Odds of Every Fringe NFL Playoff Team Earning a Postseason Berth
With just seven weeks remaining in the season, it is becoming more obvious as to who will be fighting for precious playoff spots over the next month and a half.
For this list, a "fringe" playoff team was defied by a non-division leading team that had a realistic chance at making the playoffs. Just because a team had a certain amount of wins does not mean they were realistic playoff teams, such as the Arizona Cardinals.
Here are the projected odds for the teams on the cusp of the postseason.
If the Seahawks were in the watered-down AFC, they could be favorites to make the playoffs, but the sheer volume of quality teams in the NFC could leave them on the outside looking in.
What has gone a bit unnoticed is how the run defense is not quite as stout as it used to be, but it has been good enough to beat poor offensive teams into the ground. After all, they shut out the Jets offense last week.
Seattle's offense has been very up and down, reliant on explosive, downfield passing plays set by play-action, which Russel Wilson executes very well. However, they are not a team that is able to sustain offense through a tempo-based passing game like the Patriots, Packers or Saints. If those downfield plays never develop, Seattle's' offense stalls.
Even if the Seahawks find a way to sneak in to the postseason, they must get better on the road. Unbeaten at home this year, all of their losses have come away from the presence of the 12th Man, as they are a completely different team, especially on offense, without the comforts of CenturyLink Field.
Odds: 50 percent
The Cowboys get a bad rap because of their late-game miscues, but they are only a few plays away from being the leaders of the division.
Each team in the NFC East is currently going through a rough patch of the season, with Dallas being the only team to have won last week. As of right now, Dallas is playing the best football of any of the four teams, despite their losing record at 4-5.
Tony Romo is playing fantastic football, the defense is creating turnovers and shutting down prolific offenses and Jason Witten is playing as well as any tight end in the game.
However, with the rest of the NFC being so competitive, the best way for the Cowboys to make the playoffs is to obviously in the division, which would have to include the Giants continuing their slump and the Cowboys learning how to make the few plays in the fourth quarter to turn losses into wins.
Odds: 45 percent
The good news for the Vikings is that they have a winning record at 6-4 and their quarterback is coming off a promising bounce-back performance. Adrian Peterson also continues to defy reality by playing as well as ever only eight months removed from an ACL tear.
The bad news is the Vikings have a very difficult schedule ahead of them that could expose them as the caliber of team everyone thought they would be before the season started.
The have yet to play either the Packers or the Bears, two of the best teams in the NFL. If they are to lose those four games, the best they could do is go 8-8. Throw in a game against the Texans, and the Vikings face an uphill climb to get into the postseason.
For now, the Vikings should be more concerned about how their quarterback plays over the next month and a half than whether or not they squeeze out a playoff berth.
Odds: 30 percent
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Once known solely as the "kneel-down team", the emergence of Doug Martin and the improved play of Josh Freeman has vaulted the Bucs into the middle of the playoff race.
Doug Martin's solid few weeks have grabbed most of the headlines, but Vincent Jackson has managed a career year working with Josh Freeman, averaging over 20 yards per catch on his 769 yards through nine games.
At 8-1, the Falcons have locked the division up, leaving the Bucs (and the Saints) to battle with the rest of the NFC for the precious remaining playoff spots. At a pedestrian 5-4 record, beating out teams like Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas and the Saints in their own division is not going to be an easy task, especially as injuries along their offensive line continue to pile up.
Odds: 40 percent
New Orleans Saints
Despite their losing record at 4-5, the Saints still have an outside chance of reaching the postseason.
They are two games behind the Bucs, who sit at 5-4, but they do have a head-to-head edge on them should they manage to close the gap.
The Saints offense has played well just about every week with the exception of their dud against the Broncos, as Drew Brees is playing as well as he ever has. He onus is now on their defense, who played very well against a disastrous Eagles team, to continue their upward trend.
