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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Bose

NFL Playoff Picture: Projections Heading Into Week 12

AFC Playoff Projection

1. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

AFC North Champs

Baltimore has played countless nail biters this year and have proven to be a very clutch team down the stretch, whether that be Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh agreeing to go for it on fourth down with the game on the line against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 or Justin Tucker kicking an NFL record 66-yard walk-off field goal on the road against the Detroit Lions in Week 3. On top of that, despite Lamar Jackson missing their Week 11 match-up against the Chicago Bears, back-up QB Tyler Huntley led them to an impressive road victory. However, although the statistics expect them to win the AFC North (57% chance), they have a tough remaining schedule as out of their final seven games, six are against 2020 playoff teams. When Lamar comes back, expect the Ravens to finish atop the AFC North and possibly atop the entire AFC as it appears to be up for grabs.

2. Tennessee Titans (8-3)

AFC South Champs

Coming off of an incredible upset win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football just two weeks back, the Titans seemed to be flying high just before falling to the dreadful Texans in Week 11. Additionally, while All-Pro RB Derrick “King” Henry appears to be out for the season with a severe foot injury, the Titans have arguably the easiest closing schedule in the entire NFL and have a chance to win home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Tennessee has a 98.1% chance of winning their division and although they hold the best record in the AFC, it is hard to believe they will finish the year with the #1 seed, especially with AJ Brown and Julio Jones in and out of the line-up.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

AFC West Champs

Interestingly, both CBS and SportsLine did not have the Kansas City Chiefs making the playoffs ahead of their Week 10 match-up against the Raiders. However, history would say that the reigning AFC champions will not fall short of the playoffs, especially in a season with an additional Wild Card spot. Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Kansas City offense have struggled all year with interceptions, dropped balls, and careless turnovers. On top of that, the Kansas City defense is atrociously bad so by putting them out on the field more and more often, it has been a recipe for disaster. Despite all of this, the Chiefs dominated a credible Las Vegas Raiders team on Sunday Night Football and followed that up with a hard-fought victory over a talented Dallas Cowboys team in Week 11. Moreover, after the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10, the Chiefs have sat atop the AFC West ever since and for the first time this year have found their groove.

4. Buffalo Bills (6-4)

AFC East Champs

Despite being the prohibited favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl heading into Week 10, the Bills have without a doubt underperformed this season. According to SportsLine, they had a 15.71% chance to win the Super Bowl back in Week 10, which was the highest in the NFL. After an embarrassing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had not won an NFL game in the United States since Week 1 of the 2019 season, and a blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Buffalo Bills just lost the division lead to the New England Patriots. Ultimately, Josh Allen and the Bills will likely sit atop the AFC East and “win-out” the remainder of their schedule as they have a an easy road into the playoffs, but they need to wake up sooner rather than later or they may be overtaken by New England.

5. New England Patriots (7-4)

Wild Card 1

After re-building in the offseason and drafting a promising franchise quarterback in Mac Jones, the New England Patriots appear to be back on track. Bill Belichick’s defense looks like the best in football, despite losing former DPOY and All-Pro CB Stefon Gilmore. Matthew Judon has become a premier pass-rusher in the NFL and seems to have found a new home in New England. With their dominant run game between Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, and Josh McDaniels dialing up plays for Mac Jones to get the ball out quickly, the Patriots may surprise many people and have a real shot to contend for the AFC East title with the Buffalo Bills.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4)

Wild Card 2

CBS and SportsLine both gave the Chargers a 49.2% chance of winning the AFC West ahead of Week 10, while the Chiefs were at 18.7%, the Raiders 17.8%, and the Broncos 14.3%. Shockingly, the Chargers were prohibited favorites despite all four teams being separated by just a half game in the standings. However, Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen have seemed to have found their groove, so if Joey Bosa and that electric defense can start creating turnovers, Los Angeles could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1)

Wild Card 3

Despite starting 1-3, Pittsburgh had won four games in a row (and tied the Lions) before losing to the Chargers in a shootout on Sunday Night Football in Week 11. It will come down to the wire between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for second place in the AFC North and the final Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh has looked very good as of late, but their remaining schedule rivals Baltimore’s as the most difficult in the league. Pittsburgh nearly lost to Chicago on Monday Night Football and frankly got bailed out by the referees as they survived off of a walk-off field goal. With Najee Harris in the backfield and a physical defensive front, the Steelers should be able to clinch a playoff spot but will likely be an early playoff exit.

