The NFL Wild Card race is heating up as the league enters Week 13. However, these potential Wild Card teams that have no shot going forward.
We know with 100 percent certainty the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns have already been eliminated from postseason contention. Before Week 13, there’s also a probability of 90 percent or greater that these teams will be watching the playoffs from their couches: New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
That leaves us with 20 teams still in contention for 12 playoff spots. Barring a catastrophic series of events, the Seattle Seahawks have all but clinched the West with a 99 percent probability of taking the division title. The Dallas Cowboys look like they’ll win the NFC East with an 88 percent probability of taking the top spot. The Atlanta Falcons have an 82 percent probability of winning the NFC South. The Detroit Lions have a firm chokehold on the NFC North with a 64 percent probability of owning the division.
In the AFC, the New England Patriots have a 90 percent chance of winning the East. The Oakland Raiders are favored to win the West with 65 percent probability. In the South, the Houston Texans should win the division with 73 percent certainty and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a 58 percent chance of taking the North.
Four spots remain and 12 teams will battle to secure them. Which NFL Wild Card contenders have a legitimate shot at doing what only a few teams have done and win the Lombardi?
Oct 2, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have the fourth toughest schedule in the conference and the toughest slate in their own division. Though Baltimore currently holds down the top spot in the AFC North, thanks to their win over the Steelers in Week 9, they’ll most likely lose in Pittsburgh in Week 16. That defeat should give Pittsburgh the division crown.
According to PlayoffStatus.com, Baltimore has a 22 percent chance of winning the AFC North, a two percent chance of securing the sixth seed (second Wild Card spot), and a 58 percent chance of missing the postseason. They’ll be battling with the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins for one of the Wild Card berths.
If Baltimore were to beat Miami in Week 13, their playoff chances improve. But, they’ll still have to face the Patriots in New England, Eagles at home, and the Bengals at the Jungle. Will a 9-7 record be good enough to advance? Possibly. If it’s not, the Ravens can blame their early season four-game losing streak in which they let winnable games against the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, New York Jets, and Oakland Raiders.
The 2016 Ravens aren’t like Baltimore’s Wild Card squads of years past. The 2008 Ravens had a very green Joe Flacco open eyes around the league by advancing to the AFC Championship against the Steelers. In 2009, the Ravens surprised the Patriots in New England, where the Pats almost never lose. Then, the 2010 Ravens lost to the Steelers in the Divisional Round. Each roster had a dominant defense, but an offense that was sneaky good.
While the 2016 Ravens defense is yet again a tour-de-force, the offense is anemic. Flacco’s having one of the worst seasons of his career and the running game is non-existent. Should Baltimore somehow get the sixth seed, they’ll have to go up against the Steelers in Pittsburgh and we all know how that usually goes in the playoffs. Sure, Baltimore’s got the better defense and kicker, but can the offense shake off their regular season woes? Doubt it.
Nov 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of a NFL football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
4. Miami Dolphins
Miami’s story has been very impressive and inspiring under first-year head coach Adam Gase. After starting the season 1-4, the Dolphins have reeled off six-straight wins to put them in a good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Miami’s confidence can be further bolstered knowing that they could’ve beaten the Seahawks in Seattle in the season opener.
As of Thursday, the Dolphins have about a 10 percent chance of winning the AFC East, a 37 percent chance of securing a Wild Card berth and a 54 percent probability of missing the postseason. However, they have the fifth toughest schedule in the AFC and the hardest slate in their own division.
Though Rob Gronkowski will miss eight weeks due to surgery on his back, the Patriots should still win the AFC East. Over the next five weeks, Miami faces the Ravens in Baltimore, the Cardinals at home, the Jets in New Jersey, the Bills in Buffalo and New England in Miami. There’s a slim chance the Dolphins win over their division rivals in the last three games to own the better division record over the Pats and take the AFC East crown.
Should Miami beat out the Ravens and Broncos for the second Wild Card, they’d get the No. 6 seed and have to travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. Even though Miami beat Pittsburgh earlier in the season (in a home game in which Ben Roethlisberger was hurt), history traditionally dictates Miami will lose.
