Who Will Make the NFL Playoffs?

nfl playoffs

Let’s examine the playoff race in each conference and predict the seeding based on each contender’s remaining schedule.


  1. 1. Patriots final record 14-2: remaining schedule at Dolphins, at Steelers, Bills, Jets

I am expecting the Patriots to win their final four games despite a few factors.  Brady’s career record in Miami is 7-8 and the Patriots have dropped three of their last four games in Miami.  Before you yell at me about how the Dolphins’ QB situation is terrible and the Patriots are just so superior there’s no chance they lose, I would like to reference you to January 3rd, 2016, when pre-game you would have told me the exact same thing and the Patriots managed to blow home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, subsequently losing to the Broncos in Denver.  Yes, I think they will win even without Gronk and even perhaps because they learned a valuable lesson that January day.

But the biggest obstacle is clearly that game in Pittsburgh.  Yes, I know, the Patriots defense has really clamped down since week five but they have played an inaccurate Jameis Winston, Josh McCown, Steve Sarkisian, Brock Osweiler, the overrated Derek Carr, Matt Moore, and Tyrod Taylor.  Despite not allowing more than 17 points in any of those games the Patriots defense still sits at 29th in DVOA.  You don’t need me to sit here an lecture you about the offensive capabilities of Ben/Brown/Bell.  However, Tom Brady absolutely owns the Steelers.  Those numbers are from prior to the most recent AFC Title Game, a game in which Brady went 32/42 for 384 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and an 88.1 QBR.

And no, they won’t trip up at home against the Bills or Jets.  The caveat here is that come week 17 they would actually have the 1 seed locked up and could potentially bench everyone.  Considering how diabolical Belichick is, he actually probably will do this so the Jets win another game and then end up with a worse draft pick.  Maybe I should change my answer to Patriots 13-3.

2. Steelers 13-3: Ravens, Patriots, at Texans, Browns

The Ravens lost Jimmy Smith for the season, and while their defense is clearly more than just one person (they rank 1st in defensive DVOA), that is a huge loss.  The Steelers have made a habit lately of playing to the level of their competition with close wins against the Colts, Packers and Bengals, but I don’t think the Ravens have enough firepower to go into Pittsburgh and win.  I don’t think the Steelers will end up losing to the Texans or Browns, unless their seeding is locked in week 17 and they rest everyone against Cleveland, mercifully allowing the Browns an opportunity to win a game in 2017.

3. Jaguars 12-4: Seahawks, Texans, at 49ers, at Titans

Yes, I think the Jaguars are going to win out and be a 12 win team.  Imagine if I told you preseason that the Jags had a chance at 12 wins.  I know the Seahawks just beat Philadelphia in impressive fashion, but I don’t see what in the world Seattle can possibly do against the Jaguars defensive line.  The Seahawks have less than no running game and I don’t think Wilson will find guys after scrambling around for half an hour as the Jaguars have the best corner duo in the NFL.

Tom Savage is not beating this defense and I don’t think the 9ers have enough talent to get it done either.

Thus leaves the season finale against Tennessee for the division crown.  I know the Titans ran the ball down Jacksonville’s throat in week 2 and won 37-16, but the Jaguars run defense is an entirely different animal with the addition of Marcel Dareus.  The Titans have been lackluster lately, with unimpressive victories against Cleveland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indy and Houston.  The Titans were also blown out by the Steelers.  Furthermore, the Jaguars rank 4th in the NFL in +/- and 8th in DVOA, while the Titans rank 17th in +/- (at -16 mind you) and 20th in DVOA.

4. Chargers 10-6: Redskins, at Chiefs, at Jets, Raiders

Predicting the Chargers to win four straight games defies the laws of physics.  No one is better at literally inventing ways to lose than Los Angeles.  How in the world they lost that Jacksonville game will never compute in my brain.  But they can do it, and I think they will do it.  Call it blind faith.  Maybe I am biased because I predicted them to win the AFC West preseason and really want to see that happen.  Either way, this is my prognostication.

