With Week 15 of the 2015 NFL season approaching, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. While much of the league has yet to be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, 17 teams are realistically battling for 12 spots.
Five divisions have been essentially wrapped up, three remain undecided. Three AFC teams are battling for two wild-card spots, and it seems pretty clear which two NFC teams will get the No.5 and No.6 seeds. With more than half of the league still having a shot to make the playoffs, most of the games in Week 15 have playoff implications.
NFC Divisions And Wild Card
The Carolina Panthers have already clinched the NFC South title, and the Arizona Cardinals need just one more victory to win the NFC West. All it takes is one more win to get the Green Bay Packers in the postseason, and the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks are two games up in the wild-card race with three weeks left. That leaves the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants all competing for one playoff berth and the NFC East title.
New York has the biggest challenge ahead of them when they host undefeated Carolina, though Philadelphia doesn’t have it much better by having to host Arizona. The Redskins welcome the Buffalo Bills to Washington, but they aren’t even favored in their Week-15 contest.
The Dallas Cowboys are two games back in the NFC East will little chance to make the playoffs. But their primetime matchup with the New York Jets has much more significance then the Thursday or Monday night games. While those games have no playoff implications, Saturday night’s game between the Jets and Cowboys will play a major role in the AFC playoff picture.
AFC Wild Card Race
The Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers are all battling for the AFC wild-card spots. All three teams sit at 8-5 with the Chiefs and Jets holding the No.5 and No.6 seeds, respectively. Pittsburgh faces one of its toughest tests of the season in Week 15 when the Steelers host the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs visit the banged up Baltimore Ravens, who have looked particuarly weak.
Pittsburgh trails the Cincinnati Bengals by two games in the AFC North, but the Steelers have an outside chance to take first place in Week 17. Andy Dalton won’t need surgery to repair his injured thumb, but he might miss the rest of the regular season. Backup A.J. McCarron had just four career pass attempts before playing on Sunday, and he was intercepted twice in a Cincinnati loss.
The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts are battling for the AFC South title, and Sunday’s game between the two rivals might be the determining factor in who wins the division. Both teams are 6-7, and because of a win in their matchup from earlier this season, Indianapolis would take a commanding lead with a Week 15 victory.
It’s uncertain what two quarterbacks will start in the AFC South contest. Andrew Luck will return to practice on Wednesday, but he still needs to be cleared to play for the first time since Nov. 8. Brian Hoyer suffered his second concussion of 2015 on Sunday, and T.J. Yates might have to get the start for Houston.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are still in the AFC North race at 5-8. In Week 15, they host the Atlanta Falcons, who have lost six games in a row, likely ending their playoff chances.
Three games in Week 15 feature no team that has a realistic chance to make the postseason, including the final game on the schedule. The Detroit Lions visit the New Orleans Saints on Monday night with both teams combining for a 9-17 record.