Week 15 of the NFL season, at long last, gave us some big answers to the playoff race.
The Packers are out, as are the Raiders. The Chiefs topped the Chargers in the race for the AFC West, while the Rams took over the Seahawks in the NFC West race. The Panthers knocked off the Packers, and the Patriots stole a win from the Steelers in perhaps the best game of the year.
Now, heading into the final two weeks, the playoff race is down to just a few spots.
Check out where each team stands heading into Week 16 below:
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: Lost to the Ravens, 27-10
This week: at Chicago Bears
One thing to know: The Browns have two more chances to get a win before new GM John Dorsey gets them “real players.”
31. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: Lost to the Broncos, 25-13
This week: at Baltimore Ravens
One thing to know: The Colts have been disappointing all season, playing from behind since the season began due to the loss of star quarterback Andrew Luck. While questions on Luck’s health still loom, head coach Chuck Pagano recently assured fans that he would be “back better than ever.”
30. New York Giants
Last week: Lost to the Eagles, 34-29
This week: at Arizona Cardinals
One thing to know: In a disastrous Giants season, a storyline worth following is the development of cornerback Eli Apple, who the Giants used a first-round pick on in 2016. All-Pro safety Landon Collins said this week that Apple needs to “grow up.”
29. Houston Texans
Last week: Lost to the Jaguars, 45-7
This week: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
One thing to know: Down to their third quarterback against the Jaguars, the Houston Texans will need to find some depth at the position this offseason, as Deshaun Watson’s injury completely derailed their 2017 season.
28. Chicago Bears
Last week: Lost to the Lions, 20-10
This week: vs. Cleveland Browns
One thing to know: According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, one NFL scout believes the Bears could be next year’s Rams – a poor team that makes a huge leap in one year. And the main reason for belief is Mitchell Trubisky.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: Lost to the Falcons, 24-21
This week: at Carolina Panthers
One thing to know: Jameis Winston had his best game of the 2017 season on Sunday, throwing for 299 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 27 of 35 passes – and it still wasn’t enough to get the Buccaneers to finally eat a W.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: Lost to the Vikings, 34-7
This week: vs. Detroit Lions
One thing to know: Reports surfaced before the Bengals’ Week 15 loss to the Vikings that head coach Marvin Lewis would part ways with the team after the season. Lewis, however, denied it, and when asked if he’d like to coach the team next year said, “Sure.”
25. New York Jets
Last week: Lost to the Saints, 31-19
This week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
One thing to know: The Jets were as surprisingly frisky as they have been all season against the Saints on Sunday, but could not come away with the win. The loss was especially costly for one brave bettor who put $US10,000 on New York to win outright – a result that would have won him $US100,000 in return. Even more devastating, he could have taken the points and covered the spread.
24. Denver Broncos
Last week: Beat the Colts, 25-13
This week: at Washington Redskins
One thing to know: Next up on the Broncos’ merry-go-round of quarterbacks is Paxton Lynch. The team reportedly wants to see the 2016 first-round pick again before the season is over, but need to be make sure he’s healthy first.
23. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: Beat the Titans, 25-23
This week: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
One thing to know: Jimmy Garoppolo led a drive in the final minute of Sunday’s game against the Titans to set up Robbie Gould for the game-winning field goal and remain 3-0 for his career starting for the Niners. Good thing Belichick found the right home for the talented young quarterback.
22. Miami Dolphins
Last week: Lost to the Bills, 24-16
This week: at Kansas City Chiefs
One thing to know: The Dolphins got basically what anyone could have expected out of Jay Cutler this season. His completion, touchdown, and interception percentages, and passer rating are all in line with his career averages. He couldn’t be the team’s saviour after the Ryan Tannehill injury.
21. Washington Redskins
Last week: Beat the Cardinals, 20-15
This week: vs. Denver Broncos
One thing to know: After another solid game from Kirk Cousins, questions still linger as to what the Redskins will do this offseason after using the franchise tag on the quarterback for two consecutive years.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: Lost to the Redskins, 20-15
This week: vs. New York Giants
One thing to know: The Cardinals placed Adrian Peterson on the IR last week. After a largely ineffective 2017 season in which he tried to show he could still be a lead back, Peterson’s next role will be interesting.
19. Green Bay Packers
Last week: Lost to the Panthers, 31-24
This week: vs. Minnesota Vikings
One thing to know: Aaron Rodgers return did not have the storybook ending everyone had hoped for, as the Packers lost to the Panthers and were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday. With a miracle run to the Super Bowl no longer a possibility, the Packers decided to protect their most valuable player, shutting down Rodgers for the season.