5. Ravens 10-6: at Steelers, at Browns, Colts, Bengals

I think the Ravens will only lose the game at Pittsburgh among their remaining games.  Their defense is too good to let DeShone Kizer or Jacoby Brissett beat them, and while the Bengals may be amped up to play spoiler week 17, the Ravens will be amped up, at home, to win and get in.

6. Titans 10-6: at Cardinals, at 49ers, Rams, Jaguars

The Titans have the second hardest remaining schedule amongst AFC playoff contenders.  I, oddly, think the Titans will win both road games and then lose both home games to close out the season.  The Titans have been lackluster and played close games against bad teams lately, and were blown out by the Steelers.  A stumble in Arizona is possible but I think they will get out of town with a win and I don’t think the 49ers can pull the upset.

I don’t believe they have the horses to keep up with the Rams in what should be a field day for that offense.  The Titans are 21st in defensive DVOA, ranking 25th in pass DVOA and 14th in run DVOA.  Good luck slowing down this passing attack.

I don’t foresee a win against the Jags either as Tennessee won’t be able to run at will against Jacksonville this time around.


Chiefs 9-7: Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins, at Broncos

I think the Chiefs will win all of their remaining games except against the Chargers.  As a result they will end up at 9-7 and miss the playoffs after starting the season 5-0.  Vegas is now taking bets on where Alex Smith will play in 2018 (my money is on Jacksonville).

Bills 9-7: Colts, Dolphins, at Patriots, at Dolphins

I also think the Bills go 3-1 down the stretch with their only lose coming in Foxborough.  However, 9-7 won’t be good enough to get into the playoffs in the AFC.

Raiders 6-10: at Chiefs, Cowboys, at Eagles, at Chargers

I don’t think Oakland is going to win another game this year.  I view them as the inferior team in each of their remaining matchups, and in each game their opponent will have more at stake in terms of playoff positioning (except for at Kansas City where it is even stakes but I don’t see Oakland winning).  Oakland really isn’t that good, they are 21st in +/- (at -29) and 21st in DVOA.



  1. 1. Vikings 13-3: at Panthers, Bengals, at Packers, Bears

I think the only game the Vikings drop will be their road game against the Aaron Rodgers led Packers.  This, plus tie breakers against both the Eagles and Rams, will land Minnesota the top seed in the NFC.

2. Rams 13-3: Eagles, at Seahawks, at Titans, 49ers

I think calling for the Rams to go 4-0 down the stretch against that schedule is rather bullish, and I honestly don’t know if I truly believe it.  I already touched upon why the Titans won’t be able to keep up with the Rams offense, but I do have a fear that if the Rams in fact beat the Eagles and then Seattle they could come up flat flying across country to play outside the conference.  I can’t see the Rams potentially blowing playoff seeding in a week 17 home game against the 9ers.

Win or lose against the Eagles I think the Rams are going to win in Seattle.  Their home loss to Seattle earlier this year was heartbreaking, as Goff hit Cooper Kupp in the hands, in the end zone, with 16 seconds to go, and Kupp dropped the ball.  The Seahawks are now down Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.  The Rams’ biggest weakness as a team is their run defense, which isn’t something the Seahawks can really take advantage of.

As for the impending tilt with the Eagles, you can call my “Rams will win prediction” blind faith as well.  Are the Eagles really going to lose two games in a row?  I think so.  The Eagles do have the run game to take advantage of the Rams run defense, and the Eagles defense ranks 3rd overall in DVOA, 4th in Pass Defense DVOA and 3rd in Run Defense DVOA.  So, the Rams will be challenged to move the ball.  I just think McVay/Phillips are going to out-scheme Pederson, the Rams are the home team, and, to deviate from my typical analytical approach, I think everyone on the Rams is going to bring it a little extra because the media is obsessed with 2016 QB Carson Wentz, and not 2016 QB Jared Goff, and L.A. wants to prove to everyone their guy is better.

