NFL playoff picture 2014, Week 16: Eagles, Chargers fighting for postseason lives on Saturday
There are multiple divisions up for grabs heading into Week 16, though the ever-interesting AFC North will likely go down to the final week of the season. Here’s a look at where each division stands.
Once surging toward a division title, the Eagles suddenly find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in after consecutive losses dropped them to 9-5. A game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East and a game behind both the Packers and the Seahawks in the wild card standings, Philadelphia is in a desperate situation with two games remaining. But all hope is not lost.
Their Saturday matchup with lowly Washington gives the Eagles a relatively easy stepping stone back into the race.
Philly needs one of two scenarios to occur to win the division: 1) they win both of their remaining games (they play the Giants to close the season) and the Cowboys lose one of their two remaining or 2) the Eagles split their final two games and the Cowboys lose out. Considering Dallas gets Washington in Week 17, scenario No. 1 is probably the only real chance (although the Cowboys did lose to Washington back in Week 8).
Which makes Saturday’s game an a must-win for Philly.
Also on Saturday, the Chargers will be fighting for their playoff lives against the recently-eliminated 49ers. Since Denver has already clinched the AFC West, San Diego’s only route to the postseason is through a wild card spot. Unfortunately, three teams currently sit above them in that race.
The Chargers have to win out, then get help.
The 11-3 Patriots have already locked up the division, but are still fighting for seeding. They’ll probably be locking up a first-round bye against the awful Jets on Sunday and could go ahead and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs if that coincides with a Broncos loss.
A Broncos loss, by the way, is a definite possibility. They play the AFC North-leading Bengals in Cincinnati on Monday Night Football. Denver will clinch a first-round bye with a win, but needs a Patriots loss sometime in the next two weeks to jump ahead into the No. 1 seed.
The North is the only division in the AFC still up for grabs, and it probably won’t be decided until the final week of the regular season. The only way the 9-4-1 Bengals can clinch is if they beat Denver and both Pittsburgh and Baltimore lose.
Things really get interesting if Cincinnati loses. If that happens and Pittsburgh wins, the Steelers jump into first place. If both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lose and Baltimore wins, it’s the Ravens in first.
The South is kind of boring, really. The 10-4 Colts have already clinched the division, but are long shots for a first-round bye (they need losses from either Denver or New England to even enter the conversation). The second-place team, 7-7 Houston, is behind three other teams in the wild card hunt and needs to win out plus get a ton of help to have a chance.
AFC wild card
The AFC is interesting given that three of the divisions are already locked up. The wild card race is now the important one, but it’s the undecided division that’s dominating that discussion as well. The Bengals have that narrow lead over the Steelers and Ravens, but if the playoffs started today, both wild card spots would go to said Steelers and Ravens, in that order. They’re both at 9-5, while the Chiefs, Chargers and Bills all sit at 8-6. Buffalo is at the bottom of that, while the Chiefs and Chargers will face off in Week 17, so that could be decided there.
A Cowboys win coupled with an Eagles loss or tie hands the division to Dallas. The Eagles stay alive with a win, but their best shot of a Cowboys loss comes this weekend against the Colts.
The biggest game of the week is on Sunday night between Arizona and Seattle. The 11-3 Cardinals (who are actually the only team in the conference who have secured a playoff spot) can lock up both the division and home field advantage with a win. If the 10-4 Seahawks win, they move into first place (though they couldn’t clinch until Week 17).
Green Bay’s surprising loss to Buffalo last week allowed Detroit to sneak back into the division lead. The 10-4 Lions can clinch a postseason berth with a win over Chicago on Sunday and they’ll clinch the division if they win and the Packers lose. But assuming the 10-4 Packers handle their business against lowly Tampa Bay, the division will come down to the monster Green Bay-Detroit matchup in Week 17.
Oh, the NFC South. Somehow, some way, the 6-8 Saints, the 5-8-1 Panthers and the 5-9 Falcons are all still in the playoff hunt. If New Orleans beats Atlanta on Sunday and Carolina loses, the division goes to the Saints. Otherwise this dumpster fire continues into the final week.
The Seahawks and Packers are currently in line for the two wild card spots. If Seattle beats Arizona on Sunday night, the Cardinals fall back into that slot. Likewise, Detroit could trade places with Green Bay if the Lions lose and the Packers win. If the Eagles can’t catch the Cowboys in the East, they’ll need to win out and hope either Seattle or Green Bay slips up.