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The Guard Doth Change: NFL Playoff Picture - Week 14

Ravens, Saints take over top spots in AFC, NFC

Mark Menard
December 03, 2019 - 7:35 pm
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One division and both conferences have new leaders after a wild Thanksgiving weekend.

Let’s break down the playoff picture:

 

NFC

 

NORTH

1) Green Bay (9-3) | 2) Minnesota (8-4) | 3) Chicago (6-6)

OUT: Detroit (3-8-1)

On the heels of last week’s beatdown by the Niners, Green Bay only needed a trip to the Big Apple to feel better about themselves again. The Pack waxed the Giants and got an assist when the Vikings fell on Monday night in Seattle. Green Bay once again has a 1-game lead in the North. Chicago kept their slim hopes alive with a Thanksgiving morning win in Motown, but they sit 3 games back with four games left.

The Lions meanwhile have been ousted from the divisional race.

 

WEST

1) Seattle (10-2) | 2) San Francisco (10-2) | 3) Los Angeles (7-5)

OUT: Arizona (3-8-1)

How quickly fortunes can change in the NFL. One week after raising eyebrows with a dominant win over the Packers, the Niners lost an absolute streetfight to the Ravens in Baltimore, then watched Seattle take down the Vikings on Monday night. The result? Seattle pulls into a tie with San Francisco at 10-2, and the Seahawks’ Week 10 win over the San Fran elevates them to the top of the West and sends the Niners plummeting into the ranks of the wild card race.

The Rams still trail the two division leaders by 3 games with four to play, and their two-year reign atop the West appears to be reaching its end.

 

EAST

1) Dallas (6-6) | 2) Philadelphia (5-7) | 3) Washington (3-9) | 4) New York (2-10)

The NFC East is the only division where all four teams remain alive for a title, and when one of those teams has just two wins in 12 tries, that’s not exactly a good thing.

With Dallas falling on Thanksgiving day and the Eagles following their lead in futility a few days later, it seems only one team really wants to win the East… wait… is it really Washington?

Could a dysfunctional franchise that started 0-5 and fired their head coach one week into October really have designs on a division title? They’re suddenly hot, having won two straight, and finish with three straight against the worst division in football: their own. If Washington can pull off an upset this Sunday at Lambeau, and that is of course a mighty big if, Bill Callahan could find himself interim-coaching his way to NFC East glory.

Currently the Cowboys remain on top with the Eagles trailing by a game. Washington sits 3 games back with the Giants 4 games back but somehow still alive at 2-10.

 

SOUTH

CHAMPION: New Orleans (10-2)

OUT: Tampa Bay (5-7) | Carolina (5-7) | Atlanta (3-9)

The Saints put the NFC South race to rest on Thanksgiving night. Their win over the Falcons clinched the third straight division title for New Orleans and made them the first team in 2019 to punch a postseason ticket. Now at 10-2, the Saints have greater aspirations on their mind.

Tampa Bay earns the tiebreaker over Carolina for second place thanks to division record: 2-3 vs. 1-3.

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) New Orleans (10-2) | 2) Seattle (10-2) | 3) Green Bay (9-3) | 4) Dallas (6-6)

So much has changed at the top of the NFC since last week. The Niners’ win coupled with the Seahawks’ loss meant a changing of the guard at the top of the West, and by default, at the top of the NFC as well.

Now the Saints sit atop the conference thanks to their Week 3 win over Seattle. The Seahawks have jumped from the wild-card race into the battle for the top seed and sit neck and neck with New Orleans. Green Bay trails both by 1 game.

Dallas at 4 games back need not concern themselves with things like top overall seeds or first-round byes. They need to just try and get into the tournament.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Seattle can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win or tie in Los Angeles against the Rams

 

WILD CARD

1) San Francisco (10-2) | 2) Minnesota (8-4)

3) Los Angeles (7-5) | 4) Chicago (6-6)

San Francisco, welcome to the wild-card race. I have no idea how long their stay will be, but for now, they lead the pack easily with a 2-game lead over the nearest competition. The Vikings sit 2 games back but still control the bottom wild-card spot.

That grip has become more tenuous though after losing to Seattle. The Rams now trail by just 1 game, and Chicago has re-entered relevancy, at least for this week, returning to .500 and sitting 2 games behind Minnesota.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

San Francisco can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win at New Orleans AND a loss or tie by the LA Rams against Seattle

A tie AND an LA Rams loss

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Tampa Bay (5-7) | 2) Philadelphia (5-7) | 3) Carolina (5-7)

OUT: Washington (3-9) | New York (2-10)

NFC record separates the three 5-7 teams: Tampa Bay – 4-6 | Philadelphia – 3-5 | Carolina – 2-7

New York and Washington have their tie settled at the divisional level. Both are eliminated from the wild card race anyway though, even if both are still alive in the NFC East.

