When the Indianapolis Colts blew away the New York Jets 41-10 on Monday Night Football this week, they created a three-way tie for first place in the AFC South — and a lot of questions about who will make it to the NFL Playoffs this season. While there’s still four weeks remaining in the 2016 NFL regular season, a handful of teams have already been eliminated from post-season play. But even the league-best Dallas Cowboys haven’t yet guaranteed themselves a spot in the 2016 NFL Playoffs.
Taking a look at how things stand today — and how close the Wild Card race is — gives NFL fans a better idea of which games are important in Week 14, aside from any fantasy football value that might be found in lowly teams like the San Francisco 49ers or Cleveland Browns.
If the season ended prior to Week 14, the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (11-1) would have home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl. They would be joined in their week off at the beginning of the NFL Playoffs by the Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) who currently lead the NFC West by a half-game more than the Detroit Lions (8-4) currently lead the NFC North.
In the NFC Wild Card round, the Lions would match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5), who have a slightly worse division record than the Atlanta Falcons (7-5). The Falcons would be “rewarded” for winning their division by being forced to play the New York Giants (8-3), who are a full two games better than the Lions.
The official seeding, then, for the NFC — if the season ended today — as verified by the NFL, would be: Dallas Cowboys (1), Seattle Seahawks (2), Detroit Lions (3), Atlanta Falcons (4), New York Giants (5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6).
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The AFC has an even closer race than the NFC, with three teams from the AFC West currently qualifying for a top-six spot in the conference. Earning a bye in the first round of the NFL Playoffs would be the Oakland Raiders (10-2) of the West and the New England Patriots (10-2) of the AFC East. But the race for the division in the AFC North and South is very heated right now, as is the competition for the two Wild Card spots.
Both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have a record of 7-5, with the tie-breaker going to the Ravens. The Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts all sit at 6-6, with the tiebreaker going to the Texans. Meanwhile, the two Wild Card spots would be taken by the Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) and the Denver Broncos (8-4) of the AFC West.
The official seeding, then, for the AFC — if the season ended today — would be: Oakland Raiders (1), New England Patriots (2), Baltimore Ravens (3), Houston Texans (4), Kansas City Chiefs (5), Denver Broncos (6).
Four of those AFC teams were in the 2015 NFL Playoffs — the Broncos (1), Patriots (2), Texans (4) and Chiefs (5). If things were to end like this for the NFC, however, it would look drastically different than 2015. While the Seattle Seahawks were a No. 6 seed in the post-season last year (eliminated by the Carolina Panthers in the second round), none of the other teams qualified for the playoffs at all.
NFL Week 14 Preview
With those standings, big match-ups for Week 14, as detailed on the official NFL schedule, include the Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (on Thursday night), Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]