PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Let’s take our weekly look back at the week that was in the NFL for week 15.
AFC NORTH RECAP
For the 2nd straight week the AFC North was less than stellar. The Bengals got the only win in the division and as a whole the division is 1-7 in the past 2 weeks. The Bengals won on the road on Thursday night in Philadelphia. That was followed by 3 losses on Sunday, the Ravens losing at home to Denver, the Steelers in Dallas and Cleveland at home against Washington.
Amazingly just 5 weeks ago the AFC North looked like it was clearly the best division in the NFL and could possibly put 3 teams into the playoffs for the 2nd straight year. Fast forward 5 weeks and the Ravens are losers of 3 straight and the Steelers have dropped 4 of 5. Cincinnati on the flip side has won 4 of 5. All 3 teams are still vying for the playoffs and even have an outside chance at making them, but that seems very unlikely at this point.
Who makes that playoff run will all come down to these last 2 weeks of the season, so let’s take a look at who each team plays this weekend. Here is what the slate looks like for Week 16.
WEEK 16 SCHEDULE:
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Cleveland @ Denver
NY Giants @ Baltimore
The playoff picture was cleared up considerably in Week 15 with 3 teams clinching playoff spots and many more teams being eliminated from contention. In the AFC, Baltimore clinched a playoff spot despite losing because the Steelers also lost. Week 15 also eliminated a group of AFC teams, Cleveland, Miami, NY Jets, Buffalo and San Diego all had their playoff hopes dashed with losses on this week. That leaves 3 teams, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, fighting for the final 2 spots and all 3 teams control their own destiny, win out and they are in. The Colts have a game up on Cincinnati and 2 on Pittsburgh with just 2 games remaining and look like the most likely candidate for the #5 seed. However, despite being behind Baltimore with just 2 weeks left, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh can still win the AFC North. This weeks game between the two teams will basically act as an elimination game between the 2, although the Bengals would still have an outside chance with a loss Sunday.
The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win this week against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. The Colts can clinch a wild card spot with a win in Kansas City. The Bengals can still win the AFC North if they win their last 2 games and Baltimore loses their last two. The same goes for Pittsburgh, if they win their final 2 and Baltimore loses their last 2, Pittsburgh will win the division. If the season were to end today, this is how the teams would be seeded.
1. Houston (12-2) AFC South *clinched playoff berth
2. Denver (11-3) AFC West *clinched division title
3. New England (10-4) AFC East *clinched division title
4. Baltimore (9-5) AFC North *clinched playoff spot
5. Indianapolis (9-5)
6. Cincinnati (8-6)
In the NFC, there are still more teams fighting for the final spots in the playoffs. San Francisco and Green Bay both clinched playoff spots this week, the Packers clinched their division, while the Niners simply clinched a spot. That leaves 6 teams fighting for the final 3 spots. The NFC East is completely up for grabs with the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all tied at the top with a record of 8-6. Right now the Redskins own all the tie breakers, but it could come down to their head-to-head game at home with Dallas the final game of the regular season. As for the wildcards in the NFC, one or even both of the teams from the NFC East that don’t win the division could claim those wildcard spots, but right now Minnesota and Seattle control those spots. Chicago is also on the outside looking in as they vie for a wildcard spot too, despite losing 5 of their last 6. Here is a look at the NFC playoffs, if the season were to end today.
1. Atlanta (12-2) NFC South *clinched division title
2. San Francisco (10-3-1) NFC West *clinched playoff spot
3. Green Bay (10-4) NFC North *clinched division title
4. Washington (8-6) NFC East
5. Seattle (9-5)
6. Minnesota (8-6)
NY Giants (8-6)