NFC Playoff Prediction

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

NFC West Champs

Assuming QB Kyler Murray and WR Deandre Hopkins will return to the lineup soon, the Cardinals will most definitely win the NFC West. After acquiring TE Zach Ertz from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, Arizona’s offense is among the top five in the NFL. Unfortunately, DE JJ Watt is out for the season, but DE Chandler Jones and S Budda Baker should be able to lead that defense to where it needs to be. Ultimately, if the Cardinals can get their all-pro QB and WR back sooner rather than later, they should be good to go heading into the postseason.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-3)

NFC North Champs

With a 93.8% chance of winning their division, the highest chance given to any current division leader in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers look to head back to the NFC Championship game for the third straight year. After QB Aaron Rodgers contracted COVID-19 and missed Green Bay’s Week 9 match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs, Rodgers, and the Packers defense in particular, bounced back in Week 10 and shut-out Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks 17-0. Finally, regardless of their Week 11 loss to Minnesota, the future looks bright for Green Bay.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

NFC South Champs

Regardless of a mediocre record for their standard, the defending Super Bowl champs look to play their cards right once again. Last year, most analysts believed the Buccaneers intentionally aimed for the 5th seed as they knew they would get to play the winner of the lowly NFC East division. Once again, the Bucs understand that the Rams will more than likely end up being the Wild Card 1 and Los Angeles gave Tampa Bay some serious trouble earlier this year. Ultimately, strategy aside, Tom Brady and the Bucs have a great chance of running it back considering their entire roster re-signed this offseason.

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

NFC East Champs

Completely flipping the script from the past two seasons, the Dallas Cowboys look to dominate the NFC East and potentially contend for a Super Bowl for the first time in forever. Their offense may be the most explosive in football, with three weapons on the outside, Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, and Dak Prescott at the helm. Furthermore, what once was an atrociously all-time bad defense has turned into a credible one led by Dan Quinn, with Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons both playing at Pro-Bowl levels. Ultimately, if Dallas can maintain a positive turnover margin and maintain a consistent run game between Elliott and Pollard, they could be dangerous come Playoff time.

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Wild Card 1

The Rams may be the most talented 5th seed the league has ever seen. They may end up with a record around (12-5) and end up in the 5th seed simply because the Arizona Cardinals will finish just above them in the NFC West. After signing Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. mid-season, the Rams have not looked great, but they will be coming off a bye week to get things sorted out with their new acquisitions. Despite recent struggles, Los Angeles still has the best wide receiver (statistically) in the NFL in Cooper Kupp and they definitely have the best DT (Aaron Donald) and CB (Jalen Ramsey) whether that be statistical or not. The Rams may not have home field advantage throughout the playoffs as they would have hoped but expect them to challenge the rest of the NFC in the fight for that Super Bowl spot.

6. Minnesota Vikings (5-5)

Wild Card 2

Coming off an impressive home victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, (Kinfolk) Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson seem to have one of the best QB to WR connections in the entire NFL and Dalvin Cook has finally started to get it going running the ball. If Minnesota can find a way to get their defense to play nearly as well as their offense does, they might be able to contend in the Playoffs but until then, they look like a first round exit.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

Wild Card 3

Lastly, the 7th seed in the NFC will more than likely come down to the final week of the season as many teams are in contention for it (ex: Panthers, Saints, and 49ers). However, as of now, Philadelphia and Jalen Hurts have looked the best out of the for teams in contention for the final playoff spot and the Eagles do not appear to be slowing down, especially heading into a division match-up against the New York Giants. Jalen Hurts just dropped 40 points on Sean Payton’s Saints and the Philadelphia run game has taken off as of late, as they ran for over 250 yards as a team last week. Ultimately, this 3rd Wild Card spot will be up for grabs but as of now the Eagles look to be the team destined to snag it.

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