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NFL Standings 2019: Full League Outlook and AFC, NFC Playoff Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints congratulates Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers after his team was defeated 48 - 46 during a NFL game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 08, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The first 14 weeks of the 2019 NFL season didn't settle much.

Sure, the line of demarcation between haves and have-nots materialized, but officially, there's still plenty left to sort out.

The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints have clinched their playoff berths, but the other nine spots are still up for grabs—at least in mathematical terms.

Several can be claimed in Week 15, but before that happens, we're taking stock of the latest conference standings and spotlighting a team to watch from each.

                 

AFC

Division Leaders

1. x-Baltimore Ravens (11-2)

2. New England Patriots (10-3)

3. y-Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)

4. Houston Texans (8-5)

x-clinched playoff berth; y-clinched division title

                 

Wild-Card Race

5. Buffalo Bills (9-4)

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

7. Tennessee Titans (8-5)

8. Cleveland Browns (6-7)

9. Oakland Raiders (6-7)

10. Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

11. Denver Broncos (5-8)

                 

Eliminated

12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)

13. New York Jets (5-8)

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)

15. Miami Dolphins (3-10)

16. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)

                   

NFC

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco 49ers (11-2)

2. Green Bay Packers (10-3)

3. y-New Orleans Saints (10-3)

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-7)

                  

Wild-Card Race

5. Seattle Seahawks (10-3)

6. Minnesota Vikings (9-4)

7. Los Angeles Rams (8-5)

8. Chicago Bears (7-6)

9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

                   

Eliminated

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

11. Carolina Panthers (5-8)

12. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

13. Detroit Lions (3-9-1)

14. Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1)

15. Washington Redskins (3-10)

16. New York Giants (2-11)

                  

Teams To Watch

AFC: Tennessee Titans

D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

It might sound strange to open a section about the Titans by talking about the Ravens, but hear me out.

Baltimore hasn't lost a game since September. MVP favorite Lamar Jackson is having a season for the ages. The defense, while generous at times early in the season, is morphing into the proverbial immovable object.

Considering all of that, this next sentence shouldn't be taken lightly. The Titans are the best story going in football.

They benched their starting quarterback, 2015's No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota, during their fourth loss in six games to open the year. They gave the gig to Ryan Tannehill, who was acquired from the Dolphins this summer for essentially a fourth-round pick.

They've been hard-charging toward a seemingly improbable—but now potentially attainable—playoff spot ever since.

"Watching [Tannehill] now, I really think he's playing the best I've seen him play," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone told reporters. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's putting the ball into tight windows, he's able to run."

Prior to Tannehill's first start in Week 6, this offense was averaging 14 points per game. Extrapolated over the whole season, that figure would rank dead last.

From Week 7 on, that number has ballooned to 31.4. Only Jackson's Ravens average more.

A lot of this surge comes back to Tannehill, who leads the league with a 118.5 quarterback rating. But the Titans are also getting huge contributions from Derrick Henry (at least 103 rushing yards and a score each of his last four games) and A.J. Brown (333 receiving yards, three touchdowns the last three weeks). The defense has also kept its last three opponents to 21 points or less.

Tennessee looks legit, and if this team gets into the big dance, it should terrify the opposition.

                

NFC: Los Angeles Rams

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Hopefully, you never got around to penning the obituary for last year's Super Bowl runner-ups.

Sure, there were some dark moments. Through six games, this was just a .500 team. One week, the defense couldn't stop the bleeding; the next, Jared Goff would transform into a turnover machine. All the while, Todd Gurley II struggled to get a ton of touches or do much with what he received.

Maybe the Rams just aren't what we thought they would be after last year's breakout. In two of the last five weeks, they've been steamrolled by the Ravens and held off by the then-Mason Rudolph-led Steelers.

Then again, this team's eight wins include double-digit triumphs over the Saints, Bears and Seahawks. That Seattle win, which came on Sunday night, was a had-to-have-it-game, and L.A. responded accordingly.

The Rams jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a maybe-more-lopsided-than-it-sounds 28-12 victory. The offense got what it needed from Goff (293 passing yards, two touchdowns) and Gurley (113 scrimmage yards and a score). The defense only allowed two field goals (Seattle's only touchdown came on an interception return).

That latter part might be the key to this whole thing. It's no surprise L.A.'s offense can score, but the defense's ability to dominate most opponents—basically everyone but Baltimore—since acquiring Jalen Ramsey has been stunning.

Other than Baltimore's 45-point outburst, the Rams defense has allowed one touchdown or fewer to the other six opponents it's faced since Ramsey joined the team.

"It's just momentum, you know," Aaron Donald said. "You see the offense score points, that gets us amped up and pumped up to go out there and get those guys the ball back, and that's what we've been doing."

The Rams quietly have two-headed-monster potential. They aren't in the playoffs now, but their plus-49 point differential (ninth in the NFL, fourth in the NFC) says they deserve a spot, and they can make noise if they get it.