Before the season began the consensus was that the NFC was the stronger conference, but 12 AFC teams have winning records, battling for six playoff spots with only three games left to play. In the NFC the situation is six teams vying for five playoff spots, and then three teams with losing records in the mix for the NFC South title and the number four seed. The game with the biggest impact is Dallas at Philadelphia, where the winner takes a one-game lead in the NFC East while the loser could end up missing the post-season entirely. Here is a look at every division and the chances for all of the 22 teams that have not been eliminated from the playoffs. Remarkably there is not a single team that has clinched a playoff berth yet, though that will surely change by the time Sunday’s games are completed.

 

Eliminated Teams and 2015 NFL Draft Order

Below is the order of the 2015 NFL draft, updated through week 14. Strength of schedule is the first tiebreaker; the easier the schedule, the earlier the draft slot. After SOS the next tiebreakers are division and conference records. Teams with an * asterisk are included for draft order, but have not been eliminated from the playoffs.

1. 2-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. 2-11 Tennessee Titans
3. 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars
4. 2-11 New York Jets
5. 2-11 Oakland Raiders
6. 3-10 Washington Redskins
7. 4-9 New York Giants
8. * 4-8-1 Carolina Panthers
9. * 5-8 Atlanta Falcons
10. 5-8 Chicago Bears
11. * 5-8 New Orleans Saints
12. 6-7 Minnesota Vikings
13. 6-7 (now 6-8) St. Louis Rams

 

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-3) – currently AFC #1 seed
Remaining Games: vs Dolphins, at Jets, vs Bills
Chance of making the playoffs: 99.9%
Chance of winning the division: 99%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 80%
Because the Patriots have defeated the Broncos, Colts and Bengals, they will win a tiebreaker against any of those teams for playoff seeding; it is as if they virtually have one more win in the playoff standings.
– Can clinch a playoff spot: multiple scenarios involving losses by five other teams, even with a loss to Miami.
– Can clinch the division: with a win over Miami.
– Can clinch the #3 seed: with a win over Miami, plus (a) Colts lose; or (b) Bengals and Steelers lose; or (c) Steelers and Broncos lose; or (d) Bengals, Steelers and Ravens lose.
– Can clinch the #2 seed: with a win over Miami, plus losses by the Colts, Bengals and Steelers

Miami Dolphins (7-6) – currently #9 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: at Patriots, vs Vikings, vs Jets
Chance of making the playoffs: 10%
Chance of winning the division: 0.1%
At 7-6 and having to pass three other teams, the Dolphins most likely need to win all three remaining games to have any chance of making the playoffs. A loss at New England would virtually eliminate the Fins as they would probably be down two games with only two to play.

Buffalo Bills (7-6) – currently #11 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: vs Packers, at Raiders, at Patriots
Chance of making the playoffs: 3%
Chance of winning the division: 0.1%
The Bills also need to leapfrog the rest of the 7-6 teams, plus at least two 8-win teams. That means beating both the Packers and the Patriots to finish the season, as well as a game being played three time zones away. Not going to happen.

 

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) – currently 1st in division, #4 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Browns, vs Broncos, at Steelers
Chance of making the playoffs: 64%
Chance of winning the division: 33%
Cincy controls its own destiny within the division, but is also the only team that has to play three games against teams with winning records. Because of the tie against Carolina tiebreakers are irrelevant, as it is unlikely the Bengals will finish with the same record as any other team. Cincy probably needs two wins to make the playoffs, so a victory at Cleveland today is vital considering their schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Falcons, vs Chiefs, vs Bengals
Chance of making the playoffs: 63%
Chance of winning the division: 35%
The Steelers finish with an easier schedule than Cincinnati, with one more home game plus a road game against a team with a losing record. Pittsburgh has to be kicking itself for losses to a pair of two-win teams (Bucs and Jets), but two out of three wins should also be enough to get them to the post-season. The season finale against the Bengals could very well be a win or your season is over game for both teams.

Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – currently 3rd in division, #7 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Jaguars, at Texans, vs Browns
Chance of making the playoffs: 70%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Although the Ravens are currently on the outside looking in, that will probably not be the case after the completion of Sunday’s games. Baltimore should have no trouble with Jacksonville, while #6 seed San Diego has to play Denver. All three games are against teams that will most likely miss the playoffs, so the Ravens have a good shot at making the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (7-6) – currently 4th in division, #12 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Bengals, at Panthers, at Ravens
Chance of making the playoffs: 8%
Chance of winning the division: 2%
The Browns are in the worst spot of all the five 7-6 teams thanks to various tiebreakers. There are scenarios that Cleveland would not be eliminated despite a loss to the Bengals, but realistically they need to win all three games and then still need outside help to make it to the post-season.

 

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Texans, at Cowboys, at Titans
Chance of making the playoffs: 97%
Chance of winning the division: 95%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 1%
The Colts appear destined to finish as the number three seed.
– Can clinch the division: with a win over Houston.

Houston Texans (7-6) – currently 2nd in division, #8 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Colts, vs Ravens, vs Jaguars
Chance of making the playoffs: 20%
Chance of winning the division: 5%
The Texans need to win out to have any hope. That would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore, but they would still need either Pittsburgh or San Diego to lose two of their last three games, and no other 7-6 team to finish 3-0.