 

ELIMINATED

Detroit (3-8-1) | Arizona (3-8-1) | Atlanta (3-9)

NFC record separates the two 3-8-1 teams: Detroit – 2-6-1 | Arizona – 2-7-1

 

AFC

 

AFC NORTH

1) Baltimore (10-2) | 2) Pittsburgh (7-5)

OUT: Cleveland (5-7) | Cincinnati (1-11)

The Browns’ loss to the Steelers made the North officially a two-team race and also shuttered the division title hopes of one of the summer’s most-hyped franchises. Even Pittsburgh may not be long for this race. Baltimore holds a 3-game lead over the Steelers with four left to play, and could salt away the North as early as this Sunday.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Baltimore can clinch the AFC North title with:

A win at Buffalo AND a Pittsburgh loss or tie at Arizona

A tie AND a Pittsburgh loss

 

AFC WEST

1) Kansas City (8-4) | 2) Oakland (6-6) | 3) Denver (4-8)

OUT: Los Angeles (4-8)

Another popular preseason pick saw themselves knocked prematurely out of divisional competition this weekend when the Chargers’ loss to Denver took them out of the race for the West. The Bolts are 0-4 in divisional play, locking them out of a chance at winning the West.

Kansas City remains on top and cemented their position with a blowout win over the Raiders. They now boast a 2-game lead over Oakland. Denver at 4 games back is barely clinging to life.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Kansas City can clinch the AFC West title with:

A win at New England AND an Oakland loss against Tennessee

 

AFC EAST

1) New England (10-2) | 2) Buffalo (9-3)

OUT: New York (4-8) | Miami (3-9)

The Buffalo Bills’ chances to end a 24-year division-title drought got a huge boost when the Patriots lost to the Texans on Sunday night. Buffalo fell to the Pats way back in Week 4, but still trail New England by just 1 game with the rematch upcoming in Week 16. Buffalo is also tied with New England in conference record and just a game behind them in divisional record, so that showdown in three weeks could very well decide the East.

 

SOUTH

1) Houston (8-4) | 2) Tennessee (7-5) | 3) Indianapolis (6-6)

OUT: Jacksonville (4-8)

The Titans took a big step forward with their win over the Colts, and now trail Houston by just 1 game in the South. One of the season’s biggest turnarounds, Tennessee is 5-1 since replacing Marcus Mariota under center with Ryan Tannehill.

Indianapolis is now 2 games back, while Jacksonville finds themselves knocked out of the race for the South thanks to their 4-game deficit behind the Texans and their putrid 1-4 divisional record. With Houston at 3-1, the Jags can’t catch the Texans in that tiebreaker, even if a third team were to enter the fray to cancel out Jacksonville’s 0-2 season sweep at the hands of Houston.

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) Baltimore (10-2) | 2) New England (10-2) | 3) Houston (8-4) | 4) Kansas City (8-4)

The Ravens’ Week 9 win over the Pats has finally borne fruit, and the seeds of the fruit are #1 seeds. With Baltimore’s win over San Francisco and New England’s loss to Houston, the two teams sit tied at 10-2, and Baltimore holds the tiebreaker.

The Texans and Chiefs both gained a game on the Pats as well, with both now sitting 2 games back. Houston holds the tiebreaker for the 3-seed thanks to their Week 6 win over KC.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Baltimore can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win at Buffalo

A tie AND a Houston loss or tie against Denver

A tie AND a Tennessee loss or tie at Oakland

A Houston loss AND an Indianapolis loss or tie at Tampa Bay AND an Oakland-Tennessee tie

New England can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win against Kansas City

A tie AND a Pittsburgh loss at Arizona

A tie AND a Houston loss or tie against Denver

A tie AND a Tennessee loss or tie at Oakland

A Houston loss AND an Indianapolis loss or tie at Tampa Bay AND an Oakland-Tennessee tie

 

WILD CARD

1) Buffalo (9-3) | 2) Pittsburgh (7-5)

3) Tennessee (7-5) | 4) Oakland (6-6) | 5) Indianapolis (6-6)

The Bills’ Thanksgiving day win in Dallas allowed them to maintain a 2-game lead over the rest of the wild-card pack, and with four games left, Buffalo is closing in on securing their second playoff berth in the last three years.

Behind the Bills, the Raiders and Colts suffered setbacks this week and lost ground in the race for the final wild-card spot. Pittsburgh and Tennessee remain tied for that final postseason ticket with the Steelers holding the edge due to conference record: 6-3 vs. 5-4.

The Colts’ Week 4 loss to Oakland puts them at the back of the .500-or-above crowd.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Buffalo can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win at Baltimore AND an Oakland loss or tie against Tennessee AND a Houston loss against Denver AND an Indianapolis loss or tie at Tampa Bay

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Cleveland (5-7) | 2) Jacksonville (4-8) | 3) Denver (4-8)

4) Los Angeles (4-8) | 5) New York (4-8) | 6) Miami (3-9)

AFC West tiebreakers state the Chargers must rank behind Denver.

Jacksonville has wins over both the Broncos and Jets to put them at the top of the 4-8 heap.

AFC record separates the three remaining 4-8 teams: Denver – 4-5 | Los Angeles – 2-7 | New York – 1-7.

 

ELIMINATED

Cincinnati (1-11)

The 2008 Lions and the 2017 Browns can pop the champagne. Their ranks will not be joined this season after Cincinnati finally notched their first win of the year.

 

GAMES TO WATCH: WEEK 14

Chicago and Dallas are both fighting for their playoff lives as they square off in the Windy City on Thursday night.

Buffalo and Baltimore square off in a game where the winner could punch a postseason ticket if a few other things fall the right way.

New Orleans hosts San Francisco in a matchup that could very well end up determining the NFC’s #1 seed.

New England welcomes Kansas City into Foxborough in a game with major implications for the top seeds in the AFC.

The LA Rams need to make up ground to avoid going from a Super Bowl berth to watching the playoffs from home. They host the NFC West-leading Seahawks on Sunday night.

 

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