With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, there’s still much to be determined. 19 teams are still mathematically alive for the postseason and only one division has been decided (and by the schizophrenic Indianapolis Colts, no less).
Put another way, only four teams have secured playoff spots: Denver, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Kansas City. That means that every other team in the hunt could conceivably miss the playoffs.
But since it’s so late in the game, there are endless playoff scenarios to watch this week. The most straightforward ones to watch are New England, New Orleans, Carolina, and San Francisco — all four of them can clinch with a win this week. For all of the other scenarios, you’d better have NFL RedZone.
Coverage Maps (courtesy of 506 Sports)
Washington prevents us from seeing the most pivotal game of the week (Carolina-New Orleans), but at least this week’s opponent is playing for something. Dallas is fighting for their playoff lives and need to beat Washington at home to stay in it. Over on CBS, we get a likely Wild Card preview as Indianapolis faces Kansas City. The late game on CBS is New England-Baltimore.
Now let’s pick. My risky predictions last week proved to be very stupid. I went below .500 for the first time this season (7-9), bringing my overall mark to 148-77.
Miami over Buffalo
Cincinnati over Minnesota
The Bengals defense has had its share of lapses lately and Matt Cassel played lights out last week. A Vikings win is within the realm of possibility, but it’s not a probability.
Kansas City over Indianapolis
If the current playoff standings hold, Indianapolis will host Kansas City in the Wild Card round. On the road, however, I don’t give Andrew Luck and company much of a chance.
Carolina over New Orleans
Speaking of teams playing poorly on the road, the Saints are fresh off of an embarrassing defeat in St. Louis. They need a win today to clinch the division, but a loss could mean a first round game. The key here will be the Panthers defensive line. If Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson can pressure Drew Brees early and often, it could get ugly.
Tampa Bay over St. Louis
I wanted to give St. Louis the edge at home after last week’s drubbing of New Orleans, but I think much of that had to do with the ineptitude of the Saints on the road. Tampa Bay is sound on defense and good enough on offense with Mike Glennon and Bobby Rainey leading the charge.
Cleveland over New York Jets
Be on the look out for both of these teams next season. Two very strong defenses that only lack complementary offensive firepower. Geno Smith will not fare well against the Browns secondary.
Dallas over Washington
This installment of the NFC East rivalry has a strange look to it. Yes, Dallas is contending for a postseason berth and Washington isn’t, but who could have predicted a (relatively) healthy Robert Griffin III on the bench? Kirk Cousins may have a great game against the Cowboys defense, but they still win a close one. The season-ending matchup for a playoff berth is inevitable.
Tennessee over Jacksonville
There aren’t many reasons to watch this game. Does a duel between two former All-Pro running backs interest you? How about matchup between two quarterbacks who likely won’t start under center in 2014? But I do see two players on the Titans defense worthy of a Pro Bowl selection in Jurrell Casey and Alterraun Verner (more on that later this week).
Denver over Houston
Another Broncos loss here would be a great concern. Fortunately for them, I don’t see any way of that happening. Peyton Manning should inch closer to history today.
Detroit over New York Giants
Good luck figuring out either of these teams. The Giants suffered their first home shutout since the 2005 playoffs against Carolina. Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off of a loss to Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. My gut says Detroit, but who can say for sure?
Seattle over Arizona
The Seahawks are near-impossible to beat at home right now, but I can’t completely discount an Arizona squad fighting for their playoff lives. They should still make a game out of this.
Green Bay over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Oakland
They’re missing the playoffs for the fourth straight week, but I still have faith in Philip Rivers and the Chargers after last week. On the other hand, I have none in Oakland.
Baltimore over New England
Could the Patriots really drop a second straight game on the road? Absolutely. Like Miami last week, the Ravens are looking to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
Chicago over Philadelphia
Remember what I said about Dallas and Philadelphia meeting next week for the division crown? I don’t trust the Eagles corners against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
San Francisco over Atlanta
The Niners say farewell to Candlestick Park in dominant fashion. Atlanta is too far gone at this point.
Record (Week): 7-9
Record (Season): 155-86