Heading into Week 17, the NFL standings are a jumbled mess with very little set in stone. Fortunately, the final week of games will clear everything up.
There are currently 10 teams fighting for four remaining playoff spots, while most of the eight teams already in the postseason are still battling for seeding. This will create a very exciting final Sunday as 13 of the 16 games have some playoff importance.
Still, the important thing at this point is simply making the postseason, because anything can happen at that point. As a result, we will focus on what it will take for each remaining squad in contention to stay alive in January.
Here is a full look at the current NFL standings heading into Week 17 with a breakdown of the undecided playoff spots.
|New York Giants||6||9||0|
|Green Bay Packers||7||7||1|
|New Orleans Saints||10||5||0|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||11||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||11||4||0|
|St. Louis Rams||7||8||0|
|New England Patriots||11||4||0|
|New York Jets||7||8||0|
|Kansas City Chiefs||11||4||0|
|San Diego Chargers||8||7||0|
AFC Wild Card
Teams in contention: Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers
This is by far the most confusing of all the playoff scenarios considering no one controls their own destiny. Every single team needs help from someone in order to get in.
Therefore it is important to break it down on a game-by-game basis.
The Baltimore Ravens easily have the toughest matchup of any of the teams involved.
They have to go on the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that has had a lot of success at home this year. Not only are the Bengals undefeated at Paul Brown Stadium, but they have scored at least 40 points in each of the last four games.
Considering the Ravens have only scored one touchdown in the last two games, it seems unlikely they will be able to keep up on the scoreboard, leading to a defeat.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins should be able to keep the New York Jets off the board after winning 23-3 the last time the teams met. The one positive for the Jets at this point (depending on who you ask) is that it appears Rex Ryan will not be fired, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
There are now multiple signs pointing to Rex Ryan returning as Jets HC next season, per sources; still some issues to work through, however.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 28, 2013
Although the San Diego Chargers should win at home against a Kansas City Chiefs squad playing for nothing, these two results will be enough for the Dolphins to secure the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
Teams in contention: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys
This situation is much easier to understand. The Philadelphia Eagles face the Dallas Cowboys and the winner goes to the playoffs.
The problem is that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will miss the game with a back injury, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. Head coach Jason Garrett discussed his efforts in getting Romo to play:
We spent the week exhausting all options regarding Tony's situation, treatment, rehab all the different things. We consulted a lot of different people on this. We just felt like, as we discussed it, as yesterday wore on, that this was the best decision for him and our organization moving forward. We felt like it was better to have this done sooner rather than later.
While the Cowboys certainly are not going to give up, this will hurt the offense dramatically. Pairing this with the league's worst defense by yards allowed is not a recipe for success.
The Eagles already have an impressive 5-2 record on the road this season, and they should be able to add to that with a win on Sunday.
Teams in contention: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers
Like the NFC East battle, the NFC North will come down to one game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. Without question, the key storyline in this matchup is the return of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
ESPN provides a look at how important the quarterback's addition is to this game:
Before Aaron Rodgers was named starter, the Bears were a 4.5-point favorite. Today, the Packers are a 3-point road favorite.— ESPN (@espn) December 27, 2013
The upgrade can also be seen with this statistic from ESPN Stats and Info:
Aaron Rodgers: 70.3 Total QBR this season. All others Packers QB: 25.5 Total QBR— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 27, 2013
Chicago has given up the third-most points in football this season, but the team had a chance to slow down the Packers offense with Matt Flynn at the helm. This will not be possible against Rodgers, and it will lead to a road win for Green Bay.
NFC Wild Card
Teams in contention: New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals
Few teams have been playing better than the Cardinals over the second half of the year. The team has won seven of its last eight games, including an extremely tough victory in Seattle.
If Arizona makes the playoffs, it can make a serious run in the NFC playoffs.
Unfortunately, the squad lost a game against the New Orleans Saints earlier in the year, which represents the only tiebreaker that matters in this case.
As a result, the Saints only need to win a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to secure a wild-card spot. They should have no problem in this matchup and they should advance to the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
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