3. Eagles 13-3: at Rams, at Giants, Raiders, Cowboys

I don’t think the Eagles will lose again outside of their showdown with the Rams.  The Giants will give them everything they got as they look to derail the season for their rival, but coming off two straight losses I don’t see the Eagles making it three straight, especially against a team currently slated to pick second in the draft.

Another divisional game looms in week 17, but this one is at home and could determine where the Eagles end up in seeding with anything from 2-4 possible.  The Cowboys defense simply won’t be able to contain the Eagles offense, even if Zeke is around this time to churn the clock and shorten the game.

4. Saints 12-4: at Falcons, Jets, Falcons, at Bucs

I think the Saints will lose this Thursday in Atlanta.  As of this writing I am not sure if Marshon Lattimore is going to play, but if I were New Orleans I wouldn’t rush him back.  He is just too important to not have completely healthy, and if he sits out this game he gets ten more days afterwards until week 15 to heal.

Wins over the Jets and Bucs are gift wrapped, so really the Saints only need to concern themselves with their home game against the Falcons.  Lattimore being available to cover Julio and the inevitability of Sarkisian preparing a terrible game plan in the rematch should get the Saints to 12-4 on the season and the NFC South crown.

5. Falcons 10-6: Saints, at Bucs, at Saints, Panthers

I can’t believe I am actually picking the Falcons to get into the playoffs.  They have the most difficult remaining schedule in the entire NFL by DVOA.  I called them complete frauds in my Mid-Season Power Rankings.  Steve Sarkisian inexplicably still has a job.  Yet here we are.

I think the Falcons can get a home win over the Saints on a short weeks preparation and then take care of business in Tampa Bay.

I expect them to lose the Saints rematch in New Orleans before winning what will be a play-in game at home against the Panthers.

6. Packers 10-6: at Browns, at Panthers, Vikings, at Lions

The odds the Packers once again run the table and get into the playoffs are so low, but I think they are going to repeat it.  It will also mark the second time Rodgers has come back at the end of the season from a broken collarbone to sneak the Packers into the playoffs.

The only Brett Hundley game the Packers have left is at Cleveland, and after a win against Tampa and a close battle with Pittsburgh, I think the Packers can emerge victorious in Cleveland.

I also think that everyone will be so hyped for Rodgers’ return and a possible run to the playoffs they will go into Carolina and beat the Panthers.  Rodgers may be rusty but I just don’t trust Cam Newton.

The Packers can then win a divisional home game against the Vikings before going to Detroit in week 17 and winning what will basically be another play-in game.  Gee, where have I seen this movie before?


Seahawks 9-7: at Jaguars, Rams, at Cowboys, Cardinals

I am predicting a total collapse from Seattle.  I think the Jaguars’ defensive line is going to abuse Russell Wilson, the Rams will tear apart their injury ravaged secondary, and the home team Cowboys will be so pumped to have Zeke back and so desperate for a win that Dak and the Boys will prevail.  The Seahawks will take care of Arizona at home the last week of the season but it won’t be enough.

Panthers: 9-7: Vikings, Packers, Bucs, at Falcons

Another collapse from a current 8-4 team.

I don’t trust Cam Newton.  I don’t think the Panthers are good enough to beat the Vikings or handle the Aaron Rodgers Packers.  They can take care of the sorry Bucs in a home game but then will follow that up with a road divisional loss to the Falcons.

Cowboys 9-7: at Giants, at Raiders, Seahawks, at Eagles

The only game I think Dallas loses is week 17 in Philadelphia because I think the Eagles will still have something to play for in that game.  If the Eagles have the 1 seed locked up, or are locked into the 2 seed regardless, the Cowboys could rattle off four straight wins and get into the playoffs.

Lions 9-7: at Bucs, Bears, at Bengals, Packers

I only see the Lions losing to the Packers the remainder of the way, but 9-7 won’t be enough to get into the playoffs.

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