Ranking The 20 NFL Teams Who Can Still Make The Playoffs From Worst To Best

In NFL by Michael FienbergLeave a Comment

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Heading into Week 16, 12 teams have been eliminated (or in the case of New Orleans and Carolina, effectively eliminated) from the NFL playoff hunt. How do the remaining 20 teams stack up heading into the final two weeks of the regular season?

20. Buffalo Bills

Record: 7-7
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 1%
Remaining games: vs. Dolphins, @Jets

The Bills briefly looked like they would make the playoffs as a wild card, winning four straight games early in the season behind a powerful running attack led by LeSean McCoy. But Rex Ryan’s team began to crumble in October, losing three straight games and falling to the brink of elimination. With QB Tyrod Taylor struggling and apparent unrest building between Ryan and ownership, this team is much more likely to see its coach fired than to win a playoff spot.

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19. Indianapolis Colts

Record: 7-7
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 3%
Remaining games: @Raiders, vs. Jaguars

The Colts have had an up and (mostly) down season, beating up on weaker competition to keep their playoff hopes alive. Behind a porous offensive line that has left star QB Andrew Luck on the ground far too often, this team only has a playoff shot because the AFC South lacks a true contender. Only a game back of Houston and Tennessee, the Colts will need to upset the Raiders on Christmas Eve, take care of the Jaguars on New Year’s Day, and hope for tiebreakers to break their way to win the division and make the playoffs. If they can’t, it may be the end of Chuck Pagano’s time in Indy.

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18. Minnesota Vikings

Record: 7-7
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 3%
Remaining games: @Packers, vs. Bears

The Vikings seemed destined to struggle this year, losing QB Teddy Bridgewater in preseason and star RB Adrian Peterson in Week 2. After trading for QB Sam Bradford though, the team rallied behind some stellar defense to earn a shocking 5-0 start. The wheels have come off in Minnesota though, with the Vikes dropping 6 of 7 after that start. The low point of the season was Week 15, where the Vikings were blasted 34-6 by the middling Colts. The Vikings do have a path to the playoffs, but it involves finishing in a three-way 9-7 tie with the Packers and Lions, which is a long shot at best. It seems far more likely that this will be a failed season after a promising start.

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17. Denver Broncos

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 17%
Remaining games: @Chiefs, vs. Raiders

The defending champion Broncos lost Peyton Manning to retirement, but returned a lights out defense to complement new QB Trevor Siemian. The team started strong at 6-2 and looked like a good bet to win the division. But a tough schedule sank the Broncos, as they dropped games to contenders Oakland, Tennessee, Kansas City, and New England to sink to 8-6. They’re only a game back of the wild card, but with three teams in front of them and a brutal schedule to finish the year, the Broncos seem unlikely to get a shot in January to defend their title.

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16. Baltimore Ravens

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 28%
Remaining games: @Steelers, @Bengals

The Ravens have been the tightrope walkers of the NFL this year, winning repeatedly by narrow margins. Helped by a cupcake schedule that included four games with the Browns, Jets, and Jaguars, Baltimore has done just enough to stay in playoff contention, sitting a game back of the division and wild card with two to go. Their season will come down to their Week 16 showdown with rival Pittsburgh. The winner will hold the AFC North lead, with a Raven loss all but eliminating Baltimore from playoff contention.

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15. Washington Redskins

Record: 7-6-1
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 25%
Remaining games: @Bears, vs. Giants

The Redskins have taken a step forward this year with QB Kirk Cousins and a variety of talented receivers and tight ends, including Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. A tough loss on Monday night to the Panthers though may have ended their playoff hopes, forcing the Redskins to win out if they are to reach the postseason a second straight year. The spot may come down to the half-game advantage the Redskins hold thanks to a London tie against the Bengals. If they do make it though, Washington could be dangerous. No #3 seed is going to want to see their aerial attack on wild card weekend.

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14. Miami Dolphins

Record: 9-5
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 55%
Remaining games: @Bills, vs. Patriots

The upstart Dolphins showed the league that they might be better than expected by pushing the Seahawks to the limit in a narrow Week 1 loss in Seattle. They then showed that they might actually be as bad as expected by going 1-3 after that, with the only win coming against the atrocious Browns. Since then though, the Dolphins have been a revelation, winning 8 of 9 to pull into the second wild card spot. They may need to win out to hold on to it though, which will be a challenge after losing starting QB Ryan Tannenhill to a season ending knee injury. Even if they hang on, they’ll likely struggle to make noise in the playoffs with career back-up Matt Moore.

