NFL Standings 2014-15: Full League Outlook and AFC, NFC Playoff Predictions

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIDecember 18, 2014

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after the Patriots defeated the San Diego Chargers 23-14 in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
DENIS POROY/Associated Press

With only two weeks remaining in the season, we know there are four teams destined to make postseason appearances, 11 that are eliminated from playoff contention and six with the possibility of obtaining the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

That only accounts for 15 of the league's teams.

That means there are 17 other squads that have yet to clinch playoff berths but are still well in the mix for the opportunity to continue playing into January. Unfortunately, there are only eight playoff spots remaining, meaning 11 of those teams will be going home earlier than expected.

There are plenty of chances for these contenders to gain entrance to the postseason in Week 16; however, there are also many chances to be knocked out of the running altogether. This leads us to the burning question at this time of year: Who's in, and who's out?

That's a highly debatable subject matter, but it's always fun to speculate. Before we delve into that discussion, let's first take a look at where every NFL team stands heading into Week 16.

League Standings

League Standings Entering Week 16
New England Patriots (y)1130.786
Buffalo Bills860.571
Miami Dolphins770.500
New York Jets3110.214
Cincinnati Bengals941.679
Pittsburgh Steelers950.643
Baltimore Ravens950.643
Cleveland Browns770.500
Denver Broncos (y)1130.786
Kansas City Chiefs860.571
San Diego Chargers860.571
Oakland Raiders2120.143
Indianapolis Colts (y)1040.714
Houston Texans770.500
Tennessee Titans2120.143
Jacksonville Jaguars2120.143
Dallas Cowboys1040.714
Philadelphia Eagles950.643
New York Giants590.357
Washington Redskins3110.214
Detroit Lions1040.714
Green Bay Packers1040.714
Minnesota Vikings680.429
Chicago Bears590.357
Arizona Cardinals (x)1130.786
Seattle Seahawks1040.714
San Francisco 49ers770.500
St. Louis Rams680.429
New Orleans Saints680.429
Carolina Panthers581.393
Atlanta Falcons590.357
Tampa Bay Buccaneers2120.143

(y) Clinched division

(x) Clinched playoff spot


Playoff Predictions

With the current league standings in mind, it's time to dive into the thick of the playoff predictions. There may be just two games remaining in the season, but the race for postseason contention is as close as ever, and multiple scenarios across the league in Week 16 will have a tremendous effect on the ultimate outcome.

There are several things that must be taken into consideration when predicting the playoff picture. Current team records, upcoming strength of schedules, recent on-field production and knowledge of tiebreaker scenarios all factor into the final projections.

Here's a look at what the postseason picture will looks like upon the conclusion of the regular season, followed by an explanation of how these predictions unfolded:

Final Playoff Predictions
AFC SeedTeamNFC SeedTeam
1New England Patriots (13-3)1Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
2Denver Broncos (13-3)2Green Bay Packers (12-4)
3Indianapolis Colts (11-5)3Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
4Baltimore Ravens (11-5)4Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
5Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)5Arizona Cardinals (12-4)
6Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)6Detroit Lions (11-5)
Sean O'Donnell's predictions

All tiebreaker rules courtesy of CBSSports.com.

There you have it. Is your team in? Well, if not, don't fret—these are only predictions, after all; however, if you're wondering why your team is on the outside looking in, here's the full rundown.

Heading into Week 16, the New England Patriots held the AFC's top spot due to a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Denver Broncos. With the Patriots holding their own fate in their hands, winning out is all that is necessary to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. As you can see, that's exactly what should happen.

Expect New England to take care of the New York Jets in Week 16, and while it has a challenge in Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills, this team will still be at full strength, due to a race for the No. 1 seed with the Broncos, and it will earn its final victory of the regular season.

Denver faces the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 16. The Bengals struggle under the bright lights, so it's not far-fetched to think Peyton Manning and Co. leave Cincinnati with a win. If that's the case, they'll secure the No. 2 seed with a Week 17 win over the Oakland Raiders.

The Indianapolis Colts aren't in jeopardy of losing the AFC South, and even if they lose out, they'll still manage to grab one of the top four seeds. In this scenario, Indianapolis finishes the last two games with a 1-1 record and earns the No. 3 seed.

A loss by Cincinnati paves the way for either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Baltimore Ravens to claim the AFC North. Well, Pittsburgh has the best shot, due to a game against the Bengals in Week 17, but it's tough to see them lighting up Cincinnati's solid secondary for a second time. A Bengals win in that game moves them back above the Steelers in the division.

That opens the door wide for the Ravens. Baltimore faces the Houston Texans in Week 16 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 17—two teams with extreme quarterback issues. The Ravens will win out and will take the AFC North outright.

Unfortunately for the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs miss out, due to a Week 16 loss to the Steelers, and the San Diego Chargers get knocked off in Week 17 by the Chiefs.

With the AFC now set, let's move on to the NFC.

The Seattle Seahawks will claim the top spot with a Week 16 victory over Ryan Lindley and the Arizona Cardinals, followed by a Week 17 victory over the St. Louis Rams; however, the Cardinals only drop to the No. 5 seed due to a win against the struggling San Francisco 49ers in the season's final week.

In Week 16, the Green Bay Packers will handle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Detroit Lions will take care of the Chicago Bears. That leaves us with a showdown between the two NFC North powerhouses in Week 17 for the right to the division and a first-round bye. The Lions won the first round, but it's tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers when he's playing at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay gets the No. 2 seed, and the Lions get the consolation prize of entering the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

The Dallas Cowboys' playoff hopes could hinge on their Week 16 contest against the Colts. Right now, the Cowboys get the edge. They have looked like the more complete team of late and appear to have DeMarco Murray ready to go for Sunday's clash, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Finishing off the season with a win against the Washington Redskins ensures Dallas of the NFC East crown.

Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Eagles, they win out and finish 11-5 but miss out on the playoffs due to losing a conference-record tiebreaker to the Lions.

The Atlanta Falcons round out the NFC's playoff picture by winning the South. A Week 16 showdown against the New Orleans Saints is pivotal, and Atlanta gets the win here due to recent inconsistency by Drew Brees and Co. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons follow that up with a Week 17 win over the Carolina Panthers and claim the NFC's No. 4 seed.

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