The Los Angeles Rams secured a spot in the postseason Sunday by clinching the NFC West with a 30-16 victory at the Detroit Lions, giving them back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1978 and 1979 seasons. And while the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints lost in Week 13, their playoff chances remain in good shape. And the Seattle Seahawks, who have looked like contenders for weeks, demolished the San Francisco 49ers, 43-16, to take control of the first wild-card spot in the NFC.
That leaves five NFC teams — the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings — fighting for two postseason spots. The reality of the situation, though, is that the race is down to the Cowboys, Redskins and Vikings, based on our latest projections.
The Redskins control their own destiny. If they beat the Eagles on Monday night, their playoff chances rise to 70 percent, which is divided between winning the NFC East (40 percent) and earning a wild-card spot (30 percent). If they lose, their playoff chances drop to 31 percent. Washington doesn’t have any games left against Dallas, which leads the division, but it does play Philadelphia again in the season finale. A second win over the Eagles, without knowing anything else that happens until then, improves the Redskins' playoff chances to close to 90 percent (with a 57 percent chance they win the division).
Looking forward, the Cowboys and Seahawks have the easiest schedules among the playoff hopefuls, with the Eagles, despite being favored against the Redskins on Monday night, facing the hardest. It’s for that reason, combined with their losing record, that the reigning Super Bowl champs are likely to miss the postseason.
Minnesota is also in strong position to snag a wild-card spot, with one game likely to prove pivotal. A win against Seattle in Week 14 bumps the Vikings’ playoff chances from 61 percent to 73 percent, but a loss reduces them to 27 percent. If the Seahawks lose to the Vikings, their playoff chances drop to 59 percent; a win boosts them to 93 percent.
In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs moved a step closer to clinching a playoff spot with a 40-33 victory at the Oakland Raiders. The New England Patriots and Houston Texans also took care of business, solidifying their postseason spots.
The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t have as decisive of a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but both appear headed to the postseason. The Baltimore Ravens' playoff chances jumped from 57 percent to 62 percent after they beat the Atlanta Falcons, 26-16, and the Indianapolis Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-0. Each of the teams in the rest of the potential playoff pack — the Colts, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans — has less than a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs.
The Ravens still have a chance to win the AFC North, but it won’t be easy. Baltimore needs victories in its next two games, over Kansas City and Tampa Bay, to have better than a 50/50 chance of toppling the Steelers. Even then, four straight wins to end the season only pushes its divisional title chances to 81 percent, still no sure thing.
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