18. Oakland Raiders
Last week: Lost to the Cowboys, 20-17
This week: at Philadelphia Eagles
One thing to know: The Oakland Raiders lost to the worst rule in football when Derek Carr fumbled trying to dive for a touchdown. In turn, a team with Super Bowl aspirations won’t even make the postseason. Oakland has a lot of work to do this offseason.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: Lost to the Chiefs, 30-13
This week: at New York Jets
One thing to know: Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs ended a four-game winning streak and was pretty devastating to the Chargers’ playoff hopes. Still, FiveThirtyEight projects the team has a 36% chance to make the postseason if they can win out against the Jets and Raiders.
16. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: Lost to the Rams, 42-7
This week: at Dallas Cowboys
One thing to know: It appears the “Legion of Boom” is at its end after an embarrassing loss to the Rams. The Seahawks are getting expensive and their core defenders are on the wrong side of 30 with ugly injury histories.
15. Detroit Lions
Last week: Beat the Bears, 20-10
This week: at Cincinnati Bengals
One thing to know: The Lions stayed alive in the playoff hunt with a win against the Bears on Sunday, but they will need help from the NFC South if they’re going to sneak into the postseason.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: Beat the Raiders, 20-17
This week: vs. Seattle Seahawks
One thing to know: The Cowboys are outside of the playoff race, but they have won three in a row and welcome back Ezekiel Elliott this week. Of course, beating the Seahawks and Eagles back to back is no easy feat.
13. Tennessee Titans
Last week: Lost to the 49ers, 25-23
This week: vs. Los Angeles Rams
One thing to know: The Titans currently hold the first Wild Card spot in the AFC, but with remaining games against the Rams and Jaguars, they will still have to beat one of the best teams in football to earn a trip to the postseason.
12. Buffalo Bills
Last week: Beat the Dolphins, 24-16
This week: at New England Patriots
One thing to know: Two weeks after a dirty hit by Rob Gronkowski on cornerback Tre’Davious White, the Bills are insisting that they will not try to exact revenge this week.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: Beat the Browns, 27-10
This week: vs. Indianapolis Colts
One thing to know: Despite currently being on the outside looking in, FiveThirtyEight gives the Ravens an 87% chance to make the playoffs. They will have to jump either the Titans or the Bills to sneak into the Wild Card.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: Beat the Chargers, 30-13
This week: vs. Miami Dolphins
One thing to know: The Chiefs are 6-0 when rookie running back Kareem Hunt gains 100 or more yards on the ground. After a mid-season slump, Hunt has back-to-back 100-yard games, and the Chiefs have gone 2-0.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: Beat the Buccaneers, 24-21
This week: at New Orleans Saints
One thing to know: While they currently sit in third in the NFC South, the Falcons finish the season against two rivals, and can still make a jump to take the division and earn a home playoff game should they win out.
8. New Orleans Saints
Last week: Beat the Jets, 31-19
This week: vs. Atlanta Falcons
One thing to know: The Saints became the first team since the 1970s to send two running backs to the Pro Bowl. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have been vital to the Saints’ turnaround season.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: Beat the Giants, 34-29
This week: vs. Oakland Raiders
One thing to know: Nick Foles looked right at home replacing Carson Wentz under center for the Eagles, throwing for four touchdowns in his first start of the season. Surprisingly, it was the Eagles’ defence that looked shaky – something Philadelphia will have to clean up if they hope to still make a run at the Super Bowl.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: Beat the Texans, 45-7
This week: at San Francisco 49ers
One thing to know: Blake Bortles has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in December. No, seriously. He has seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 128 passer rating while the Jags have gone 3-0, averaging 35 points per game.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: Lost to the Patriots, 27-24
This week: at Houston Texans
One thing to know: Not only did the Steelers lose a heartbreaker of a game on Sunday thanks to a controversial call, they also lost star wide receiver Antonio Brown for the remainder of the regular season. If Pittsburgh can win out the rest of the way, they will secure a first-round bye and ensure that Brown gets an extra week of recovery.
4. Carolina Panthers
Last week: Beat the Packers, 31-24
This week: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One thing to know: The Panthers ended the Packers’ long-shot playoff hopes and continued to establish themselves as a team to fear this postseason. They have won six of seven games, scored over 30 points in five straight games, and Cam Newton has seven touchdowns to one interception in December.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: Beat the Seahawks, 42-7
This week: at Tennessee Titans
One thing to know: Todd Gurley ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns against the Seahawks on Sunday, as the Rams look to be peaking at just the right time to make a run through the wide open NFC playoff race.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: Beat the Bengals, 34-7
This week: at Green Bay Packers
One thing to know: The Vikings’ beatdown of the Bengals offered the opportunity for Teddy Bridgewater to get into a game for the first time since January 2016. He got a huge ovation and then threw a pick on his first pass attempt.
1. New England Patriots
Last week: Beat the Steelers, 27-24
This week: vs. Buffalo Bills
One thing to know: With their win over the Steelers, the Patriots clinched the AFC East and took hold of the top seed in the conference. The game could have huge ramifications down the line, including giving New England home-field advantage should the teams meet again in the AFC Championship.
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