Week 14 Preview: The Playoff Picture
It’s time for teams to scratch, claw, and scrape their ways into the playoffs. Once you’re in, everything is fair game. The Giants have proven that you don’t need to be 11-1 to win a playoff game or even make a Super Bowl run. With just four weeks left, teams are being forced to make a statement or go on vacation. With a few teams clinching already, it makes the others even more aware of what they need to do. So how does this effect your potentially playoff bound team?
I think people assumed this was going to be a close one at the beginning of the year, with a lot of people picking the Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl. Well things haven’t quite panned out for the Cowboys, but they’re not out of it. The Giants lead the Redskins and Cowboys by one game, so down the stretch; every contest is going to matter. The Redskins currently hold the tiebreak over Dallas based on head-to-head win percentage and sit one spot out of the Wild Card, right on the cusp of a playoff birth. The Giants have had a grueling schedule thus far, and it won’t get easier. They play the Saints on Sunday, followed by the Falcons and Ravens. What is most shocking about the Giants, is they are just 3-3 on the road this year. While a .500 road record is by no means bad, they have consistently been road warriors, especially when they made their Super Bowl runs.
This is quickly becoming a two horse race, but it seems like both horses will nose their way into the postseason. Green Bay holds the tiebreaker over Chicago based on head-to-head win percentage, so Chicago will have next week circled on their calendar when they host Green Bay. Regardless of who comes out on top, it seems like sitting at 8-4 with a reasonable four weeks left, these teams will be around 10 wins and both make it to the dance. Minnesota will play both of these teams again, so they’re not out of it. But with Percy Harvin going on the IR, it seems unlikely they’ll challenge either of these teams.
Right now, Chicago and Seattle sit as the Wild Card teams, with Washington, Dallas, and Tampa Bay sitting at 6-6. All three of these playoff-hopeful .500 teams hold tiebreakers over Minnesota. I don’t think the Wild Card teams will change. But the NFC East is definitely up for grabs.
This is the only division with any questions. Most everything else is spoken for. Baltimore has a stranglehold, but they have a tough four games to go with Washington, Denver, New York (Giants) and Cincinnati remaining. Cinci will get a shot at both the Ravens and the Steelers, with their Week 16 match up with the Steelers being the most important. If Cincinnati can take out the Steelers and go 2-2 with their last four, they could find themselves in the postseason. However, the Steelers claim that Ben Roethlisberger will play on Sunday, which could not come at a better time for this team. The other two QBs on the Steelers have a combined 1-5 TD-INT ratio, and have produced a losing record. Steelers fans are dying to get Big Ben back at the helm. They will need him to make the playoffs.
This is not the place where I say they have a shot to catch the Pats, because they don’t. Even making the playoffs seems like a fantasy for a team with serious issues at the QB position (and many positions for that matter). But with Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego, and Buffalo left on the schedule; even the most pessimistic Jets fan has find this favorable. At 5-7, they would need to run the table to be on the brink of a birth. Even then, I’m not sure they can do it. But if Rex Ryan wants to keep his job, he’s going to have to.