After a turbulent week in the NFL, ten teams have now clinched a playoff spot, with just the AFC South and one of the AFC’s wild card spots remaining. The only other division title left to settle is the AFC West, which comes down to Denver or Kansas City. One of these teams will end up with a wild card place. In the NFC, seedings are the only thing left to determine, riding on the outcome of the NFC North showdown between Green Bay and Minnesota for the division. So let’s break down the wild card pictures for both conferences.
2nd seed: Denver Broncos (11-4)
It’s crazy to think that the AFC’s current second seed team may end up with a wild card this late into the season. The Broncos haven’t secured the AFC West, but took a step closer with a crucial win over Cincinnati. Denver need to beat San Diego in the season finale to win the division, as a loss coupled with a Chiefs win will hand the division to KC. The defense continues to be phenomenal, but had to adjust against AJ McCarron and the Bengals. Brock Osweiler seems to have one good half and one bad half every game. Despite a few problems, the Broncos should win the AFC West and lock up a top three seed.
5th seed: Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)
Kansas City should’ve easily beaten the Browns, but let them hang around. The Chiefs’ offense was shut out in the second half, and managed to win only when Johnny Manziel ran out of time. But the Chiefs still have a chance to win the AFC West, needing a win over Oakland and a Denver loss to claim the division. However, a more immediate concern is keeping the surging New York Jets at bay in the race for the 5th seed. The Chiefs need a win to stay ahead and retain a favourable match-up with whoever wins the AFC South.
6th seed: New York Jets (10-5)
The Jets are peaking at the right time and could challenge the Chiefs for the 5th seed. They would need to beat the Bills and have Kansas City lose to the Raiders for that to happen, which would give them a favourable match-up against the AFC South champion. New York’s confidence should be sky-high after a huge win against the Patriots, but still need to take care of business against former coach Rex Ryan.
7th seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6)
Last week’s loss to the Ravens may have cost Pittsburgh a playoff berth. The meltdown means that the Steelers need help to overhaul the Jets and take the 6th seed. Enter Rex Ryan and the Bills. If the Jets lose to Buffalo and Pittsburgh takes care of business against Johnny Manziel, they could still sneak into the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger and the offense had a bad game, but should bounce back and would be a dangerous force in the postseason.
3rd seed: Green Bay Packers (10-5) 5th seed Minnesota Vikings (10-5)
Neither team has clinched the NFC North title, which means the division will go down to the season finale in Green Bay. But would winning the division be the smartest move? The winner of the NFC North would have to play the Seahawks in the wild card round, while the 5th seeded wild card would draw a favourable match-up against the Redskins in Washington. Green Bay has too many flaws to be a true contender, whereas Minnesota are peaking at the right time. Both teams have lost to Arizona in the last two weeks, but the Vikings put up the toughest fight. Expect the Vikings to finally break through Green Bay’s NFC North stranglehold and take the division.
6th seed: Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
A home loss to the Rams may have killed Seattle’s chances at taking the 5th seed. Seattle’s hopes now rest on Green Bay winning the division showdown against Minnesota, while the Seahawks must beat Arizona to have a chance at overhauling the Vikings. That will depend on whether Arizona decides to rest starters if the NFC’s top seed is secured by Carolina. Seattle hold a tiebreaker over the Vikings thanks to an earlier win.