If the defense can play at just a mediocre level every week, the Saints can beat anyone on any given day, giving them a slim chance at the postseason.
Odds: 20 percent
San Diego Chargers
The best thing going for the Chargers right now is that the AFC is weak, with at least one of the wild-card spots still open for the taking.
The 2012 Chargers are pretty much a mirror image of every other squad under Norv Turner, a team that finds ways to lose games with explainable mistakes on offense and special team. Phillip Rivers is clearly pressing as they try desperately to catch the Broncos, who have looked better with each passing week.
At 4-5, the Chargers still have enough talent to go on a trademark December run, but they need to find a way to clean up their careless errors first.
Odds: 15 percent
Headed into this season, few pundits thought the Colts would manage to get to six wins by season's end, never mind before they play their 10th game of the season.
Andrew Luck is looking more and more like a polished pro with each passing week, and Reggie Wayne is having a career resurgence in Bruce Arians' offense. They still have issues up front on defense, and their corner situation is dire, but there are a lot of teams who would love to trade places with the 6-3 Colts.
With Houston running away with the division and either the Steelers or Ravens set to occupy one of the wild-card spots, the Colts will have to hold off the likes of Miami and San Diego.
With only a few tough games remaining on their schedule against the Patriots and Texans, getting to nine or 10 wins seems like a very possible outcome for the Colts, which should be enough to snag a playoff spot.
Odds: 70 percent
Just a week ago, the Dolphins looked like they were clearly the second-best team in the AFC East and would be in the driver's seat come playoff time.
Then, they laid a huge egg against the Titans at home that left us all wondering whether or not they were mature and talented enough to be a true playoff team. Benching Reggie Bush for one measly fumble is no way to put your team in the best position to win games, especially since Bush is considered one of the veteran leaders of the team.
In the end, there is a better chance that their youth at key positions and inconsistencies on offense will hold this team back from making a surprise appearance in the postseason, but the future is bright in Miami.
Odds: 30 percent
The Bengals team that clobbered the defending champs on Sunday was the Bengals team we thought we were going to see all season.
Andy Dalton had one of his best games as a pro, utilizing all of his weapons to capitalize on the Giants' miscues. Their defensive line was dominant, with Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson creating havoc and throwing Eli Manning off his game.
If the Bengals play this well every week, they should be favorites to win the division, not just get a wild-card spot. At the same time, it is simply not realistic to expect the Bengals to play such complete games week in and week out. However, An injury to Ben Roethlisberger will give the Bengals a chance to overtake the Steelers in the division standings.
Odds: 35 percent
Before Ben Roethlisberger was injured during Monday night's game against the Chiefs, it was assumed that the Steelers and Ravens would finish in the top two spots in the division with either team occupying one of the wild-card spots.
However, with Big Ben out for at least next week (according to Fox Sports) and no prognosis as to when exactly he will return, the road to the playoffs gets much bumpier for the black and yellow.
The good news is that Byron Leftwich, despite having a windup that rivals Tim Tebow's in terms of length, is an experienced quarterback that should let them get through the next couple of weeks without completely collapsing. With their running backs getting healthier and their defense improving with each week, not much will be expected from Leftwich.
By season's end, the Steelers may not have as impressive of a record without Ben at the helm for all 16 games, but they are talented enough to hang on to their grip on one of the wild-card spots.
Odds: 80 percent
The Lions are a team that is more talented than their 4-5 record would indicate, but they are stuck on the bottom of the NFL's toughest division with almost no room for error. Last week's loss to the Vikings was a devastating blow to a team that simply could not afford a divisional loss.
What has gone unnoticed is how much better their defense has played, particularly on the back end. Matthew Stafford has rebounded from his terrible start as well.
However, their schedule over the next month, which includes two games in a row against the Texans and Packers, will be too much of a task to overcome. The Lions are simply too flawed to find a way to run the table and get back in the playoff mix over the next month.
Odds: 10 percent