This is when it starts to get exciting.
Two weeks remain in the 2013 regular season for all 32 NFL Teams, and 19 of those teams remain mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Seven of the eight divisions (seven!) have yet to name a champion (the Colts clinched the AFC South two weeks ago). There are scenarios where teams could either grab the #1 seed or miss the playoffs depending on whether they win or lose their last regular season game. One example of such a scenario: if the Ravens and Dolphins win their remaining games, the Bengals beat the Vikings, the Broncos lose their remaining games, and the Chiefs beat the Colts and lose to the Chargers, the Patriots (who would go into their final game against the Bills with a record of 10-5 due to their loss to the Ravens) would be 11-5 if they won and have the #1 seed (by virtue of their tiebreaker with the Broncos). If they lost said game, they would be 10-6, and miss the playoffs entirely, losing the tiebreaker to the Dolphins for the AFC East title, and the tiebreaker to the Bengals for the #6 seed due to the head-to-head matchup. While such an eventuality is obviously unlikely, the very fact that a situation like this is possible this late in the season is astounding. The last time the NFL had a conference dynamic like this was in 2002, when both the Titans and Raiders were 9-5 with two games remaining and faced the possibility of either missing the playoffs or being the #1 seed in the AFC. The Raiders ended up with the #1 seed at 11-5, tied for the worst record for a team with homefield advantage since the season went to 16 games. After all that, I think you can guess the theme of many of the comments following each team in our rankings this week.
Myself and Kyle Toot (Producers’ Department Intern for “NFL Turning Point”) are responsible for this week’s Top 15, and here they are:
- Seattle Seahawks (12-2) – Seattle is on a flight path sure to take them to the #1 seed in the NFC at the conclusion of the regular season and with perhaps the greatest home field advantage in the league. That’s nothing to look down your beak at. (Toot)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-4) – San Fran rushes into the #2 spot on the list having won four in a row, going on five if they can pluck one away from the Dirty Birds this weekend. (Toot)
- Denver Broncos (11-3) – Despite a loss to the Chargers, the Broncos remain in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed by virtue of the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins. It’s looking more and more like the road to the Super Bowl will run through frigid Denver. (Joyce)
- Carolina Panthers (10-4) – All of a sudden, despite their blowout loss to the Saints just two weeks ago, the Panthers have an opportunity to steal the #2 seed from the team that’s held it almost the entire year. (Joyce)
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) – Both the division and the #1 overall seed are still in the crosshairs for Andy Reid’s resilient bunch. If the Broncos slip up over the next two games, the Chiefs will be waiting in the wings to grab that coveted homefield advantage. (Joyce)
- New England Patriots (10-4) – They’re in this spot because I honestly believe that they could beat any of the teams ahead of them in a playoff scenario, especially in bad weather conditions. (Toot)
- New Orleans Saints (10-4) – There’s no way around it – they’ve lost two of their past three games, both losses coming by double digits. That said, that’s why the buffer they had built up beforehand matters so much: despite the turmoil of the past few weeks, they still “control their own destiny” when it comes to getting a crucial first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. (Joyce)
- Arizona Cardinals (9-5) – The Cardinals easily have the toughest two game slate over the past two weeks (they play both of the top two teams in our rankings) and if they win out, they might be, amazingly, the team to watch going into the postseason. (Joyce)
- Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) – The Bengals squandered a chance to grab the #2 seed in the conference, but both that spot and the #1 seed are still possibilites for them going into the final two weeks of the season. Can they sieze the opportunity and get their first division championship in 4 years? (Joyce)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) – The Eagles have a difficult remaining schedule, going up against the Bears and the Cowboys. Still, given a Cowboys loss this week and a win by them, they will be the NFC East champs. Otherwise, we’ll have an NFC East Championship game in Week 17 for the fourth time in five years.
- Indianapolis Colts (9-5) – The Colts, as previously stated, have clinched their division, meaning their worst possible position in the AFC playoffs is the #4 seed. They also still have an outside shot at the #1 seed. That’s not a bad spot to be in with two weeks left. (Joyce)
- Miami Dolphins (8-6) – In the watered-down AFC landscape, the Dolphins, incredibly, have a decent shot at the #2 seed. If they win their remaining two games, they’ll be in the postseason. If they do so, and the Bengals lose once, the Patriots lose out, and the Colts lose once, they will have a first round bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round. (Joyce)
- San Diego Chargers (7-7) – The Chargers need some help to get into the dance, but they’ve proven they can hang with the best their conference has to offer, having beaten the Colts, Broncos, and Chiefs. (Joyce)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-6) – The champs, after looking dead in the water after the halfway point of the season, have won five of their past six contests. If they win the remainder of their matchups, they could be AFC North Champs for the 3rd straight year. (Joyce)
- Chicago Bears (8-6) – While there’s no way for the Bears to get a first round bye, if they win out, a home playoff game in the Wild Card round against the #6 seed would be in the cards. (Joyce)
- What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comment section below!
Top 15 Poll of the Week