 50 percent chance to win the AFC West, while the Chiefs have a 48 percent chance.
Raiders' remaining schedule: At Kansas City, at San Diego, Indianapolis, at Denver (28-20, tied for fifth-hardest remaining schedule)
3. Steelers (10-6), AFC North champion: You probably already have Dec. 25 circled on your calendar because that's Christmas, but just in case, you might want to circle it again as a reminder that the AFC North title will likely be on the line that day. The Steelers host the Ravens on Christmas Day and we think the winner of that game will end up as the No. 3 seed. As you can see here, we don't think the Ravens will be winning that game.
Steelers' remaining schedule: At Buffalo, at Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland (25-22-1 combined record, 13th-hardest remaining schedule)
4. Colts (9-7), AFC South champion: It's official, we've finally given up on Houston. After two weeks of projecting that the Texans would win the AFC South, we've now decided that the Colts are going to take the division. With games against the Colts, Bengals and Titans still to come, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Houston finish 8-8. As for the Colts, this projection could blow up in our face if they lose to Houston on Sunday. We don't see that happening, though. The reason we're not talking about the Titans is because they're remaining schedule is basically mission impossible (Broncos, at Chiefs, at Jaguars, Texans).
If Texans fans need something to bring their spirits up, here's something: The computer really likes them. Sportsline pegs the Texans chances of winning the division at 43 percent, which is slightly ahead of the Colts (36 percent) and more than double the chances of the Titans (21 percent).
Colts' remaining schedule: Houston, at Minnesota, at Oakland, Jacksonville (24-24 combined record, 14th-easiest remaining schedule)
5. Chiefs (12-4), wild card: Although the Chiefs are currently 3-0 in the NFL West, history suggests they won't remain that way. Since divisional realignment in 2002, the Chiefs have never gone undefeated in the AFC West play, and there's a reason for that: It's not easy. Although the Chiefs have a favorable schedule with three straight home games in the final four weeks of the season, we don't think they'll go 4-0 to end the year.
Chiefs' remaining schedule: Oakland, Tennessee, Denver, at San Diego (29-19 combined record, fourth-hardest remaining schedule)
6. Broncos (10-6), wild card: Every week the Broncos play, they somehow look worse than they did the week before. The good news though is that if Denver goes 2-2 down the stretch, that should be enough to wrap a wild-card berth. However, that won't be easy as the Broncos will finish the season with the league's most difficult schedule. If they lose to Tennessee on Sunday, their season could end with a tailspin that puts Baltimore in the playoffs.
Broncos' Remaining schedule: At Tennessee, New England, at Kansas City, Oakland (35-13, most difficult remaining schedule)
Ravens (9-7): The NFL basically backloaded the Ravens schedule, which could make for an ugly stretch run in Baltimore. The Ravens close the season with three of their four games on the road against teams they haven't been very successful against recently (Steelers, Patriots, Bengals). The Ravens are going to need a Christmas Miracle to win the division, which is kind of fitting since they play the Steelers on Dec. 25.
Dolphins (9-7): Sorry Dolphins fans, the tiebreaker Gods did not like that loss to the Ravens, and neither did the computer. Last week, Sportsline pegged the Dolphins with a 29 percent chance of making the playoffs, but that's now down to 14 percent after Sunday's 38-6 loss to the Ravens.
NFC Playoff Projection
1. Cowboys (13-3), NFC East champion: Even if they don't get any help, the Cowboys can clinch the No. 1 overall seed on their own with just two more wins in their final four games. This is probably the easiest projection we'll make this week: We think they get the two wins and the No. 1 seed.
Cowboys' remaining schedule: At N.Y. Giants, Tampa Bay, Detroit, at Philadelphia (28-20 combined record, tied for fifth-hardest remaining schedule)
2. Seahawks (11-4-1), NFC West champion: Although the Seahawks schedule looks easy down the stretch, there's no guarantee they're going to get the second seed and the first-round bye that comes with it. Besides winning in Green Bay -- where Aaron Rodgers has won 14 straight December games -- the Seahawks are also going to have to beat a Rams team that they've lost to three times in a row. The Seahawks haven't been much better against the Cardinals, either, going just 1-1-1 in their past three meetings. The good news for Seattle is that the season finale in San Francisco should be a gimme.
