NFL Teams in Need of a Miracle to Make the Playoffs
It's the season for hope and miracles. We're talking about the end of the NFL regular season, of course, where the final few postseason spots will be decided.
Several teams have already punched their tickets. Others, like the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans, control their own destiny and only need to win out to get in.
Yet there is another group consisting of teams indeed hoping for a miracle. For the latter group, winning won't be enough. These are teams that need help, and in some cases a lot.
Standings Heading into Monday Night
1. Baltimore Ravens, 12-2
2. New England Patriots, 11-3
3. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-4
4. Houston Texans, 9-5
5. Buffalo Bills, 10-4
6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-6
7. Tennessee Titans, 8-6
8. Indianapolis Colts, 6-7
9. Cleveland Browns, 6-8
10. Oakland Raiders, 6-8
1. Seattle Seahawks, 11-3
2. Green Bay Packers, 11-3
3. New Orleans Saints, 10-3
4. Dallas Cowboys, 7-7 (or Philadelphia Eagles, 7-7)
5. San Francisco 49ers, 11-3
6. Minnesota Vikings, 10-4
7. Los Angeles Rams, 8-6
With a loss to the Texans on Sunday, the Titans have put themselves in a precarious position. Their best chance of getting in now involves winning the AFC South. To do that, they'll need Houston to collapse.
Here's the problem: The Titans play Houston in Week 17, but for that game to matter, they'll need to beat the Saints next week and have the Texans lose to the Buccaneers.
Houston owns the divisional tiebreaker (4-1), while Tennessee is 2-3. That means Houston will take the crown even if the Texans and Titans finish with identical records and split the head-to-head series.
A wild-card berth is a possibility, but the Titans would need help from the Steelers.
The Colts still have a shot at the AFC South title because of tiebreakers. For that to happen, though, Indianapolis will first need to beat the Saints on Monday night—a daunting task in the Superdome.
If the Colts can win Monday, they'll need to win out while the Texans lose their next two and the Titans lose to New Orleans next week. Should that happen, all three teams will finish at 9-7, and the tiebreakers would kick in.
In that scenario, Indianapolis would own the divisional tiebreaker over Tennessee and the common-games tiebreaker over the Texans. It's a long shot, but it's possible, and the Colts aren't losing focus on the challenge at hand.
"We'll focus on January when it comes, but right now, we'll focus on Monday Night Football," linebacker Anthony Walker told reporters.
The Colts have a slim shot at winning the last wild-card spot without winning the division. They'd need to win out while the Titans and Steelers both lose out.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had a prime opportunity to push toward the playoffs by beating the Cowboys on Sunday. They knew it coming in.
"I think every single week, we don't necessarily look at it as pressure, but it's an opportunity for us," head coach Sean McVay told reporters.
They blew their opportunity, losing 44-21, and that leaves Los Angeles with no room for error. The loss eliminated the Rams from NFC West contention and nearly out of the wild-card race. The only way L.A. can claim the No. 6 seed is by winning out and having the Vikings lose out.
The Vikings hold a two-game lead for the sixth seed, but the Rams would own the tiebreaker in this scenario. Minnesota would finish with a 7-5 conference record, while L.A. would finish with an 8-4 conference mark.
The Browns blew their chances of a winning season with a blowout loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. Cleveland dropped to 6-8 on the year, but remarkably, the Browns are not completely out of the playoff mix.
For the Browns to get in, they first must win out to finish 8-8. They would also need the Steelers and Titans to lose out, also finishing 8-8. They then need the Colts to go 1-2 down the stretch, making a four-way tie in the AFC at 8-8. If all this happens, Cleveland will own tiebreakers and get into the postseason.
Of course, that also requires Cleveland to beat the white-hot Baltimore Ravens in Week 16.
Like the Browns, the Raiders are holding onto playoff hopes by a thread. They lost their final game in Oakland on Sunday to the Jaguars, which dropped the team to 6-8 and disappointed many a Raiders fan in the process.
"I'd like to say I wish we could have sent the Raiders fans off with a lot better finish than that," head coach Jon Gruden told reporters.
Like the Browns, Oakland needs the Titans, Colts and Steelers to all finish 8-8. The Raiders also need the Browns to finish below that mark because Cleveland would own the tiebreaker over them.
The good news for the Raiders is they have winnable games against the Chargers and Broncos remaining on their schedule.