It is hard to believe, but it is week 14 already. The playoffs are right around the corner, that being said, who looks like a lock and who is out? Who needs to step it up is on the mind of every NFL fan. Let’s look at some key points in the standings and what there is left to play before the playoffs.
Playoffs, Are We Talking Playoffs?
Which teams are almost a guarantee playoff contender?
The Los Angeles Rams have an impressive 11-1 record. Both the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs have a 10-2 record. The New England Patriots have a 9-3 record. Of these four teams, the only one with a possible visible chink in the armor would be the Patriots, though it is mainly from injuries sidelining players. Last week, however, saw the return of their star receiver Rob Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady made quick use of him being back in the line-up.
As with any team, players staying healthy is a huge part of their playoff run. But these four teams are pretty healthy at the moment and should comfortably move into the top playoff spots.
Which teams are in a decent spot but need to stop slipping?
Of the eight teams so far projected to be seeds 3-6 in their prospective conference, some of them are seemingly having a problem hanging on to their spot. One of these are the Pittsburgh Steelers, while they are still on top of their division. It is a very close one, with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals breathing down their necks for their playoff spot.
After a strong five game winning streak, they have lost the last two. Both which could have been won. Last week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers was especially disheartening. After a bad call that allowed the Chargers to score a touchdown. The Steelers played with visibly less focus and allowed the Chargers to catch up. Then when tied at the end of the game, while trying to defend against a field goal attempt, they went offsides. Not once, not twice, but three times. This kind of unfocused behavior can easily push them out of the playoffs if it continues.
On the other side, a team that should be playing better but is on the danger bubble is the Minnesota Vikings. They, like the Steelers, have a tie in their win/loss record. They are also in a tight division with the Chicago Bears ahead of them and the Green Bay Packers two games behind. Although with four games left to go, the Packers aren’t out yet if they win out. The Vikings need to tighten up their defense so that they can keep the score closer or stay ahead. They have not done well in taking opportunities as they come and have fallen too far behind because of it. The next four weeks can see a lot of change if they can be more productive.
Who needs to start thinking about next year?
There are some teams that can’t make it into the playoffs this year no matter what. So what should they be doing between now and the start of the 2019 season? Two teams this year already made the decision to fire their head coaches. Not surprisingly was Cleveland Browns, very surprisingly to many was the Green Bay Packers.
There are two main people who blame falls to when teams lose. One is the head coach, the other is the quarterback. The New York Giants is a team that many have talked about. Namely is Eli Manning past his prime and replaceable. But how much blame is on a QB who throws to a receiver and hits him in the numbers and the receiver drops it. The Giants need a lot of rebuilding and they need to at least have a backup plan if they can’t work with Eli.
The Cleveland Browns are only 4-7-1, even this record is a vast improvement over past years of none or one win. So even with the firing of their coach, they are still rebuilding and growing. Their real test will be next year, when they name their permanent head coach and move forward from there.
There are only four weeks of games until the playoffs. The races for the playoff spots are still very tight and anything can happen. The next weeks are going to be decided not only on play quality. But be able to keep your team healthy and play defensively. Also, there will be a lot of coaching decisions coming on teams that clinch a spot on whether they should sit the stars to keep them healthy. The next weeks should be exciting. Off we go.
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