Unless you are competing for the NFC East crown, the haze surrounding this season’s playoffs is beginning to lift, and teams are beginning to emerge.
Eight of the 12 playoff teams have been decided, even if the order is still shifting. Green Bay, Kansas City, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, New England, Buffalo and New Orleans will all be working into January. Three of the division winners (New Orleans, Baltimore, Kansas City) have also been decided.
In the AFC South, Houston’s narrow 24-21 divisional win over the nagging Tennessee Titans Sunday also gave them a clear path to the playoffs in the next two weeks: Beat either the Buccaneers on the road or the Titans again at home.
And in the NFC East, so it goes that the 7-7 Eagles and 7-7 Cowboys are a big enough mess to keep our attention through the relative lack of mystery around the league ahead. The beautiful sloppiness and unpredictability in this singular division could power a rocket to Mars. These are teams that get pummeled by the Bears and Jets, then stun the Rams, 44-21. These are teams that lose to the Dolphins and Lions, but somehow have the composure to sneak out a pair of consecutive in-division nail-biters with about half of a healthy active roster. Luckily, we’re on a collision course for a national game this coming Sunday between the Eagles and Cowboys that could go a long way toward cementing the winner there as well.
One thing is for sure: It won’t be pretty.
Now, onto the standings as of Monday morning…
1. Baltimore (12-2), 2. New England (11-3)
3. Kansas City (10-4), 4. Houston (9-5)
5. Buffalo (10-4), 6. Pittsburgh (8-6)
STILL HANGING AROUND...
Tennessee Titans (8-6), Indianapolis Colts (6-7)*, Cleveland Browns (6-8), Oakland Raiders (6-8)
Denver Broncos (eliminated with a 23-3 loss to the Chiefs)
*The Colts would officially be eliminated with a loss to the Saints on Monday.
1. Seattle (11-3), 2. Green Bay (11-3)
3. New Orleans (10-3)*, 4. Dallas (7-7)
5. San Francisco (11-3), 6. Minnesota (10-4)
*Plays Indianapolis on Monday Night Football.
STILL HANGING AROUND...
Philadelphia Eagles (7-7), Los Angeles Rams (8-6)
Browns: Ravens, Bengals
Steelers: Jets, Ravens
Eagles: Cowboys, Giants
Cowboys: Eagles, Washington
Texans: Buccaneers, Titans
Titans: Saints, Texans
Colts: Saints (Week 15 MNF), Panthers, Jaguars
Seattle: Cardinals, 49ers
Minnesota: Packers, Bears
Current NFL draft order (top 10):
1. Cincinnati (1-13)
2. N.Y. Giants (3-11)
3. Miami (3-11)
4. Washington (3-11)
5. Detroit (3-10-1)
6. Arizona (4-9-1)
7. N.Y. Jets (5-9)
8. Jacksonville (5-9)
9. L.A. Chargers (5-9)
10. Denver (5-9)
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