We are now onto Week 15, with a quarter of the NFL season left. For years, the NFL has hit us over the head with parity. In their perfect world, all 32 teams would be one game above or one game below .500 and still in the playoff chase. At this moment, there are only two teams officially out of the playoffs: the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots.
Even though the other 30 teams are still in it technically, far fewer have a realistic chance at the postseason. But the dream of parity is here. Through 13 games, no team is undefeated, and none are sitting at 12-1. There aren’t even any teams with only two losses. And only four teams are at 10-3: The Ravens in the AFC and the 49ers, Cowboys, and Eagles in the NFC.
There are 13 teams in the league, (40.6%) that are either 6-7 or 7-6. All of them are smack dab in the playoff race. Five of those 13 teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, while eight are fighting to get in. It is highly likely that some of the eight will get in, while some of the five will end up on the outside looking in.
AFC Playoff Picture
In the AFC, there are six teams that are all sitting with a 7-6 record. They are the Steelers, Colts, Texans, Broncos, Bengals, and Bills … in that order in the standings currently. The Steelers and Colts are currently in, but they play each other this week, which will hurt the loser’s chances dramatically, and realistically knock them out … at least for now.
I like Houston’s chances. In their last four games, they have the Titans twice, the Browns, and the Colts in Week 18. The Browns are tough and are a solid team, but they still have some losses left in them. The Titans are certainly beatable, and by Week 18 the Colts may have nothing to play for.
The Broncos have a fairly easy road the rest of the way, too, which should produce at least a 3-1 finish. That would get them to 10-7 with a great shot of getting in. They have a tough road game this week against the Lions, a team that should be ultra-motivated to win. But after that they have the Patriots, Chargers, and Raiders, all very beatable teams.
The season was supposed to be over for the Bengals when Joe Burrow went down. But QB Jake Browning has the team playing well. They are sitting at 7-6 with a great chance to finish with three more wins to get them to 10-7. Their toughest game is in Week 17, when they go to Kansas City to play the Chiefs.
Finally, the Bills, for all of those who think they’ve righted the ship with their win against the Chiefs, think again. They are currently seeded 11th. So even though they have the same record as everyone else, they are the low team on the totem pole. They still have to play the Cowboys this week and then in Week 18 face off against the Dolphins, who may need the game badly themselves.
NFC Playoff Picture
Of the seven teams in the NFC with either a 6-7 or 7-6 record, three of them are in the NFC South. The Buccaneers, Falcons, and Saints are all tied at 6-7. Realistically, the team that prevails to win the division will be the only one of the three to make the playoffs. It’s interesting because the three teams are set up to feed off each other the rest of the way. The Bucs play the Saints but not the Falcons, while the Falcons play the Saints. Of the three teams, the Saints are the only team to have games against both of the other two. If they can win both, they will most likely win the division and punch their ticket.
Of the other teams, only the Vikings are sitting at 7-6, the rest are all 6-7, one game behind. Thanks to their one-game lead, the Vikings currently hold the No. 6 seed. But their road the rest of the way is brutal. They have the Lions twice, the Bengals, and the Packers. If they can go 2-2 the rest of the way, that would be an accomplishment.
The Packers are 6-7 but are sitting with the No. 7 seed. The team’s margin for error is much tighter after their loss this week, but they can still win out to make the playoffs. They have the Bucs, Panthers, Vikings, and Bears.
The Rams are also sitting at 6-7 and just outside the playoffs, with the No. 8 seed. Sean McVay has the team playing well, and they do have some weapons. Their next three games are definitely winnable, versus the Commanders, Saints, and Giants. It could make for an interesting Week 18 if they are sitting at 9-7 facing off against the 49ers. Much will depend on if the Niners need the game to secure the No. 1 seed, because if they do, I wouldn’t give the Rams much hope. But if San Francisco has already secured the top spot and bye, they very well may rest their starters, which could give the Rams a chance.
And the final team sitting at 6-7 is the Seattle Seahawks. They are in a tailspin, having lost four games in a row. So much of football is built on momentum that it will be tough for them to overcome this skid. Although their last three games are winnable against the Titans, Steelers, and Cardinals, it’s this week’s game that concerns me. They are facing off against an Eagles team coming off of two losses themselves. So the question is this, is it more likely that the Eagles lose three in a row, or the Seahawks continue their slide and lose their fifth in a row? My money is on the Eagles, which will push Seattle even further back.