NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Determining Playoff Chances for Every Team
With just six games left in the NFL season, the playoff picture is starting to clear, and we have a better idea of which teams are likely to be postseason-bound and, certainly, which teams remain in the running.
But what are the odds that each team will make the playoffs? Which teams playing well now will miss the dance, and which of those currently struggling will recover in time for January football?
I can't definitively answer those questions, of course, but in this edition of the power rankings I can certainly guess. So with each team, you'll find the percentage chance I think each team has to make the playoffs.
Some are obvious enough, while others I think might surprise you. But enough jibber-jabber—let's rank stuff.
1. Houston Texans (9-1): 99%
Even when the Texans play poorly, they still find a way to win. I'd be shocked if they don't end up earning the top spot in the AFC.
2. Atlanta Falcons (9-1): 99%
Like the Texans, I can't guarantee the Falcons won't win the playoffs, since it isn't yet mathematically impossible for them to miss the postseason. But few teams are more balanced than Atlanta.
3. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1): 98%
Against the Chicago Bears, we saw the 49ers at their finest. They were more physical, ran the ball well and took the Bears out of their defensive comfort zone by carving them up with play-action passing. Ignore the tie against the Rams—the Niners are legit.
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-2): 98%
I'm not sold on the Ravens as a truly elite team just yet, but given the talent they have, I can't foresee them failing to win the AFC North.
5. Green Bay Packers (7-3): 95%
The defense has been markedly better than it was a year ago, while Aaron Rodgers has returned to his MVP ways. With a huge test against the New York Giants this weekend, we'll find out if the Packers have returned to the NFL's elite or are still a team that hasn't returned to its level of a year ago.
But I wouldn't bet against them right now.
6. New England Patriots (7-3): 95%
The only reason the Patriots are lower than the Packers here is because they've only won four consecutive games, not five. Yeah, it was that close.
7. Denver Broncos (7-3): 90%
If Denver continues to play solid defense, and Peyton Manning continues to be Peyton Manning, this team is going to cruise into the playoffs.
8. Chicago Bears (7-3): 85%
You can see how fragile the Bears' success is. Take away Jay Cutler, and this team will crumble (just like last year). That said, they're still one of the better teams in the NFC if the sour-faced quarterback stays healthy.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4): 70%
With Big Ben out of the picture for the time being, this team could be in real trouble. Still, with four more games in the division and five in the conference, they control their own destiny. The defense has rebounded to the point that I believe their destiny is a Wild Card berth.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4): 40%
At the moment, I think the Bucs could grab the last spot. They've won four in a row (and five of six), Doug Martin is a star already in his rookie season, Josh Freeman has rediscovered his game and they haven't scored less than 27 points since the bye in Week 5.
But the schedule down the stretch will kill them. With two games against Atlanta and tilts against the Broncs and New Orleans Saints, reaching 10 wins—which is likely what they'll need to do to reach the playoffs—is going to be difficult.
11. New Orleans Saints (5-5): 35%
The Saints are on fire, having won three in a row and five of six. But look at the team's next five games: 49ers, at Falcons, at Giants, Bucs, at Cowboys. Sorry, but I don't think the Saints survive that gantlet with enough wins to make the playoffs.
12. Seattle Seahawks (6-4): 55%
The Seahawks have one of the best running games and defenses in the NFL. That, paired with a manageable schedule down the stretch, makes me believe the Seahawks will sneak into the playoffs this year.
13. Dallas Cowboys (5-5): 50%
The Cowboys have saved their season in the last two weeks and don't have a game down the stretch they can't win. Given the sorry state of the NFC East this year, that gives them a 50 percent chance to win this division.
14. New York Giants (6-4): 50%
The Giants could be in trouble. They have to face the Packers, Saints, Falcons and Ravens down the stretch, never mind division games against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. If Eli Manning and company don't pick things up, this team will miss the playoffs. Still, given the Cowboys' tendency to choke, they still have a 50 percent chance to win this division.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5): 50%
The Bengals are a streaky team, aren't they? After getting smoked by the Ravens to open the season, they won three, lost four and now have recovered to win two. With Andy Dalton and A.J. Green clicking and a manageable schedule down the stretch, the Bengals have a good shot of making the playoffs.
16. Minnesota Vikings (6-4): 25%
The Vikings play the Packers twice, the Bears twice and the Texans down the stretch. If they make the playoffs, I'd be shocked.
17. Indianapolis Colts (6-4): 50%
So the question is: Can the miracle season continue behind stellar rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, or is this team destined to come back to earth?
The Colts certainly have a chance, and they control their own destiny at this point. It's possible that even if they win just three games down the stretch, they'll get in. And given how well they've played on offense this year, I wouldn't bet against them.
Unfortunately, I wouldn't bet on them, either. I still think the Bengals could supplant them for that last Wild Card spot. We shall see.
18. Detroit Lions (4-6): 10%
They're all but done in the stacked NFC. It's been an extremely disappointing season for this young, talented team.
19. Buffalo Bills (4-6): 15%
Buffalo is better than this 4-6 record. I truly believe that. Unfortunately, the record is all that matters. C.J. Spiller and company may save this season yet, but it will be an uphill battle indeed. Still, given their remaining schedule, it isn't crazy to think they could rattle off five or even six more wins.
20. Washington Redskins (4-6): 25%
The only reason Washington has such a high percentage this far down the list is because they have Robert Griffin III and because the Giants and Cowboys are so shaky above them in the NFC East standings. This thing isn't over yet for the Washington Racist Team Names.
21. San Diego Chargers (4-6): 10%
If this team wins two of its next three against the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers, they may have a shot to make the playoffs. If they don't, stick a fork in them.
22. Tennessee Titans (4-6): 5%
The Titans aren't going to make the playoffs, but hey, at least Chris Johnson turned his season around. Right, fantasy owners?
23. Miami Dolphins (4-6): 3%
Miami has lost three straight and still has to play the Patriots twice, the 49ers and Seahawks. But hey, a top-10 pick will be nice, right?
24. New York Jets (4-6): 10%
For as terrible as this offense is, the only game remaining on the schedule the Jets will be heavy underdogs in comes against the Patriots. Still, the offense is so bad that it's incredibly hard to imagine this team winning five of six down the stretch.
25. St. Louis Rams (3-6-1): 2%
They've shown flashes of ability this season and should make some noise next season. But for now, it's back to a top-10 pick for St. Louis.
26. Oakland Raiders (3-7): 2%
The Raiders have six winnable games down the stretch and throw the ball really well. Unfortunately, they don't do anything else well at all.
27. Arizona Cardinals (4-6): 3%
After six straight losses, they're toast in the playoff picture. What may be more surprising is that they won four in a row to open the season.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7): 1%
Six straight losses for an Andy Reid-coached team is unheard of. And that's why he'll be gone after this season, along with Michael Vick.
29. Carolina Panthers (2-8): 1%
One positive for the Panthers: They play the Eagles this week.
30. Cleveland Browns (2-8): 0.5%
Trent Richardson is really good, and the defense has shown signs of life over the past month. That's all I've got.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-9): 0.01%
Hands down, the most disappointing team in the NFL this season. Yes, even more than the Eagles.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9): 0.01%
When Chad Henne represents an upgrade at quarterback, you know your franchise is in trouble.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets predict crazy things like Baylor upsets. Seriously.
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