Seahawks' remaining schedule: At Green Bay, Los Angeles, Arizona, at San Francisco (16-31-1 combined record, second-easiest remaining schedule)
3. Lions (11-5), NFC North champion: The Cowboys awesomeness this season might actually end up benefitting the Lions. At 11-1, it's possible that Cowboys could earn home-field advantage in the playoffs as soon as this week, and if it doesn't happen this week, it will likely happen in Week 15. Basically, by the time the Lions play Dallas in Week 16, Detroit should be seeing a team that doesn't care whether or not it wins or loses. Even if the Cowboys don't rest their starters, they'll likely put together a very vanilla game plan if they already have the top seed wrapped up. With that in mind, we see the Lions finishing the season 3-1 to get to 11-5.
Remaining schedule: Chicago, at N.Y. Giants, at Dallas, Green Bay (28-20 combined record, tied for fifth-hardest remaining schedule)
4. Falcons (10-6), NFC South champion: On paper, the Falcons should probably go 4-0 in their final four games. However, paper doesn't account for Matt Ryan's uncanny ability to throw interceptions at the worst possible time. We had the Falcons in the No. 3 spot this week, but we've dropped them down to No. 4 after Ryan threw the game away with a pick-six and a pick-two in Atlanta's 29-28 loss to the Chiefs. Although the Falcons and Bucs are currently tied atop the NFC South, Atlanta has a much easier schedule down the stretch and that's mainly because they don't have to face the Cowboys like Tampa does.
Falcons' remaining schedule: At Los Angeles, San Francisco, at Carolina, New Orleans (14-34 combined record, easiest remaining schedule)
5. Redskins (9-6-1), wild card: Thanks to their loss to Arizona on Sunday, the Redskins won't have much room for error going forward. However, they will have slightly more room than several teams behind them thanks to their tie. Washington's tie with the Bengals means that a 9-6-1 record will put the Redskins in the playoffs over every 9-7 team. That's nice trump card to have in your pocket down the stretch. Although the Redskins have four winnable games to finish the season, we think they'll choke in at least one of them.
Redskins' remaining schedule: At Philadelphia, Carolina, at Chicago, N.Y. Giants (20-28 combined record, seventh easiest remaining schedule)
6. Buccaneers (9-7), wild card: Over the past four weeks of the season, the Buccaneers have been the hottest team in football with four straight wins and a defense that's giving up just 13.25 points per game, which is the best mark in the NFL over that span.
We think the Buccaneers are going to ride their suddenly stingy defense to a 3-1 record down the stretch -- or 2-2 at worse -- to steal the NFC's final playoff berth from the Giants. Either way, they're getting in. The number-crunchers at Sportsline also like Tampa's postseason chances, giving them a 59 percent chance playoffs.
Giants (9-7): If you're wondering how a team that's currently 8-4 is going to miss the playoffs, just look at their schedule. Over the their final four games, the Giants have to play two division leaders (Cowboys, Lions) before finishing with two divisional games on the road (Eagles, Redskins). To be honest, an 0-4 finish wouldn't be that shocking, but we don't hate the Giants, so we're projecting a 1-3 finish.
That being said, just keep this in mind Giants fan: A 2-2 record down the stretch will almost guarantee a playoff berth. By the way, we're leaving the Giants out of the postseason even though computer loves them. Sportsline is giving them a 69 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is higher than the Bucs (59 percent), Redskins (42 percent) or Packers (23 percent).
Packers (9-7): Aaron Rodgers seems pretty confident that the Packers can run the table, but we don't think that's going to happen. We see Green Bay going 3-1 down the stretch and missing out on a wild-card berth to the Bucs thanks to the dreaded "winning percentage against common opponents" tiebreaker.
Note: If the Bucs were to finish 8-8, the Packers would get the wild-card over the Giants based on their head-to-head win in Week 5.
(Based on this week's projections)
(5) Kansas City at (4) Indianapolis
(6) Denver at (3) Pittsburgh
Byes: New England, Oakland
(5) Washington at (4) Atlanta
(6) Tampa Bay at (3) Detroit
Byes: Dallas, Seattle