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The Unpredictable NFL Playoff Push

In a tight race for playoff spots, each NFL team is fighting day in and day out. No one has a guaranteed spot clinched as the season reaches its 14th week. While some teams have stood out over others, the five, six, and seven seeds in both the NFC and AFC are there for the taking and with this being one of the most unpredictable seasons in NFL history, no one knows who will fill these spots. For example, a 1-10-1 Lions team still has a chance to make the playoffs and they’re starting to catch fire as the season progresses. The outcome is nearly impossible to pinpoint but looking into the playoff picture as of Wednesday, December 7th, here is where everyone stands and needs to be to get the playoff spot they want. 


To start, each team that wins their specific division guarantee itself a top-four playoff spot, while the team with the best record gets the one seed and a bye week throughout the first week of the playoffs. While everyone has their personal favorites, no spot is locked up. While certain teams have better chances of making the playoffs than others, nothing is guaranteed and no one spot is locked up as the NFL heads into Week 14. 


Looking into the NFC, the entire division is wide open. However, the Green Bay Packers are red hot right now, as they dethroned the then-undefeated Arizona Cardinals in week eight and just recently defeated the star-studded Los Angeles Rams this past week. They’re looking at taking the one seed this week with a win over the Chicago Bears and a Los Angeles Rams victory over the Arizona Cardinals. 


While the three teams mentioned are all playoff favorites at the moment, there is a battle for the remaining spots amongst all teams. The Washington Football Team has emerged as a contender and is currently holding the sixth seed in the NFC after their recent wins over the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and have won four straight including that game. With the loss of second-year defensive end Chase Young, their offense has stepped up to put up enough points to win them games while their defense has taken their game to another level. Their remaining schedule consists of all inner-division games against all their NFC East opponents and with a couple of wins throughout those games, they will most likely see themselves in the playoffs. 


While the Football Team has hit their stride late in the season, the Dallas Cowboys still hold the number one spot in that division with a record of 8-4. They have been one of many teams plagued with injuries, as star receivers Ceedee Lamb and Amari Cooper have both missed a handful of games along with veteran tackle Tyron Smith. However, they have made the most of their season and came out showing they are competitors and a threat to any team standing in their way. The two teams face off in Week 14 in a game that could determine who wins that division. 


Just recently, the San Fransico 49ers overtook the seventh seed in the NFC despite their loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13. While they have this spot secure as of the current moment, there are nine total teams that have a chance to take that spot from them and very well could. Some teams’ chances are higher than others, but that last spot in the playoffs could land in the hands of any team that catches fire within the coming weeks. 


Once fans shift gears and look into the AFC, the race for a playoff spot is even tighter and has 13 teams with six or more wins. The main thing to look at here is the recent uprise of the New England Patriots. After starting the season 2-4, they have won seven straight games to overtake the top spot amongst all AFC teams. In these games, they have outscored opponents 225-73 and posted a shutout against the Atlanta Falcons in the process. Coach Bill Belichick has received much credit, as fans and analysts praise how he was able to rebuild this team in one offseason and get them to where they are now with their new rookie quarterback, Mac Jones. Talks have arisen for Belichick to win coach and executive of the year and many believe he is on pace to do so.


Furthermore, the two through four seeds are open for anyone to take. The first four seeds go to the teams that won their respective division and from there, they are sorted out by their record. Prior to week 14, the Tennesse Titans have the two seed as they lead the AFC South, the Ravens have the three seed as they lead the AFC North, and the Chiefs hold the four seed as they lead the AFC West. While they are the frontrunners as the NFL reaches its final weeks of the season, the teams trailing them in their own particular divisions are all only one game behind. No spot is locked up on this side and every seed is open for the taking.


Looking into the five through seven seeds, they are currently possessed in order by the Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Buffalo Bills. Looking at the Bills first, they were favorites to win the AFC and make it to the Super Bowl by many fans and analysts going into this season. While they have played well up to this point, they sit at 7-5, a record no one would have expected from them at this point in the season. While it is never too late to turn things around, they must do so quickly because there are a handful of teams pushing for the final playoff spot. Furthermore, the Chargers and Bengals both sit at second in their respective divisions and currently hold the five and six seeds. While they sit in these low seeds now, they are in close races for their divisional titles which if they win their divisions, they can lock up a top-four spot based on their record in comparison to the other four teams who have won their divisions in the AFC. 


With the race being close and no telling what is to come, no analyst can predict what the final outcome of this season will be. It will seemingly come down to which team catches fire late in the season and run away with the Lombardi trophy. The number of scenarios is limitless and it makes for one of the most unforeseeable seasons in recent years. With Super Bowl LVI scheduled for February 13th, 2022, the remainder of the season will consist of teams battling for their chance to bring a trophy back to their city.