NFL Playoff Predictions: Teams That Will Blow Playoff Chances
Mathematically, only the Kansas City Chiefs have been eliminated from playoff contention and not a single team has clinched a playoff berth.
Realistically, 19 NFL teams are fighting for 12 playoff vacancies. Let's assume the top nine are in—New England, Denver, Baltimore, Houston, San Francisco, Green Bay, Atlanta, Chicago and the New York Giants.
That leaves 10 teams vying for three spots.
So, which of these teams will rise to the challenge and secure a berth? Who will crumble under pressure and watch the playoffs from home?
Cincinnati Bengals: 6-5
Upcoming Schedule: @San Diego, Dallas, @Philadelphia, @Pittsburgh, Baltimore.
The Bengals have quietly strung together a three-game winning streak and are in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card spot. Despite the deterioration of the Eagles', Cowboys' and Chargers' seasons, the Bengals will only take two of those games. The finale at home against Baltimore is winnable given its proximity to the playoffs.
Essentially, it all comes down to the Bengals playing in Pittsburgh. I'll take Tomlin and Big Ben in Heinz Field every time.
If they get to 9-7, Indianapolis would have a tiebreak due to conference winning percentage.
Can the Bengals win four of their last five games and secure a spot? I don't think so.
Dallas Cowboys: 5-6
Remaining Schedule: Philadelphia, @Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, @Washington
To be fair, the Cowboys might have already blown their playoff chances.
At 5-6, that remaining schedule is daunting. They need to win at least four games and given their propensity to gift-wrap victories to the opposing team, I don't see any way they make the playoffs.
They'll beat Philly, but do any of those four remaining match-ups favor the Cowboys? Their final four opponents also find themselves fighting for playoff survival, which only enhances the difficulty.
The Cowboys have struggled to win big games all season, albeit facing a gauntlet of a schedule, so why should we believe that they will start winning them now?When the season's over and the Cowboys are once again watching the playoffs, they will be haunted by close losses.
New Orleans Saints: 5-6
Remaining Schedule: @Atlanta, @NY Giants, Tampa Bay, @Dallas, Carolina
The Saints are tough to read. If you look at each of their remaining games individually, the Saints could win each. It's when you look at them collectively that you realize how unlikely it is.
To ensure a playoff spot, the Saints need to win out. If they win four of the five remaining games, they would need help to clinch a berth. In particular, they would need the Redskins and Seahawks to have a worse record than them based on tiebreakers.
The Saints, who are still recovering from a tough loss at home last week to San Francisco, next two games are both on the road against two of the NFC's tougher teams. That doesn't bode well for their playoff chances.
The Saints would really like to have their first month back. Especially home losses to Washington and Kansas City.
Minnesota Vikings: 6-5
Remaining Schedule: @Green Bay, Chicago, @St. Louis, @Houston, Green Bay
Even if, and I can't overstate the word if, the Vikings win three of the remaining five games, they would need an abundance of help to make the playoffs.
They have lost to Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, three teams that Minnesota is in direct competition with to earn a wild card spot. Given this tiebreaking inconvenience, the Vikings likely need to win four more games to make the playoffs.
That is simply not going to happen. In fact, I wouldn't bat an eye if they lost out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-5
Remaining Schedule: @Denver, Philadelphia, @ New Orleans, St. Louis, @Atlanta
Tampa Bay will be combating a tough schedule and tiebreakers both as the season concludes. If they find a way to secure victories in four of the next five weeks, they will be sitting pretty.
In the more likely event that they win three or their remaining games, they need help. They lost earlier this season to the Washington Redskins, so their current one game lead over RG III and company is more thin that it appears.
The final playoff spot in the NFC is going to come down to Tampa, Seattle and Washington.
The Bucs have the hardest schedule of the group, as all their key games will be played on the road. As odd as it sounds, the Bucs will be hoping Atlanta wins their next four games, which would clinch home field advantage.
If their Week 17 match-up against Atlanta is against the Falcons' second team, their odds obviously would improve significantly.
But that is a lot of ifs.
Seattle Seahawks 6-5
Remaining Schedule: @Chicago, Arizona, @Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis
If Seattle wants to make the playoffs, they need to learn to win a road game.
Seattle, like Tampa Bay, would lose the tiebreaker to Washington. So, for perspective, let's look at Washington's remaining schedule: NY Giants, Baltimore, @Cleveland, @Philadelphia, Dallas.
If Washington can find a way to split the first two at home, winning their final three shouldn't be too much of a struggle. If they do this, Washington will end at 9-7.
Given this, Seattle will need to win four of their last five in order to clinch a playoff spot over Washington. That would mean either a home win against San Francisco—or a road win this week against Chicago—in addition to winning on the road in Buffalo.
The Seahawks have only won one game this season on the road. It's quite possible that the Seahawks will end up 8-0 at home, yet miss the playoffs.