The NFL playoff picture after Week 10 of the regular season
The divisional races are starting to heat up as we hit the final stretch of the season. Top teams have started to fall and struggling teams are surging.
Only eight weeks remain in the NFL season, and nothing is set in stone just yet so we will take division by division to see how the playoff picture is shaping up around the league
Suddenly things are a whole lot tighter in the AFC East. The 6-3 Bills were the preseason no-brainer to win the division, but the rapid surge of the New England Patriots has catapulted Mac Jones and the Pats into playoff positioning and are nipping at the heels of the Bills . New England, at 6-4, sits a half game below the Bills, but the two teams will play each other twice in December in a matter of three weeks. The Dolphins and the Jets are having a tough enough time winning games to worry about getting into playoff positioning, but whoever comes in second place in the East will have a good crack at a wild card spot.
Out of nowhere the Chiefs look like they have overcome the “crisis” they went through to start the season, and have won three straight to turn their 3-4 record into a much more respectable 6-4 for a team that is looking to get back to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. The 5-4 Chargers have lost three of their last four and are quickly slipping in a division that leaves no margin for error. You get the feeling that the 5-4 Raiders are in the same boat. How long can they keep up with the rest of the pack after seeing their former coach let go amid a race and homophobia scandal, and one of their top receivers get released after a fatal drunk driving accident. And who knows what the Broncos are up to in Denver. They crush the Cowboys in Dallas two weeks ago only to return home and get spanked by the Eagles at home on Sunday. In the end KC might have it much easier than it looked three or four weeks ago.
Detroit taking Pittsburgh to overtime and settling for a share of the spoils may be what separates the Steelers from the rest of those fighting for the AFC North crown come the end of Week 18. Baltimore were frustrated by the Dolphins on Thursday night, dropping to 6-3 on the year after their second loss in three games. The 5-3-1 Steelers won four straight before Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID shortly before the Lions game. It seems like the Steelers with Big Ben are right back to where they want to be, contending for the division and looking like they will be playing playoff football come winter time. Who knows what to think of the Browns, who gave the Bengals the smackdown two weeks ago, but then got demolished by the Patriots on Sunday. The first glimpse of their post Odell Beckham Jr era painted a worrying scene for the Dog Pound. The Bengals were the shock of the early season winning five of their first seven, but two straight losses has them at 5-4 and clinging on to life in the division.
AFC Playoff picture after Week 10 👀 pic.twitter.com/M8KzA86y0B— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 15, 2021
This is without question the most lopsided division in the AFC. The Titans continue to roll even without Derrick Henry in the backfield. They have won both games with King Henry on the sidelines, and th wins came against some of the best teams teams in the NFC. A thumping win over the Rams, and perhaps a stroke of fortune, or two or five, against the Saints has Tennessee at 8-2, three games ahead of the Colts and don’t forget they hold the two game tie break over Indianapolis. Carson Wentz and the Colts sit at 5-5 after winning four of their last five games. Their only loss came to Tennessee in overtime, so the Colts are headed in the right direction and are in the playoff race with eight weeks to go but they close out the season with one of the toughest schedules in the league.
At the moment, the Bills, Chiefs, Ravens and Titans are leading their respective divisions and would be in to the playoffs if the regular season ended today. That means the Patriots would wrap up the first Wild Card spot and the Steelers and the Chargers would get the final two although that is certain to change as there are a half dozen other teams lurking
The East has been notoriously fluffy for the last few years. That’s not to say that the 7-2 Cowboys aren’t a serious contender in the division and in the conference, because they are. But last year Washington won the division and went to the playoffs with a record of 7-9. It doesn’t look like that will happen this year, with Dallas playing how they are playing, but they look like they will be the lone soldiers representing the East. The closest contenders at the moment are the Philadelphia Eagles at 4-6, while the Giants and the Football Team are 3-6.
In the last few weeks it has looked like no one wants to win this division. After starting a perfect 7-0 the Cardinals have dropped two of their last three. One of those losses came against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and the other one came last weekend at the hands of the new look Carolina Panthers. You must keep in mind MVP candidate Kyler Murray was out for a second straight game over the weekend and that has had an obvious affect on the Arizona offense. The Rams squad has been criticized recently for being filled with glitz but not much guts. The 3-6 Seahawks got Russell Wilson back, but were shutout in his return to action after getting his middle finger surgically repaired. Seattle looks like they are moving in opposite directions of the the 4-5 San Francisco 49ers who beat the Rams on Monday night and sit just a half game back of the Wild Card spots. It’s a two man race in the West, but who wants to win it?
Updated NFC Playoff Picture after Monday Night Football ⬇ pic.twitter.com/keZ40K8qHr— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 16, 2021
The 8-2 Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in the league at the moment. Sure they lost against the Chiefs in Week 9, but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t available and they only lost 13-7. It’s safe to say that with Rodgers the story and the scoreboard would have been different and we could be talking about them rattling off nine wins in a row since their shocking loss to the Saint in the opener. No one is playing as good of football as they are in the NFC, especially in the NFC North Division. The 4-5 Vikings sit 3.5 games back of the Pack, and despite winning three of their last five the chances of them catching up to Green Bay are slim to none. The 3-6 Bears and the winless Detroit Lions are even worse for wear sitting at the bottom of the standings in the top heavy NFC North.
The NFC South is another one of those divisions that makes you scratch your head and say “I thought the division was wrapped up even before the season began.” The 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the preseason favorites to win the division, and even though things are tight from top to bottom in the South you would still bet your money on the Bucs to win the division before you put it on the Saints, Falcons or new look Panthers. The Bucs dropped their second straight game over the weekend, which would have allowed the Saints to join them at the top of the division, but New Orleans shot themselves in the foot time after time against the Titans on Sunday. Don't look now but the Panthers are in the hunt in the South, sitting just two games back and with a new, but old quarterback under center.
If the season ended today it would be the Cowboys, Cardinals, Packers and Buccaneers with the automatic playoff spots after winning the division. The Rams would be the first Wild Card at 7-2, while the five-win Saints and Panthers would be the other two Wild Card teams, but the Niners, Vikings and Falcons are right behind them waiting for any team to make a mistake so they can jump into playoff position.
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