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13. Houston Texans

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 58%
Remaining games: vs. Bengals, @Titans

Houston won the AFC South last year behind a top ranked defense, despite having no capable QB leading the way. They were expected to make a leap after signing former Broncos QB Brock Osweiler to a $72 million contract. What they didn’t expect is that Osweiler would be one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. With Osweiler massively underperforming and star defensive end J.J. Watt out for the year, the Texans have scrapped just to stay alive in the weak AFC South. In Week 15, coach Bill O’Brien finally benched Osweiler for back-up Tom Savage, who will likely lead the team moving forward. The Texans have a clear path to the playoffs, needing to beat the Titans in Week 17 to win the division. With such uncertainty at quarterback though, it’s unlikely that they’ll earn anything other than a first round exit.

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12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 42%
Remaining games: @Saints, vs. Panthers

The surprising Bucs, led by 2nd year QB and former Heisman winner Jameis Winston, are tied for the second wild card spot and one game back of the NFC South lead with only two weeks to go. The team struggled out of the gate with a 3-5 start, but put together five straight wins against solid competition to get into the playoff picture. With two winnable games left against non-playoff teams in New Orleans and Carolina, the suddenly surging Bucs should sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2007 if they can win their next two games.

Image Source: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

11. Tennessee Titans

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 45%
Remaining games: @Jaguars, vs. Texans

Perhaps the most surprising team of the season, the Titans are coming off of back-to-back years with the worst record in the NFL. Those awful seasons did earn them QB Marcus Mariota, who has capably led the team behind an offense powered by workhorse running back DeMarco Murray. The Titans have picked up steam as the season has gone on, winning back-to-back games over the talented Broncos and Chiefs to pull into a tie for the AFC South division lead. If Tennessee can beat the lowly Jaguars, they’ll only need to beat rival Houston to win the division title and earn a Wild Card home game. While they’ll likely have trouble making it deep in the playoffs, even making it would be an impressive achievement for this former basement dweller.

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10. Green Bay Packers

Record: 8-6
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 57%
Remaining games: vs. Vikings, @Lions

A perennial contender, the Packers seemed cooked after a Week 11 loss to Washington that dropped them to 4-6. It was their fourth straight defeat, and more worryingly, the fourth straight game they’d allowed more than 31 points. Since then though, the Packers have become a completely different team, winning four in a row while holding opponents to 13.25 points a game. With the Lions struggling to close the door on the division and the Vikings in free-fall, the Packers just need to beat both of their division rivals to win the North and punch their ticket back to the playoffs. And if they can make it, you can never count out Aaron Rodgers and company from making a deep playoff run.

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9. Detroit Lions

Record: 9-5
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 77%
Remaining games: @Cowboys, vs. Packers

After star WR Calvin Johnson retired in the offseason, few thought the Lions had any shot at making a playoff run. Those beliefs were reinforced early in the season, as a struggling Lions team started 1-3. But then, something miraculous happened. Despite trailing in the 4th quarter of every game this season, the Lions managed to complete comeback after comeback after comeback, winning 8 of 9 games to take control of the NFC North. However, a brutal closing schedule may sink Detroit’s playoff aspirations. After losing to the Giants, they’ll need to either beat the Packers in Week 17 or get some help to hang on to win the North. Their chances may be further damaged by a finger injury sustained by QB Matthew Stafford, which has left him playing with a glove on his throwing hand.

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8. Atlanta Falcons

Record: 9-5
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 96%
Remaining games: @Panthers, vs. Saints

A year after the Falcons collapsed following a strong start, few thought that this year’s Atlanta team had a chance in a division with the defending NFC Champion Panthers. However, the Falcons got off to a 4-1 start and have continued to roll behind a high-powered offense led by QB Matt Ryan, superstar WR Julio Jones, and talented running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons can lock up the division with wins over eliminated Carolina and New Orleans, and can even sneak into a first-round bye if Seattle slips up. Once in the playoffs, the Falcons have a shot to challenge for the NFC title behind their numerous offensive weapons.

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7. Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 9-5
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 93%
Remaining games: vs. Ravens, vs. Browns

The Steelers are another team that has been up and down this season. After a strong 4-1 start, the team dropped four in a row before rallying for five straight wins to get to 9-5 and the top of the AFC North. The division title will come down to a Week 16 showdown against their fiercest rival, the Baltimore Ravens. A loss to the Ravens will knock them into a tie for first, with the Ravens holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Steelers can hang on and make the playoffs, they will be one of the most dangerous teams in January. With 2-time Super Bowl champion QB Ben Roethlisberger, MVP candidate RB Le’Veon Bell, and superstar WR Antonio Brown, no team will bring more offensive firepower to the postseason than Pittsburgh. The Steelers have a real shot at contending for the AFC title and a Super Bowl… as long as they can take care of regular season business first.

