NFL playoffs: Who’s in? Who’s out?

NFL+Playoffs

Matthew Tate

For the third time since 1978, no NFL teams have clinched a playoff spot after week 14. The playoffs will culminate with Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

After week 14 full of intense matchups of teams competing for playoff positioning, there is still plenty of football left to play. Victory is becoming increasingly important as the season progresses. With COVID-19 cases piling up around the league and critical matchups coming up in the next week, let’s take a look at the playoff picture so far in both conferences: 

NFC: Who’s in? 

While no teams have clinched yet, the current top five teams in the NFC have a comfortable two-game lead over the current sixth seed. These teams consist of, in order, the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, with the top three currently tied for the top seed with 10-3 records respectively, while the Rams and Cowboys are both 9-4. 

Looking ahead to next week, the Packers have the easiest path to clinching, as either a win against the Baltimore Ravens or a Minnesota Vikings loss to the Chicago Bears will give them the spot due to them clinching their division. The Buccaneers can also clinch both their division and playoff berth this weekend with a win against their divisional opponent, the New Orleans Saints. 

On the other hand, both the Cowboys and Cardinals need a lot of variables to go their way in order to clinch a spot this coming up week, especially after Arizona’s Monday night loss to the Rams. 

NFC: Who’s competing for the final spots? 

Currently, the San Francisco 49ers have the 6th spot, with a 7-6 record, while the Washington Football Team has the last spot at 6-7. However, Washington’s spot can change any week, as they are tied in record with the Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and Saints. 

That being said, there is a lot to look forward to this upcoming weekend, as Washington plays the Eagles, while the Falcons face off against the 49ers. In the meantime, the Vikings will play at home against the 4-9 Bears, while the Saints will be in Tampa trying to prevent Tom Brady from securing his 19th playoff appearance. 

AFC: Who’s in? 

The AFC is similar to the NFC, in that the top three teams all share the same record, as the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and Kansas City Chiefs are all 9-4. A game behind are the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers, who are the 4th and 5th seed respectively and are 8-5. 

This week could see the Titans clinching their division, if they are able to both beat the Steelers and have the Indianapolis Colts lose. With the Chargers and Chiefs set to face off during Thursday Night Football in an AFC West showdown, it should be interesting to see how it all plays out between the top teams. 

AFC: Who’s competing for the final spots? 

As of now, the Colts hold the sixth spot while the Buffalo Bills have the seventh, with both teams being 7-6. However, the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos all share the same record going into week 15. The Pittsburgh Steelers also find themselves closely behind with a record of 6-6-1. 

This week sees a lot of matchups with playoff spot implications. The Browns will go against the 6-7 Las Vegas Raiders, who after being blown out by the Chiefs, hope to put themselves back in the picture. That game should be interesting considering the amount of COVID-19 cases that recently hit the Browns, including star receiver Jarvis Landry. Other important matchups include the Broncos and Bengals facing off in Denver, as well as Titans playing in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.