The NFL playoff picture is extremely muddled, at the start of Week 14 of the 2014 season. With no dominant Super Bowl favorite and 18 teams having between seven and nine wins, many scenarios exist for the final playoff picture.
Nearly half of the NFC has been virtually eliminated from contention, but no team has more than a one-game lead in the division. Only four AFC teams are below .500, and six teams are currently tied for the final playoff spot.
Below are predictions for the final division and wild-card races. Click here for a look at the current 2014 NFL standings.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks in Week 14, defeating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving puts them in the driver’s seat of the division. Philadelphia is unbeaten at Lincoln Financial Field, and they’ll be favored over Dallas when they host their rivals in Week 15. A win for the Eagles would all but give them the NFC East title.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have proven to be the best team in the NFL, and they might not lose for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. Even if they stumble and give the Lions some hope, a home game against Detroit in Week 17 gives Green Bay the perfect opportunity to clinch. The Packers are 6-0 at Lambeau Field, winning by an average of 21.5 points per game.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans has a much easier remaining schedule than Atlanta, who still has to visit Green Bay and host Pittsburgh. The Saints have no games left with winning teams, and they have a good chance to end the season with at least an 8-8 record.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
The defending champs might have gotten off to a slow start, but they remain the best team in the division. Even though they trail the Cardinals by a game, they could take command of the NFC West by beating Arizona in Week 16, considering they’ve already beaten Arizona once. The Cardinals have lost two games in a row without Carson Palmer, and games against three winning teams and the Rams won’t make things any easier.
NFC Wild Card: Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions
With nine wins through 12 games and two home games remaining, the Cardinals can afford a few losses and still make the postseason. Head-to-head wins give them key tiebreakers over the Eagles, Cowboys and Lions, which could be the deciding factor. Detroit gets the edge over Dallas because of their schedules. The Lions will face three losing teams, and their finale with the Packers might mean nothing for Green Bay. The Cowboys still have to deal with the Colts and Eagles, as well as the Redskins, who they already lost to in Week 8.
AFC East: New England Patriots
The Bills and Dolphins have been good in 2014, but the Patriots have the division all but wrapped up. Eleven wins will get the job done, unless Buffalo or Miami goes undefeated, which isn’t likely.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
All four teams have a chance to win the division, but the Bengals aren’t likely to relinquish their 1.5-game lead. Baltimore’s two losses to Cincinnati will make it difficult for them to bypass the Bengals, and the way Brian Hoyer is playing could prevent the Browns from finishing the year with a winning record. Pittsburgh has the best chance with two games left against Cincinnati, but they’ll have trouble winning both contests, which might be what they need to do.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
This may be the easiest divisional race to call. Indianapolis can clinch on Sunday with a victory and a Houston loss.
AFC West: Denver Broncos
Kansas City is no competition for Denver, having lost twice to the Broncos. Denver’s one-game lead over San Diego is no guarantee that they’ll win the division, but the Chargers might have the most difficult remaining schedule in all of football. In addition to home games against New England and Denver, San Diego must travel to San Francisco and Kansas City.
AFC Wild Card: Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite their one-game lead in the wild-card race, San Diego’s schedule could doom them. Of the six 7-5 AFC teams, Miami is in the best position to make the postseason. Other than currently holding the tiebreaker over the contenders for the No.6 seed, they have three home games remaining, including two against losing teams. With games against San Diego and Pittsburgh, Kansas City has a chance to defeat their competition for the wild-card spot. They also have what should be an easy victory, when they host Oakland.