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  • Seven teams still have a shot (even the smallest) at reaching the NFL playoffs. Which teams do the already-clinched teams least want to face in January?
By Conor Orr
December 17, 2018

Philadelphia’s stunning upset of the Los Angeles Rams froze the playoff bracket heading into tonight’s Monday Night Football contest between the Panthers and Saints.

So, as it stands right now, here’s what we’re looking at heading into Week 16:  

AFC: 1. Kansas City 2. Houston 3. New England 4. Pittsburgh, 5. Los Angeles Chargers 6. Baltimore  

NFC: 1. New Orleans 2. Los Angeles Rams 3. Chicago 4. Dallas 5. Seattle 6. Minnesota

Here, too, is a look at the teams that are left in the hunt, with their respective percentage chance of reaching the playoffs (via Fivethirtyeight):

AFC: Indianapolis (35%), Tennessee (46%), Miami (5%), Cleveland (<1%)

NFC: Washington (16%), Carolina (6%), Philadelphia (37%)

While the field is a little top-heavy this year, I’m almost more interested in the teams who are in the hunt as those with the potential to do the most damage from a lower seed (save for Baltimore and L.A. in the AFC, which will end up tiered so bizarrely because of the Chiefs and or Chargers taking the No. 1 seed and leaving a behemoth in the wild-card round). In fact, I’m interested enough to rank them for today’s huddle. Here, in order, are the top five teams that those already in the playoffs don’t want to see join them.

1. Tennessee

With Derrick Henry coming on and some fluidity being restored to their offense, this is a team I wouldn’t want to get into a low-scoring slugfest with in January. They maintain possession (of late), make it difficult for teams to convert third downs and, over the last two weeks, have hit opposing quarterbacks nearly 20 times.

2. Philadelphia

If this team somehow manages to stun the NFL world for a second straight season, there is not a coach in football—save for the emotionless Bill Belichick—who wouldn’t fear that the cosmos is somehow conspiring against them. That game against the Rams on Sunday night was inspired.

3. Indianapolis

Good quarterback play is always hard to scheme against in the postseason. Plus, the Colts now have a defense that needs to be reckoned with as well, thanks to Matt Eberflus.

4. Carolina

My original (and mid-year) pick to lose the Super Bowl, the Panthers pose some challenges with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. Sadly, the fighting Norv Turners would have to beat the best team in football (the Saints) twice in two weeks to even think about postseason play.

5. Cleveland

An offensive coordinator without pronounced tendencies, an ascending quarterback and talented defense. Honestly, the Browns should have been in the playoffs this season. Had they switched coaches before the 2018 season, we could be writing about their impending matchup with long-lost coach Bill Belichick in the wildcard round. Darn you, Hue Jackson.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Takeaways from Week 15, including the suddenly-powerful Colts. … Look out NFC, the Vikings have a running game again. … Confidence in Cleveland, chaos in Denver. ... From worst to first: The Bears clinch the NFC North divisional title. ... The Patriots don’t look like themselves. ... Could the Eagles have a QB dilemma on their hands soon? ... Previewing the Saints-Panthers Monday Night Football game.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: The MMQB Big Board 2.0. … Former newsletter Godfather Jacob Feldman ranks the sports networks for 2018, with a big up to Fox for their handling of Thursday Night Football. … Patrick Mahomes and the no-look pass, a love story.


PRESS COVERAGE

1. Doug Marrone isn’t worried about the plug being pulled at the end of the season

2. A good point on the Patriots’ final swing: Why wasn’t their most athletic wide receiver on the field?

3. Scenes from a distraught Dolphins locker room after they were potentially knocked out of the playoff race.

4. The Cowboys came back to earth with a thud on Sunday.

5. It is probably not good when the opposing defense surprises you with their plan to shut down your best player.

6. When the going gets tough, Mike Tomlin suggests slicing off your eyelids.

7. The only young quarterback with a realistic chance of supplanting Eli Manning this offseason was demoted to third-string, and he’s kind of pissed about it.

8. Richard Sherman is pretty happy for Richard Sherman after the 49ers beat the Seahawks in OT.


THE KICKER

Will finding all the pyramids unlock untold secrets of our past? Find out here.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com

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