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6. New York Giants

Record: 10-4
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): >99%
Remaining games: @Eagles, @Redskins

The Giants have not made the playoffs since 2011, and there was little reason to believe that this year would be any different. An overpowering defense has led the team to surprising heights and a near certain wild card berth, as the Giants have won 8 of their last 9 despite never topping more than 30 points this season. In that stretch, the Giants have scored only 20.3 points per game, largely due to their complete lack of a running game and the struggles of aging QB Eli Manning. The team is nearly completely reliant on star WR Odell Beckham Jr. for offense, but the formula has been a successful one for New York this year. Despite their apparent shortcomings, this team has parallels to the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl Champion Giants, who followed up middling regular season campaigns by turning it on in the playoffs. The 2016 Giants could be the latest edition of a team peaking at the right time becoming a surprise Super Bowl Champion.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 10-4
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): >99%
Remaining games: vs. Broncos, @Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs play one of the most unique styles in football. Under coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs rely on a smothering defense to generate turnovers, and a grind-it-out offense to slow the game down and keep that defense off the field. Much like the Giants, the team has yet to top 30 points in a game since Week 1, but win thanks to their disciplined approach. They currently sit in the top wild card spot after a surprising loss to the Titans, but can still earn the division title and a bye if the Raiders stumble in the final weeks. With an experienced quarterback in Alex Smith, a dominating defense, and experience playing in the cold, the Chiefs have what it takes to challenge for their first AFC title since 1969.

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4. Oakland Raiders

Record: 11-3
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 100%
Remaining games: vs. Colts, @Broncos

Before this year, the Oakland Raiders had not made the playoffs since 2001, when they went all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, the Raiders have been one of the worst teams in football. Many thought that this year, coming off a 7-9 2015 campaign with rising QB Derek Carr, star LB Khalil Mack, and an improving young team, the Raiders might be a dark horse to make the playoffs. They have greatly exceeded those hopes, becoming road warriors (6-1 on the road) to start the year a stunning 11-3, with two of those losses coming to the rival Chiefs. The Raiders have locked up a playoff berth and are currently atop the AFC West in position for a first-round bye. With a top offense and a multitude of young talent, Oakland has what it takes to win the AFC and the Super Bowl, but they’ll likely need to hang on to that first-round bye to do so. A postseason schedule that forces them on the road in Kansas City or Pittsburgh may result in an early exit.

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3. Seattle Seahawks

Record: 9-4-1
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 100%
Remaining games: vs. Cardinals, @49ers

The Seahawks are two years removed from back to back NFC titles, and have a good shot to earn their 3rd NFC title in four years in January. The only thing that may hold them back is their hot and cold offense that has disappeared for weeks at a time this season. In the five games they haven’t won this year (including a 6-6 tie with Arizona), the Seahawks have averaged a paltry 8.8 points a game, with nearly half of those points coming in a 25-20 loss to New Orleans. The team isn’t exactly closing the year strong either, with an embarrassing 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 12, and a 38-10 thrashing by Green Bay in Week 14. Despite these struggles, Seattle has clinched the NFC West and is a strong favorite to earn a first-round bye with games against the Cardinals and lowly 49ers remaining this season. A firs-round bye and their notorious home-field advantage certainly boost their chances, but if the offense no shows against an offensive powerhouse in the playoffs, the Seahawks may be in line for their second straight Divisional round exit.

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2. Dallas Cowboys

Record: 12-2
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 100%
Remaining games: vs. Lions, @Eagles

In the preseason, the Cowboys lost star QB Tony Romo to an injury, and seemed in line for another disappointing season. With rookie Dak Prescott replacing Romo and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott at running back, the Cowboys lost Week 1 to the Giants 20-19. They wouldn’t lose again for over two months, falling again to New York 10-7. Other than those two games, the Cowboys have been perfect, combining a talented defense with a top running game to go 12-2. They still need to win one more game to lock up the division title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but Dallas is the odds on favorite to win the NFC. Their greatest fear has to be seeing the rival Giants again in the playoffs, the only team to beat them. The only other thing that may hold back Dallas is a brewing QB controversy, after Prescott greatly struggled in the Week 14 loss to New York. If he struggles in the playoffs, the pressure to go back to Romo may hang over the team. If Dak can step up though, Dallas has a great chance to win their first Super Bowl since the Troy Aikman era.

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1. New England Patriots

Record: 12-2
Postseason odds (according to FiveThirtyEight): 100%
Remaining games: vs. Jets, @Dolphins

The Patriots’ year got off to a rough start when Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady was controversially suspended for the first four games of the year. With 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks Jimmy Garropolo and Jacoby Brissett taking the helm, the team surprised many by going 3-1 in Brady’s absence. When he returned in Week 5, the team was ready to roll. Since Brady’s return, New England has won every game except a Sunday night showdown with the Seahawks, clinching their 8th straight AFC East title and 14th in 16 years in the process. The only setback for the Pats is that they will be without star TE Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury. Despite this, the offense and defense are both clicking at the right time for New England. They are the odds-on favorite to win their seventh AFC Title and fifth Super Bowl of the Belichick-Brady era.

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