With only a month left of NFL action, the AFC and NFC playoff race is heating up and absolutely no-one’s Super Bowl dreams are set in stone.
Under the new playoff format this year, only the number one seed from each conference will get a first round bye. In addition, there will be one new wild card team added into the playoff mix. With these new rules put into place there will simply be a lot more competition not only to claim a spot in the playoffs but to obtain the number one seed.
Front-Runners in the AFC:
In terms of the AFC playoff race, according to the New York Times, the reigning super bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have a 52% chance to obtain the one seed followed closely by the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 46% chance. Considering the top two teams take up 98%, it is safe to say that it is a two horse race for the one spot. However, I would be a fool if I did not mention the Buffalo Bills who sit at a healthy 9-3 record and play the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. If the Bills can scrounge up a win against the downward trending Steelers, things could shake up considerably near the top of the conference.
Front-Runners in the NFC:
In terms of the NFC playoff race, it seems as though the 10-2 New Orleans Saints have a commanding 66% chance to win the number one seed in the NFC and are currently undefeated in their past 3 games with starting quarterback Drew Brees injured. The next closest team is the Green Bay Packers sitting at a 9-3 record with a 27% shot at the one seed. While I would say the AFC is definitely more top heavy in terms of favorites to win it all, there are definitely a couple of scrappy teams from the wild-card that could make a splash in the playoffs much like the sixth-seed Titans did just a year ago.
Surprise Wild-Card Selections:
In the AFC, the Cleveland Browns are one of the biggest surprises on this entire list. Currently sitting at nine wins and three losses, this is the first time since 2007 since they had a winning record in a season. Furthermore if they make the playoffs this year, it will be the first time since 2002. Real eye-popping stats there but there is a lot of hope for Browns fans who are hot off a win against the AFC South leading Tennessee Titans. Another team to watch out for are in the wild-card are the Miami Dolphins. While they are a little shaky due to rookie Quarterback play, their defense is playing at another level as they have tallied at least one takeaway in 18 consecutive games to this point meaning their defense creates turnovers and gives the team better chances to score.
In the NFC Wild-Card, pay attention to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. In an extremely loaded NFC West division, The Seattle Seahawks have veteran play at QB as well as some of the most athletics and dynamic specimens at WR in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (as well as Josh Gordon when he comes off suspension in Week 16). Their defense however will be the x-factor as they have struggled all season long allowing the second most yards per game and being dead last in passing yards allowed. Overall, things are getting down to the wire and I for one am very excited to see how the playoff picture pans out.
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