With the NFL season nearing an end, the legitimate contenders for the playoffs and Super Bowl are obvious. The “regulars” in recent years have been the Packers, Rams and Saints for the National Football Conference, and the Bills, Chiefs and Ravens for the American Football Conference. However, this year it looks like it could be very different, and we could see a team like the Saints or Bills miss out on the playoffs.
With the NFL changing the playoff format last year and adding a seventh team to the playoffs, the number one seed is more important than ever, since they are the only team that gets a first round bye while every other playoff team must face off in a first round Wildcard game.
The Cardinals currently have sole control of the one seed in the NFC with a record of 10-2, while the Patriots (9-4) have it in the AFC. The other three division leaders in the NFC are the Packers, Buccaneers and Cowboys, followed by three wildcard teams: the Rams, Washington Football Team and 49ers. The leaders in the AFC are the Ravens, Chiefs and Titans, followed by their three wildcard teams: the Chargers, Bengals and Bills.
Looking at the remaining schedules for the four divisional leaders in the NFC, it looks like the Packers (9-3) have the best shot at clinching the one seed due to their remaining schedule, followed by, in order, the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Cowboys. The Rams have a playoff spot almost locked up as a wildcard, leaving the other two wildcard slots up for grabs between the rest of the NFC, with every team being within two games of each other, except the Lions.
As for the AFC, it looks as though there are no teams set in stone for a certain seed. Every team, except for the Jaguars and Jets, is within two or three games of each other.
The teams that have what it takes to go the distance this year and win it all really only seem to be three teams. One could argue that only the Packers, Buccaneers and Chiefs have the firepower and depth to win the Super Bowl barring a major upset in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens, the playoffs this year and the lead up to them have the potential to be very exciting and some of the best we have seen in a while.
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