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos (10-3) – currently 1st in division, #2 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Chargers, at Bengals, vs Raiders
Chance of making the playoffs: 99.9%
Chance of winning the division: 99%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 19%
Denver is virtually assured of winning their fourth straight division title, and has an 87% chance of getting a first round bye. The Broncos really want the number one seed and home field throughout the playoffs, but for that to happen they need the Patriots to lose a game while they finish with three wins. The 43-21 week nine loss to New England is looking more and more as a game that determined where the AFC championship game will be played.
– Can clinch a playoff spot: multiple scenarios involving losses by four other teams, even with a loss to San Diego.
– Can clinch the division: with a win over San Diego.
– Can clinch the #3 seed: with a win over San Diego, plus either (a) Colts lose; or (b) Bengals lose.
– Can clinch the #2 seed: with a win over San Diego, plus losses by the Colts, Bengals and Steelers.

San Diego Chargers (8-5) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Broncos, at 49ers, at Chiefs
Chance of making the playoffs: 37%
Chance of winning the division: 1%
The Chargers control their own destiny, but don’t have the easiest schedule. Even if they lose to Denver today, winning the final two games should be enough to get them in the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – currently #10 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Raiders, at Steelers, vs Chargers
Chance of making the playoffs: 27%
Chance of winning the division: zero
Like the other 7-6 teams, the Chiefs cannot afford another loss; it is doubtful that 9-7 will be good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC this year.

 

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Cowboys, at Redskins, at Giants
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 70%
The biggest game this weekend is Dallas at Philadelphia. If the Eagles win they will not only have a one-game lead over the Cowboys, they will also own the tiebreaker having swept Dallas this season. On the other hand a loss puts them in a really tough spot, as their conference record would drop to 5-5.

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #7 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Eagles, vs Colts, at Redskins
Chance of making the playoffs: 56%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Six teams make the playoffs, and one of those has to come from the NFC South. That leaves six NFC teams with nine or more wins playing musical chairs, with the chairs representing the five other playoff spots. If the Cowboys don’t win the division then it likely comes down to Dallas, Detroit and Seattle battling for two playoff spots, but with the Lions and Seahawks sporting 7-2 conference records compared to the Cowboys 6-4 mark, Dallas may end up being the one left standing without a chair when the music stops.

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (10-3) – currently 1st in division, #2 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Bills, at Bucs, vs Lions
Chance of making the playoffs: 98%
Chance of winning the division: 75%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 30%
There is a good chance that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field, because the Packers will probably win their remaining games while Arizona will have a tough time beating the Seahawks.
– Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Buffalo, plus a Cowboys loss to the Eagles

Detroit Lions (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Vikings, at Bears, at Packers
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 25%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 5%
If the Lions win the next two games while Green Bay loses once, the two teams will play for the division title in week 17. A wild card spot is more likely, even if Detroit loses one of their final three games.

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – currently 1st in division, #1 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Seahawks, at 49ers
Chance of making the playoffs: 99%
Chance of winning the division: 70%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 50%
With Thursday’s victory at St. Louis, the Cardinals virtually assured themselves of a playoff berth. Next week’s game against Seattle is huge: a win and Arizona probably ends up with the number one seed and home field throughout the playoffs, but a loss to the Seahawks could result in their being a wild card team.
– Can clinch a playoff spot: (a) as long as the Cowboys and Eagles don’t tie, or (b) the Lions and Seahawks lose

Seattle Seahawks (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs 49ers, at Cardinals, vs Rams
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 15%
Seattle beat Arizona in week 12, so a victory against the Cardinals means a sweep in head to head games, and the Seahawks would win a tiebreaker over Arizona. That would also give Seattle an 8-2 conference record, and probably the #2 seed in the NFC. A loss would not be good; a week 6 loss to Dallas means the Cowboys own the tiebreaker between those two clubs.

San Francisco 49ers (7-6) – currently 3rd in division, #8 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Seahawks, vs Chargers, vs Cardinals
Chance of making the playoffs: 1%
Chance of winning the division: zero
The Niners shocking loss to Oakland all but eliminated them from the playoffs. San Fran needs to win all three games – each against a good team – while at the same time hope all the 8-win teams finish 1-2.

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – currently 1st in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Steelers, at Saints, vs Panthers
Chance of winning the division: 40%
No NFC South team can be a wild card, and the division winner can finish no better than the number four seed. Atlanta controls their own destiny; as long as they win as many games as either New Orleans or Carolina does over the final three weeks, they will host a playoff game despite not finishing with a winning record.

New Orleans Saints (5-8) – currently 2nd in NFCS
Remaining Games: at Bears, vs Falcons, at Bucs
Chance of winning the division: 35%
The winner of next week’s game versus Atlanta will probably represent the NFC South in the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) – currently 3rd in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Bucs, vs Browns, at Falcons
Chance of winning the division: 25%
Carolina is in an odd spot. With just three games to play, they are still in contention for both the playoffs as well as the number one overall pick in next spring’s NFL draft.

 

 

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