2018 NFL Playoff Outlook: Current Standings and Predictions

Current Playoff Picture: NFL Standings and Predictions

The 2018 NFL season is winding down and the playoffs are right around the corner. With five games left, however, there is still plenty of time for the playoff picture to shift. Other than a few locks such as the Saints, Rams and Chiefs, playoff seeding could drastically change in the coming weeks. We're taking a look at the current playoff picture, with our predictions for how everything will play out in the coming weeks. 
Ryan Brennan

With the NFL entering Week 13, the NFL playoffs are right around the corner and teams are either gearing up for some extra football or looking forward to the draft and free agency. On the other hand, some teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot and are fighting each week for the chance at a Super Bowl run.

There’s a ton to be excited about this postseason, with a fresh variety of youth and veteran talent leading the way. Even more exciting is the fact that the playoff picture continues to look a little different each and every week, and with five games remaining anything can happen.

In this playoff outlook, we will look at the teams that are most likely to make the cut, as well as the team’s that could make a late-season push. Let’s start our journey in the AFC.

 

AFC Division Leaders

New England Patriots (8-3)

Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

Houston Texans (8-3)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

 

In the AFC, the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are locks to make it into the postseason. For the Patriots, it would take a massive breakdown in order for the Buffalo Bills or Miami Dolphins to beat them out. For the Chiefs, there’s only one game between them and the Los Angeles Chargers, but no matter what team comes out on top in the AFC West, the other team will get a wild card spot.

The Houston Texans have won 8 straight games after starting the season 0-3, as they’ve shown no signs of slowing down. With an easy schedule the rest of the way, they should beat out the Colts and Titans in the South. Up North, the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently trying to fend off the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. With Andy Dalton on IR, the Ravens will likely be the team pressing the Steelers, but a difficult schedule won’t make it easy.

 

AFC Wild Card

As mentioned above, the Chiefs (9-2) and Chargers (8-3) are currently fighting for the AFC West title. Looking at the rest of the Wild Card contenders, it’s unlikely that we don’t see both of these teams in the playoffs. That leaves just one wild card spot up for grabs in the AFC. 

Currently, the Ravens and Colts have the edge for that spot at 6-5, but a slew of teams are sitting at 5-6 waiting for one of those teams to crack, including the Dolphins, Bengals, Broncos and Titans. A tough schedule for the Ravens, Andy Dalton on the IR and two-game losing streaks for the Dolphins and Titans will make this an interesting battle as the Broncos have won two straight.

 

NFC Division Leaders

New Orleans Saints (10-1)

Los Angeles Rams (10-1)

Chicago Bears (8-3)

Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

 

The NFC doesn’t hold as many question marks as the AFC, with only one division still up for grabs. The Saints and Rams are locks for first-round byes as both teams look untouchable at 10-1. As of right now, they are the favorites to meet in the NFC Championship unless we see an upset in the playoffs. 

For the Chicago Bears, they are in good position to take the NFC North with the Vikings 1.5 games back. Both teams have tough schedules the rest of the season, which should make Week 17 a nail-biting affair as the two will likely play for the division at season’s end.

In the NFC East, the Cowboys and Redskins are neck-and-neck at 6-5 after their Thanksgiving Day matchup that saw the Cowboys walk away victorious. The Redskins have a much easier schedule ahead, making the Cowboys’ road to a division championship a little more difficult.

 

NFC Wild Card

Currently in contention for a Wild Card spot are the Redskins, Vikings, Seahawks and Panthers. Looking at strength of schedule moving forward, the Redskins will have the easiest road to either a division win or Wild Card. Assuming that the Redskins/Cowboys both secure a spot in the playoffs, that leaves one spot open in the NFC.

The Panthers still have two meetings with the Saints, hurting their chances at a spot. The Seahawks have a meeting with the Chiefs, but play the 49ers twice, giving them an edge over the Panthers. The Seahawks also play the Vikings, which could help or hurt their chances.

 

Our Predictions

First Round Bye: Chiefs, Patriots, Saints, Rams

Other 4 In: Steelers, Texans, Bears, Redskins 

Wild Card: Chargers, Broncos, Seahawks, Cowboys

   

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