The NFL playoff picture is starting to take a clearer shape now that Week 15 is on the horizon. A number of teams have already locked up a guaranteed spot in the postseason (Houston, New England, Denver, Atlanta), and plenty more are right on the cusp.
Let’s take a look at the handful of hopeful squads that are a win or two away from punching their tickets to the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens (9-4)
The Ravens are so close to locking up a chance to make a Super Bowl run that they don’t even need to win in Week 15.
If Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both lose this week, Baltimore would capture the AFC North crown, which it can also accomplish by simply picking up a win against the Denver Broncos.
Should the Ravens overcome the Broncos, they would move up to the third seed and be right on the tail of New England for a first-round bye, which is exactly what they should be shooting for instead of limping through the final few games.
Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
If someone told you last year, around this same time, that the Colts would be in the running to win their division in Week 15 of the 2012-2013 season, you would have called them insane.
However, Andrew Luck has guided this team through adversity and tragedy to put them one win away from clinching a playoff spot (which can also happen if both the Jets and Bengals lose).
The Colts have yet to face the Texans this season, and will see them twice over the next three weeks, with only a matchup against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs to break up the contests.
If Indianapolis wins out, they would take the AFC South and likely host a playoff game during Wild Card weekend.
San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)
There are a number of scenarios in play right now for the Niners.
The simplest way into the playoffs involves the team pulling out a win on the road against the Patriots. However, they can also sneak in if the Vikings, Cowboys, Redskins and Seahawks all lose in Week 15, an outcome that doesn’t seem as probable—as difficult as winning in New England may be.
San Fran can also cash in on the NFC West crown by beating the Pats and watching Seattle fall. It’d be pretty shocking if the Niners somehow didn’t make the playoffs.
Which Win-and-In team is most likely to collapse and miss the playoffs?
Green Bay Packers (9-4)
Green Bay has a critical matchup looming on the horizon in Week 15.
If the Packers are able to pick up a win at Soldier Field against the Bears, this team clinches the NFC North title and a playoff berth. A loss would be devastating, as the divisional race would have to be delayed at least one week to decide a winner.
Expect the Packers to treat this upcoming contest like a playoff game.