It’s even possible that the league expands this season’s playoffs beyond 14 teams if the coronavirus pandemic causes a rash of regular season games to be canceled, but for now we’ll go with that number. Here is where the postseason chases in the NFC and the AFC stand heading into Week 11 and a glance at what’s to come.
1. Green Bay Packers (7-2)
Remaining schedule (opponents’ combined winning percentage*: .492): at Colts, Bears, Eagles, at Lions, Panthers, Titans, at Bears
2. New Orleans Saints (7-2)
Remaining schedule (.430): Falcons, at Broncos, at Falcons, at Eagles, Chiefs, Vikings, at Panthers
3. Seattle Seahawks (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.330): at Eagles, Giants, Jets, at Washington, Rams, at 49ers
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1)
Remaining schedule (.571): at Browns, Seahawks, at Packers, Saints, at Cardinals, at Cowboys, Washington
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
Remaining schedule (.519): Rams, Chiefs, Vikings, at Falcons, Lions, Falcons
6. Los Angeles Rams (6-3)
Remaining schedule (.508): at Buccaneers, 49ers, at Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, at Seahawks, Cardinals
7. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)
Remaining schedule (.473): at Seahawks, at Patriots, Rams, at Giants, Eagles, 49ers, at Rams
Remaining schedule (.463): at Packers, Lions, Texans, at Vikings, at Jaguars, Packers
Remaining schedule (.515): at Panthers, Texans, at Bears, Packers, at Titans, Buccaneers, Vikings
Remaining schedule (.439): Cowboys, Panthers, Jaguars, at Buccaneers, Bears, at Saints, at Lions
Hanging on: San Francisco 49ers (4-6), Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
Technically alive, but not happening: Carolina Panthers (3-7)
NFC East mess: New York Giants (3-7), Dallas Cowboys (2-7), Washington Football Team (2-7)
Let’s start with the NFC East, partly because it’s just so ridiculous. All four teams have been awful — which is why each retains at least a reasonable shot of winning the division and getting the No. 4 seed. The Eagles have a 1½-game lead over their closest pursuer, the Giants, so we’ll give them the nod for now, but Philadelphia also has the toughest schedule left. The Cowboys have the easiest schedule of the four, but given their struggles to beat anyone outside of their division, that might not matter much. How the Giants, Cowboys and Washington fare against the lowly Bengals, who gave the Eagles their tie, could be a determining factor.
Of the two teams at the top of the NFC, New Orleans won’t have Drew Brees and would need to end up with at least a one-game lead over Green Bay, which beat the Saints in Week 3, to get the first-round bye. The Packers will want to see the Bears, against whom they still have a pair of games, continuing to implode.
Following a massive win Thursday over the Cardinals that moved them to the top of the NFC West, the Seahawks can’t be counted out in the race for the top seed because they have the NFL’s lowest-rated strength of schedule the rest of the way.
The Bucs and Rams appear well-positioned for at least wild-card spots given the ugliness in Chicago, but keep an eye on the Vikings, who have bounced back from a 1-5 start.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0)
Remaining schedule (.477): at Jaguars, Ravens, Washington, at Bills, at Bengals, Colts, at Browns
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
Remaining schedule (.531): at Raiders, at Buccaneers, Broncos, at Dolphins, at Saints, Falcons, Chargers
Remaining schedule (.509): Chargers, at 49ers, Steelers, at Broncos, at Patriots, Dolphins
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Remaining schedule (.524): Packers, Titans, at Texans, at Raiders, Texans, at Steelers, Jaguars
5. Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)
Remaining schedule (.444): Chiefs, at Falcons, at Jets, Colts, Chargers, Dolphins, at Broncos
Remaining schedule (.477): at Broncos, at Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, at Raiders, Bills
7. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
Remaining schedule (.461): Titans, at Steelers, Cowboys, at Browns, Jaguars, Giants, at Bengals
Remaining schedule (.508): at Ravens, at Colts, Browns, at Jaguars, Lions, at Packers, at Texans
Remaining schedule (.445): Eagles, at Jaguars, at Titans, Ravens, at Giants, at Jets, Steelers
Hanging on: New England Patriots (4-5)
Technically alive, but not happening: Denver Broncos (3-6), Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1), Houston Texans (2-7), Los Angeles Chargers (2-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8), New York Jets (0-9)
The Steelers are not likely to go 16-0, with a Dec. 13 trip to Buffalo looking like a good spot for a blemish, but Pittsburgh should be able to hold serve for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ first order of business should be getting revenge in a rematch this week with the Raiders, who dealt Kansas City its only loss last month. To overtake the Steelers for the top seed, Patrick Mahomes and Co. not only need Pittsburgh to lose but ideally to do it at least once within the division.
The Colts took command of the AFC South with a Week 10 win at Tennessee and can all but cement their divisional grip with a sweep when they meet again in Week 12. With five of their final seven games on the road, the Titans could be in some trouble going forward, but they are 2-1 away from home and can help themselves this week by continuing that positive trend at Baltimore.
The Raiders have five home games left and their two road games are against the Falcons and Jets, so even a loss Sunday to the Chiefs might not do much to derail their postseason trajectory. A Week 16 matchup with Miami, though, could have major ramifications.
Baltimore closes the season with five games in which it should be favored, and the Ravens can enter that stretch in great shape if they win one of their next two.