NFL Playoff Predictions: Ranking Chances Each Bubble Team Makes the Field
The NFL playoff picture has already changed substantially from what many suspected would happen early in the season.
Teams with hot starts like the Detroit Lions are now clinging to their playoff lives, while others in the NFC are just trying to keep a competitive lineup on the field.
Meanwhile, the AFC race has one Wild Card spot already locked up for the most part and has others scrambling to clinch that final spot.
Here are the chances that some of the current NFL bubble teams find their way into the postseason.
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The one thing that the Detroit Lions have going for them over their division rival in Chicago is that at least their best offensive weapons are still on the field.
However, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will need to pick up their pace if they want to secure an NFC Wild Card position, since the Packers have already sewn up the NFC North crown.
The alarming lack of discipline that the Lions have displayed recently should give legitimate concern, and their schedule is a tough one down the stretch.
In the end, it could come down to the final game of the season to decide whether or not Detroit makes the cut.
Since that game could stand in the way of history for the Green Bay Packers, the Lions' chances are worse than they would be if they faced another team in Week 17.
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The Falcons are falling victim to the fact that the Saints are emerging as the most legitimate threat to the Packers in the NFC playoff picture.
The good news is that they might only keep them from winning the NFC South and not a Wild Card spot.
The Falcons might have the easiest path down the stretch to a Wild Card spot, and their roster remains the most intact of the NFC bunch.
Atlanta gets a huge boost, since their closest competitors still both have games against the Green Bay Packers on the schedule.
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Maybe it was the relatively soft schedule (apart from the Packers) that kept the Bears from looking elsewhere for quarterback help in their playoff push.
Still, a team devoid of offense will find it hard to land the final Wild Card spot in the NFC.
The Broncos—and now the Seahawks—are not the cupcake games that Chicago thought they had when the schedule came out, with both teams playing better. The Packers game can likely be chalked up as a loss.
Sadly, the Bears have lost too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball to remain a threat, barring a miracle from Caleb Hanie.
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The loser of the AFC North has an enviable position in that they are all but guaranteed a playoff spot, despite losing their division.
Either Pittsburgh or Baltimore will be a scary first-round match up for some division-winning squad come January.
New York Jets
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The New York Jets have responded since losing to Denver on Thursday Night Football, and even though their AFC East division dreams are likely dead, their playoff hopes are not.
It all continues with a win over Kansas City this weekend, and if the Jets can score a key win over their roommates, the Giants, they will be in great position to score a Wild Card spot.
If Mark Sanchez can resist the urge to turn the ball over, the Jets' playoff hopes are still bright.
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The Cincinnati Bengals have been a great turnaround story in the NFL this season, but unfortunately their run likely will not end in the playoffs.
Cincinnati has made huge strides and has a bright future, but they are not yet in the same league as their division foes the Steelers and Ravens.
Another loss to the Ravens and potentially even the Texans might spell disaster for the Bengals' playoff hopes.
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Don't look now, but with Chris Johnson playing well and games against Indy and Jacksonville left on the docket, the Titans are scary contenders heading into January.
The Titans have great tiebreaker position with many other AFC teams and could be a squad, led by veteran Matt Hasselbeck, that many don't want to see in January.