NFL Standings: Breaking Down Playoff Spots Still Up for Grabs

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2013

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

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.

NFL Standings Heading Into Week 17
Philadelphia Eagles960
Dallas Cowboys870
New York Giants690
Washington Redskins3120
Chicago Bears870
Green Bay Packers771
Detroit Lions780
Minnesota Vikings4101
Carolina Panthers1140
New Orleans Saints1050
Atlanta Falcons4110
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4110
Seattle Seahawks1230
San Francisco 49ers1140
Arizona Cardinals1050
St. Louis Rams780
New England Patriots1140
Miami Dolphins870
New York Jets780
Buffalo Bills690
Cincinnati Bengals1050
Baltimore Ravens870
Pittsburgh Steelers780
Cleveland Browns4110
Indianapolis Colts1050
Tennessee Titans690
Jacksonville Jaguars4110
Houston Texans2130
Denver Broncos1230
Kansas City Chiefs1140
San Diego Chargers870
Oakland Raiders4110

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:

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.

NFC East

Teams in contention: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 8: Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up in the snow before the start of a game against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field on December 8, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schu
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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 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.

NFC North

Teams in contention: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers 

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 4:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on November 4, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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:

The upgrade can also be seen with this statistic from ESPN Stats and Info:

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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