Thus far, Miami is 2-3 on the road with the two wins coming against a severely depleted Chargers squad in San Diego and the Rams in Los Angeles (which was rookie Jared Goff’s first ever NFL start). The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000 and haven’t been victorious in a road playoff game since 1999, when Jimmy Johnson was head coach and Dan Marino was taking snaps.
Nov 7, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
3. Buffalo Bills
Believe it or not, the Bills are still alive and kicking. PlayoffStatus.com has Buffalo with a five percent chance of getting the #5 seed and a 12 percent chance of securing the sixth and final playoff spot. There’s an 83 percent probability of the Bills missing the postseason as the Patriots have all but secured the AFC East title and the AFC West is stacked. But the Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all have tough roads to go and could knock each other out, leaving the window slightly open for Buffalo to sneak in.
Based on the records of their opponents in the remaining games, the Bills have the fourth softest schedule in the AFC and the easiest slate in the AFC East. After visiting the Raiders in Oakland, they’ll host the Steelers, Browns, and Dolphins before finishing the regular season in New Jersey against the Jets. You could probably chalk up three wins in those five contests, but it could come down to a painful season finale defeat that prevents Buffalo from getting a second life.
Should the Bills hop over a handful of other contenders to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, they’d have to hit the road where they’re 3-3 as of Week 12. The Bills could very well end up 5-3 on the road, in which case they’d become a serious threat to move past the Wild Card and cloud the picture in the Divisional Round.
Both sides of the ball have been uneven for Rex Ryan’s squad. The offense sports the top rushing attack in football while the passing game has been among the worst. The defense is great against the pass, but has been gouged on the ground. Injuries have left the Bills scrambling and they don’t have enough reliable weapons to compete.
Oct 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Giants 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
2. Minnesota Vikings
After starting the season 5-0 and having the majority of analysts and experts predicting a trip to the Super Bowl, the Vikings have lost five of their next six. In the process, they got narrowly swept by the Detroit Lions, who appear poised to capture their first NFC North title since 1993.
Minnesota will host the Cowboys, Colts, and Bears and visit the Jaguars and Packers. They could go 3-2, finish 9-7, and own the tiebreaker over the Giants should New York completely fall apart. The Vikings pass defense has been savage on opposing quarterbacks, but susceptible to the run. Minnesota’s offense simply can’t move the ball or score points. Sam Bradford has played relatively well, but his supporting cast has been ravaged by injuries.
Adam Thielen has been a pleasant surprise, but if the Vikings want the opportunity to make a run at their first-ever Lombardi trophy, Stefon Diggs has to stay healthy and Cordarrelle Patterson must step up. With the running game in shambles, Bradford and the passing attack have to pick up the slack.
If the Vikings slip past the Giants, Redskins, Bucs, and/or Packers to secure a Wild Card spot, they’ll visit Atlanta or Detroit. Thus far, Minnesota is 2-4 on the road with one of those losses coming in Motown on Thanksgiving. While the Vikings no longer have to worry about Blair Walsh shanking a sure-fire field goal, they’ll still have to rely on Bradford to beat teams and that just won’t happen.
Nov 28, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during a NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field.The Packers defeated the Eagles 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have faced a similar slide to the Vikings in their hunt for the playoffs. The Cheeseheads began the season 4-2 then lost four in a row before beating the Eagles in Philadelphia. That win saved Green Bay’s season and infused hope into their playoff chances.
Their remaining games include home contests against the Texans, Seahawks, and Vikings, and road matchups versus the Bears and Lions. One could see Green Bay going 2-3 or 3-2. During the five-game “slide” from Weeks 8-11, each clash was a shootout against a pass-happy offense (with the exception of the Titans): Redskins, Falcons, Colts. The final games of the regular season will be determined by which teams throws the ball better. In that case, Green Bay should come out on top against Houston, Seattle, Minnesota, and Chicago, but not Detroit.
The Pack have gone 2-4 on the road and would face mostly vulnerable pass defenses in the NFC playoffs. The only squads that remain difficult to pass (and score) against are the Giants, Seahawks, and Vikings, though the Lions haven’t given up more than 20 points in five weeks. Despite that, one has to wonder how this team can continue to scrape together wins when Clay Matthews is banged up and Aaron Rodgers has a nagging hamstring.