2015 NFL Playoff Picture: Week 14

AFC Division Leaders

Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)

Remaining Schedule

  • Steelers
  • @ 49ers
  • @ Broncos
  • Ravens

Outlook

Cincinnati is in a prime position for a first round bye and possibly even home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their remaining schedule isn’t the friendliest, but a win this weekend against the Steelers would lock up the division. We can’t help but look ahead to their week 16 matchup against the Broncos, where a loss could theoretically take the Bengals from #1 seed in the AFC down to the #3; on the other hand, a win would give them the tie-breaker over the Broncos (currently the #2 seed in the AFC).

Denver Broncos (10-2)

Remaining Schedule

  • Raiders
  • @ Steelers
  • Bengals
  • Chargers

Outlook

The good news for the Broncos is that three out of their final four games are at home. The remaining schedule is not void of some intriguing matchups, however, as they go on the road against a good Steelers team and then come home for the aforementioned matchup against the Bengals. If Denver can take care of business against the Raiders and Steelers, their matchup against the Bengals would be for the #1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

New England Patriots (10-2)

Remaining Schedule

  • @ Texans
  • Titans
  • @ Jets
  • @ Dolphins

Outlook

Right now, the Patriots are the odd-man-out when it comes to getting a first round bye. The good news for the Pats is that if they can weather the injury storm and win out, they will move into the spot vacated by the loser of the Broncos/Bengals matchup in week 16. Wins haven’t been easy lately and two of their remaining four games are coming against teams who will be fighting for their playoff lives (and both of those games are on the road). New England historically has found ways to win, even with injuries to key players, but timing is everything and going into the home stretch of the season, they will be without three of their key offensive weapons (Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski).

Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Remaining Schedule

  • @ Jaguars
  • Texans
  • @ Dolphins
  • Titans

Outlook

The Colts have somehow scraped together a decent season, despite missing Andrew Luck for the majority of the year. Having Hasselbeck under center during a playoff run was not part of the plan, however, and currently their division lead is only by virtue of having the tie-breaker against Houston. Week 15 will be an important matchup as they host the Texans in what will probably be a division-deciding game. Their schedule is favorable as three out of their last four are against teams that are no longer in serious playoff contention but wins are anything but guaranteed.

AFC Wildcard Teams

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)

Remaining Schedule

  • Chargers
  • @ Ravens
  • Browns
  • Raiders

Outlook

The Chiefs are in the drivers’ seat for making the playoffs, and their remaining schedule is about as easy as it can get – not a single team remaining on their schedule has a winning record and three out of four are at Arrowhead. It almost seems improbable that this team was able to turn their season around after an atrocious 1-5 start, but as it stands, they could get a very favorable matchup against a weak AFC South winner.

New York Jets (7-5)

Remaining Schedule

  • Titans
  • @ Cowboys
  • Patriots
  • @ Bills

Outlook

The Jets started off the season hot, cooled down for a bit, but are now back on the upswing and currently sit in the final AFC Wildcard spot. Their two most important games of the season will be in weeks 16 and 17 as they host the Patriots and then finish up on the road in Buffalo (for what could be a winner take all matchup). The Titans are the only non-contender left on the Jets schedule, which means they won’t be able to back their way into the playoffs – they will have to win at least two of their final four games.

In the AFC Hunt

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Houston Texans (6-6)

NFC Division Leaders

Carolina Panthers (12-0)

Remaining Schedule

  • Falcons
  • @ Giants
  • @ Falcons
  • Buccaneers

Outlook

Carolina is the only team in the NFL to have actually clinched a playoff spot, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize – home field advantage. With a couple more wins, they can make that dream a reality and their remaining schedule looks favorable. Division games are always tough and three out of their last four are within the NFC South, but you’d have to imagine that Carolina will be favored throughout the rest of the season. Do we hear 16-0?

Arizona Cardinals (10-2)

Remaining Schedule

  • Vikings
  • @ Eagles
  • Packers
  • Seahawks

Outlook

Arizona is a pretty safe bet to make the playoffs, even though they haven’t officially clinched anything yet. The trouble is that their remaining schedule isn’t exactly a cakewalk. They host the Vikings on TNF, travel to Philly and then close the season at home against the Packers and the suddenly surging Seahawks. If the Cardinals want to win their division and keep grips on a first round bye, they will definitely have to earn it.

Green Bay Packers (8-4)

Remaining Schedule

  • Cowboys
  • @ Raiders
  • @ Cardinals
  • Vikings

Outlook

Despite their hot start, the Packers have floundered lately. Their situation could have been a lot worse if not for a 61 yard Hail Mary, but for now they sit atop the NFC North thanks to a tie-breaker over the Vikings. There are a couple intriguing matchups left on the table for Green Bay, including a road test against the Cardinals and a home game in week 17 against the Vikings that could ultimately decide the division. Even if they don’t win the division, Green Bay should have a good enough record to make an NFC Wildcard spot, but you know the Packers want to play their first playoff game in Lambeau.

Washington Redskins (5-7)

Remaining Schedule

  • @ Bears
  • Bills
  • @ Eagles
  • @ Cowboys

Outlook

By the most technical of definitions, the Redskins are leading the NFC East division – and while it may not be the most competitive division, it certainly is the most intriguing. Washington’s path to the playoffs is likely tied to winning the division, since any scenarios where they lose the division would probably give them too many losses to compete for a  wildcard. While they certainly have the two road games in weeks 16 and 17 circled on the calendar, they can’t overlook a surprisingly tough Bears team; and the Bills are still fighting for their playoff lives. None of their remaining games will be easy.

NFC Wildcard Teams

Minnesota Vikings (8-4)

Remaining Schedule

  • @ Cardinals
  • Bears
  • Giants
  • @ Packers

Outlook

Thankfully for the Vikings they have a bit of a cushion in the NFC Wildcard race. Minnesota has not been playing well lately and three of their last four games are against teams that will be fighting for either a playoff spot or for improved seeding. Their tough end to the season begins on the road against Arizona and ends on the road in Green Bay – neither game will be a gimme and the Vikings haven’t exactly played up to their competition lately. The playoffs are still likely for this team, but we see them more as a team that backs into a spot as opposed to charging forward with a head of steam.

Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Remaining Schedule

  • @ Ravens
  • Browns
  • Rams
  • @ Cardinals

Outlook

For all of their early-season woes, the Seahawks find themselves in a familiar position – playing their best football in November/December. The remaining schedule for Seattle is in their favor, with the only real challenge coming in week 17 when they travel to Arizona. Assuming they can go 3-1 to close out the season, they will have a wildcard locked up, although it probably won’t be good enough to catch Arizona for the NFC West division.

In the NFC Hunt

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)

Atlanta Falcons (6-6)

Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

New York Giants (5-7)

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.