NFL Playoff Picture: Teams That Cemented Their Status as Contenders in Week 14

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NFL Playoff Picture: Teams That Cemented Their Status as Contenders in Week 14
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The NFL playoff picture is still a bit murky after Week 14, but there are some teams who proved they are contenders after winning their respective games.

There are certain qualities that contenders show week in and week out, so naturally the teams on this list have shown at least one of those qualities this season and in Week 14.

Let's take a look at the squads who fit the bill.

 

Washington Redskins

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The Redskins looked like their season was finished only four weeks ago, but since then have reeled off four straight wins to put themselves back in playoff contention.

In Week 14, Washington was able to knock off the Baltimore Ravens, a team with one of the best records in the AFC. With the win, the 'Skins improved to 7-6, while the Ravens fell to 9-4 on the season.

It wasn't an easy victory, however. Down by eight points late in the fourth quarter and without their star quarterback, Robert Griffin III, the Redskins pulled off a clutch drive led by fellow rookie signal-caller Kirk Cousins.

Cousins would orchestrate the drive that ended with a Pierre Garcon touchdown catch and a two-point conversion that tied it up. Washington would go on to win in overtime with a field goal, keeping themselves in prime position to take the NFC East lead.

This win was the biggest of the year for the Redskins by far—not only because the Ravens are the best team the Redskins have beaten this season, but also because they were able to overcome adversity to do so.

Wins like these are what playoff teams are all about. When key players go down, it's up to their teammates to step up and that's exactly what happened here.

 

Minnesota Vikings

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The Vikings greatly helped their playoff hopes in Week 14 by topping a potential playoff team in the Chicago Bears.

Minnesota might not have the ideal quarterback to get it to the playoffs, but its rushing attack and defense more than make up for that fact.

Adrian Peterson has been running like a beast this season as he once again broke the 100-yard mark with 31 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Incredibly, Peterson broke the century mark in just the first quarter.

Defensively, the Vikings were able to hold the Bears offense in check, and while Chicago gained more yardage than Minnesota would like, Jay Cutler and company still only scored 14 points. It just goes to show that is isn't how many yards you gain, but rather what you do with those yards that counts.

Other than the win against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, Chicago was the best team Minnesota has beaten all season long, and that proves this team has the goods to compete against anyone in the NFL.

 

Indianapolis Colts

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If not for an incredible season by the Houston Texans, the Colts might have been looking at an AFC South crown as they improved to 9-4 with a win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 14.

The Colts have done a great job succeeding in the face of adversity this season. Down by two scores going into the half and no offense to speak of, the Colts were able to muster 20 second-half points to top the Titans.

Even more impressively, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was able to record his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season, further proving that the Colts can win those tight games, even when trailing late.

While their defense isn't elite by any means, the Colts get the effort on that end of the ball when they need it. Case in point, they only allowed three second-half points to the Titans after allowing 20 in the first half.

Clearly, this team and its quarterback don't get rattled by a deficit, and if the game is close in the fourth quarter, the Colts have the ability to pull it out. When you're talking about what makes a contender, those two factors are at the top of the list.

 

NFC Playoff Picture (per ESPN.com)

CONF RK NFC W L T PCT DIV CONF SOS SOV REASON
1  Atlanta 11 2 0 .846 3-2 7-2-0 .391 .399 NFC South Champ
2 San Francisco 9 3 1 .731 2-1-1 6-3-1 .485 .461 NFC West Champ
3 Green Bay 9 4 0 .692 4-0 7-3-0 .512 .444 NFC North Champ
4 NY Giants 8 5 0 .615 2-3 7-3-0 .497 .500 NFC East Champ
5 Seattle 8 5 0 .615 1-3 6-4-0 .494 .520
6 Chicago 8 5 0 .615 2-2 5-4-0 .524 .422  
7 Washington 7 6 0 .538 3-1 6-4-0 .530 .505
8 Dallas 7 6 0 .538 3-2 5-5-0 .527 .418
9 Minnesota 7 6 0 .538 3-2 5-5-0 .491

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AFC Playoff Picture (per ESPN.com)

CONF RK AFC W L T PCT DIV CONF SOS SOV REASON
1 Houston 11 1 0 .917 4-0 9-0-0 .435 .415 AFC South Champ
2 Denver 10 3 0 .769 5-0 7-2-0 .467 .362 AFC West Champ
3 New England 9 3 0 .750 5-0 8-1-0 .497 .483 AFC East Champ
4 Baltimore 9 4 0 .692 4-1 8-2-0 .473 .431 AFC North Champ
5 Indianapolis 9 4 0 .692 3-1 6-3-0 .416 .383  
6 Pittsburgh 7 6 0 .538 2-2 4-6-0 .467 .473
7 Cincinnati 7 6 0 .538 1-3 5-5-0 .444 .352  
8 NY Jets 6 7 0 .462 2-3 4-5-0 .542 .404
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