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NFL Playoff Picture 2019: Week 15 Super Bowl Odds and Wild-Card Standings

mandela namaste@@mandiba13Contributor IDecember 9, 2019

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 20-15. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

There's just three weeks left in the NFL regular season, and the drama is only just beginning. 

The big battle in the AFC likely concerns that pesky sixth playoff slot, with the Ravens, Patriots, Chiefs and Bills safe bets to play in January. A staggering seven teams are still in play for the last seed, led by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the AFC South's second-place finisher (likely either the Houston Texans or Tennessee Titans). 

The six NFC teams that will survive into the postseason are a bit more clear-cut, but there's still quite a lot of seeding craziness to come in the ensuing three weeks. Outside of the Dallas Cowboys winning the fourth slot, each of the five available seeds is still up for debate. 

     

NFL Standings

AFC 

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (11-2) 

2. New England (10-3) 

3. Kansas City (9-4) 

4. Houston (8-5) 

          

Wild-Card Race

5. Buffalo (9-4)

6. Pittsburgh (8-5) 

7. Tennessee (8-5) 

8. Cleveland (6-7) 

9. Oakland (6-7) 

10. Indianapolis (6-7) 

11. Denver (5-8)

     

As mentioned above, the main AFC playoff battle concerns the last wild-card slot. Denver is still technically in contention but will be eliminated if either Pittsburgh or Tennessee wins one more game, so it's fair to say they're probably not worth discussing. 

Now, let's take a look at these three 6-7 squads. Of the three, the Colts have the most difficult remaining schedule, likely because they play in New Orleans next Monday. Sunday night's loss notwithstanding, the Saints are incredibly dangerous and pose a grave threat to any team, let alone one that's lost five of its last six like the Colts have.

Their competition, however, has it much easier. 

Sure, the Browns play the Ravens in Week 16, and are likely assured of a loss there. But bookending that matchup are games against the three-win Cardinals and one-win Bengals, two teams that the Browns are far better than and should be able to beat. It would be quite an achievement for the Browns to somehow make the playoffs after such a slow start to the season.

The Raiders have an even more favorable three-game stretch to close out the season, as they face the Jaguars at home and then travel to match up with the Chargers and Broncos. Jacksonville and Los Angeles are both mathematically eliminated and Denver all but is, so none of those teams will have anything to play for aside from pride.

Ending 2019 on a three-game winning streak is exceedingly possible for this Raiders team that's had surprising peaks and low valleys this year. 

Of course, all of the aforementioned teams will need the top two wild card contenders—the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans—to come up short, which is possible but unlikely. Both teams have been surprisingly consistent throughout the duration of the season, and though they rank fourth and fifth in remaining strength of schedule, they only need one win to erase most of their competition. One of those two is likely to play on Wild Card Weekend. 

       

NFC

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (11-2) 

2. Green Bay (10-3)

3. New Orleans (10-3) 

4. Dallas (6-7) 

       

Wild-Card Race

5. Seattle (10-3)

6. Minnesota (9-4) 

7. Los Angeles Rams (8-5)

8. Chicago (7-6) 

9. Philadelphia (5-7)

     

Despite a convincing win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Los Angeles Rams are a classic case of "too little, too late." They still have one more matchup against the 49ers plus a date with the Dallas Cowboys, while the sixth-seeded Vikings finish out their schedule with a home matchup against the Packers and two games against struggling quarterbacks—Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears, and Phillip Rivers and the Chargers.  

Let's discuss the NFC scenarios assuming that the six teams currently slotted into the playoffs are the ones we'll be seeing in January and accept that the 6-7 Cowboys are likely to have the fourth seed provided they win the division. 

The order of the remaining five teams in the NFC playoff picture will likely not get decided in full until Week 17, when the Vikings and Packers face off alongside the 49ers and Seahawks. The Saints, in a lower-stakes situation, will take on the already-eliminated Carolina Panthers. 

Any ranking of these five teams is fairly reasonable, so it's the fine details that could make all the difference over these final weeks, and one team in particular is dealing with the potential erosion of those fine points. 

Despite an ostensibly huge victory on Sunday night, the 49ers are dealing with four possibly major injuries.

Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K'Waun Williams, edge rusher Dee Ford, and lineman Weston Richburg all left the game on Sunday and did not return. All four are starters, and Sherman, Ford and Richburg were each integral to their respective units.

Per the Sacramento Bee's Chris Biderman, head coach Kyle Shanahan was particularly down on Richburg's status, and though the 49ers' offense has not been elite for large portions of the season, losing a lineman of his caliber would obviously be devastating. 

Whether these injuries end up mattering over the next few weeks for San Francisco is unknowable at this time, but let's keep both eyes open on the subject as the regular season comes to a close.

       

Super Bowl Odds

via Caesars

Ravens (+250; bet $100 to win $250)

49ers (+400)

Saints (+500)

Chiefs (+600)

Patriots (+600)

Seahawks (+600)

Packers (+1600)

Vikings (+1600)

Cowboys (+3000)  

Bills (+3500)  

Texans (+3500)

       

Thanks to a nine-game winning streak that includes a staggering six wins over projected playoff teams, the Baltimore Ravens lead the betting odds by a comfortable margin. But don't let the sensational play of Lamar Jackson sweep you off your feet just yet. 

Vegas is right to have the next five teams bunched up together, though the Patriots at +600 is obviously the best bet on this board. These specific circumstances of dread and uncertainty have surrounded the Pats more times than we might care to admit in recent years, and it's extremely possible that they end up back in the Super Bowl in February. 

However, a less obvious best bet is the Packers at +1600. Green Bay has looked shaky at times this season, and the fact that Aaron Rodgers did not dominate a bad Washington defense on Sunday is a bit concerning.

But Rodgers has not had a defense as good as this one in a while, and he often plays his best ball in the playoffs.  The 36-year old may be past his prime, but a step down from Rodgers' peak is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He might make us regret betting against him in January.