Not many changes in the rankings this week other than the Lions making a big leap forward. With 4 games remaining in the season I often like to try to project final standings using the power rankings numbers. While there is an overall record prediction given via a formula that does not take into account the actual schedule as it’s simply based on years of historical data to come up with a number of wins. So let’s take a look at a few races:
AFC Number 1 Seed
In the AFC we have Denver and New England as the two viable number 1 seeds, with New England holding a tiebreaker. The Broncos will be big favorites in all four remaining games (SD, Oakland, Tennessee, and Houston) and it is hard to see any of those teams being competitive. The Patriots will also be favored, but will have two difficult opponents when they travel to Miami and Baltimore in back to back weeks. Both games they project to win by 3 to 4 points, which is not so great a margin that we would consider those safe games. So Denver has the major edge.
If New England tripped up could the Bengals or Colts sneak in as the two seed? I guess its possible primarily due to the fact that the two teams play each other this week. The Bengals hold a tiebreaker with the Patriots so one slip up by the Patriots opens the door. That said the Bengals have games against the Steelers and Ravens remaining, both of which should be competitive. The Colts should also hold a tiebreaker if they get there, but they will be underdogs against both the Bengals and Chiefs.
AFC Wildcard 2
The Dolphins have one easy win remaining on the schedule (Jets), one 4+ point favorite matchup (Bills), one slight underdog matchup (Patriots), and an even matchup (Steelers). The game against Pittsburgh could go a long way towards deciding the playoff race. If Miami wins that game 8-8 is a virtual certainty and 9-7 is possible.
9-7 should put it away but even 8-8 could be good enough to make it. The Ravens have one 4+ favorite game (Vikings) and three underdog (Lions, Patriots, and Bengals) contests. The Ravens can compete in all those games but 8-8 is pretty much the max they can logically be expected to do. If they get to 8-8 in a two team tie with the Dolphins they get in based on a tiebreaker, but this could be a 7 win team.
Of the 5-7 teams the Steelers are still the one with the best chance but they have to beat Miami this week to do it. If they can get past Miami you can pencil in a win in week 17 against the Browns to get them to 7 wins. They have a fighting chance against the Bengals and Packers, though its hard to project anything with Green Bay right now. I wouldn’t write the Steelers season off until they lose to Miami or hit 9 losses.
NFC South Winner
This is a great race because the Saints and Panthers play each other twice in the next three games. New Orleans may have to sweep to win the division. Carolinas remaining games are against the Jets and Falcons, both of which should be easy wins. The Saints have to go to St. Louis, which given the Saints road issues is no easy feat. FWIW Carolina should be favored against the Saints so Id call this the Panthers division to lose. The loser should easily get the wildcard.
NFC East Winner
The two teams project to basically play an even game in week 17 with the slight edge going to Dallas for being home. Both teams will likely be 9-6 going into that game, though its not impossible that one of them will be 8-7. If it’s the Eagles that likely makes the last game unimportant since the Cowboys will hold the tiebreaker due to a sweep of the Giants. The big toss up game for both teams will be against the Bears.
NFC Wildcard 2
Arizona was probably given the death blow with the loss to Philadelphia. They already have 3 losses in the division and to keep pace with the 49ers to make their Week 17 game meaningful they will need to win in Seattle, a game they project to lose by 8 points. With the Falcons and Buccaneers on the 49ers schedule they will be at 10 wins come Week 17. That makes the 49ers a very strong favorite.
Power Rankings, Week 13
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