It’s even possible that the league expands this season’s playoffs beyond 14 teams if the coronavirus pandemic causes a rash of regular season games to be canceled, but for now, we’ll go with that number. Here is where the postseason chases in the NFC and the AFC stand with Week 11 complete and a glance at what’s to come.
1. New Orleans Saints (8-2)
Remaining schedule (opponents’ combined winning percentage*: .451): at Broncos, at Falcons, at Eagles, Chiefs, Vikings, at Panthers
2. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.450): 49ers, at Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, at Seahawks, Cardinals
3. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.467): Bears, Eagles, at Lions, Panthers, Titans, at Bears
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)
Remaining schedule (.567): Seahawks, at Packers, Saints, at Cardinals, at Cowboys, Washington
5. Seattle Seahawks (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.342): at Eagles, Giants, Jets, at Washington, Rams, at 49ers
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)
Remaining schedule (.460): Chiefs, Vikings, at Falcons, Lions, Falcons
7. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.475): at Patriots, Rams, at Giants, Eagles, 49ers, at Rams
In the hunt:
Chicago Bears (5-5)
Remaining schedule (.433): at Packers, Lions, Texans, at Vikings, at Jaguars, Packers
Hanging on: Minnesota Vikings (4-6), Detroit Lions (4-6), San Francisco 49ers (4-6)
Technically alive, but not happening: Carolina Panthers (4-7), Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
NFC East mess: New York Giants (3-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Washington Football Team (3-7)
The NFC East gets its own category because all four teams have been almost equally awful — which is why each retains at least a reasonable shot of winning the division and getting the No. 4 seed. Philadelphia has a half-game lead over everyone else, but the Eagles also have the toughest schedule left and may have to consider benching struggling quarterback Carson Wentz. The Cowboys have the easiest schedule of the four, at least on paper, and their offense got a boost with the return of quarterback Andy Dalton. Dallas’s Thanksgiving Day game against Washington, plus its Week 17 date with the Giants, could determine the NFC East winner.
New Orleans did just fine in its first game without Drew Brees and took a one-game lead over the rest of the pack, including the Packers. If Green Bay can catch the Saints in the standings, it holds the tiebreaker after beating New Orleans in Week 3.
The Rams got a very meaningful win over the Buccaneers on Monday night that moved them to the No. 2 spot by virtue of a better conference record than the Packers. Tampa Bay’s hopes of winning its division were already shaky because it was swept by the Saints, but the Bucs still remain in good position to make the playoffs.
Following a massive win last week over the Cardinals, the Seahawks can’t be counted out in the race for the top seed because they have the NFL’s lowest-rated strength of schedule the rest of the way.
The Rams also appear well-positioned for at least a wild-card spot, given the ugliness in Chicago as well as Week 11 losses elsewhere in the NFC North by the Vikings and Lions.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
Remaining schedule (.542): Ravens, Washington, at Bills, at Bengals, Colts, at Browns
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
Remaining schedule (.508): at Buccaneers, Broncos, at Dolphins, at Saints, Falcons, Chargers
3. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.517): Chargers, at 49ers, Steelers, at Broncos, at Patriots, Dolphins
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.500): Titans, at Texans, at Raiders, Texans, at Steelers, Jaguars
5. Tennessee Titans (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.483): at Colts, Browns, at Jaguars, Lions, at Packers, at Texans
6. Cleveland Browns (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.450): at Jaguars, at Titans, Ravens, at Giants, at Jets, Steelers
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.383): at Falcons, at Jets, Colts, Chargers, Dolphins, at Broncos
In the hunt:
Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.442): at Steelers, Cowboys, at Browns, Jaguars, Giants, at Bengals
Miami Dolphins (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.475): at Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, at Raiders, Bills
Hanging on: Denver Broncos (4-6), New England Patriots (4-6)
Technically alive, but not happening: Los Angeles Chargers (3-7), Houston Texans (3-7), Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Eliminated: New York Jets (0-10)
The Steelers are not likely to go 16-0, with a Dec. 13 trip to Buffalo looking like a good spot for a blemish, but Pittsburgh should be able to hold serve for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Chiefs handled their first order of business this week: getting revenge in a rematch Sunday night with the Raiders, who dealt Kansas City its only loss last month. To overtake the Steelers for the top seed, though, Patrick Mahomes and Co. not only need Pittsburgh to lose but ideally to do it at least once within the conference.
The Colts took command of the AFC South with a Week 10 win at Tennessee and can all but cement their divisional grip with a sweep when they meet again in Week 12. The Titans won arguably the week’s most significant matchup Sunday in terms of the playoff race, besting the Ravens on the road.
The Raiders have a very manageable slate going forward, so even the loss Sunday to the Chiefs might not do much to derail their postseason trajectory. A Week 16 matchup with Miami, though, could have major ramifications.
Baltimore is now on the outside looking in and has a coronavirus outbreak on its hands, not to mention a tough test at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, but it closes the season with five games it appears very capable of winning.
* — via tankathon.com