NFL Instant Reactions: Week 16 Edition

The playoff picture is becoming even clearer after sixteen weeks of NFL action, with a few more teams punching their playoff tickets, so let’s take a look at how each team fared. Much like last week’s article, I have separated the teams into four different categories: True Contenders, Playoff Bound Material, Mediocre at Best, and Dead in the Water.

True Contenders: Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers.

The Eagles (13-2) were able to fend off the Raiders to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Vikings (12-3) also clinched a first round bye with a shutout victory over the Packers. Elsewhere, the Steelers (12-3) roughed up the Texans to clinch their first round bye, but the playoffs will still run through New England (12-3) if the standings hold next week. The Saints (11-4) remain tied with the Panthers (11-4) for the NFC South title, and will need another victory in Week 17 to guarantee at least one home game in the playoffs. The Rams (11-4) put a dent in the Titans playoff hopes, with another key victory.

Playoff Bound Material: Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans.

The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) kept their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling victory over the Dallas Cowboys (8-7), who were since eliminated in the playoff picture. The Jaguars (10-5) lost to the red-hot 49ers, but still were able to clinch the AFC South due to the Titans loss. The Falcons (9-6) lost a key divisional battle to the Saints, while the Chiefs (9-6) clinched the AFC West title with a victory over the Dolphins. The Ravens (9-6) look to punch their playoff tickets this week as well as the Titans; with the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Bills waiting for Tennessee to slip up in Week 17.

Mediocre at Best:  Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers.

The Redskins (7-8) got closer to their goal of ending the season on a strong note, by giving coach Jay Gruden a victory over the Broncos. The Lions (8-7) really hurt their playoff chances with a loss this week to the Bengals, while the 49ers look invincible with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. The Cowboys’ (8-7) season ended on a sour note with a loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve.  One has to wonder what changes will be coming in Dallas after failing to make the playoffs this season.

Dead in the Water: Cleveland Browns, NY Giants, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, NY Jets, Miami Dolphins.
The rest of these “basement dwellers” will be looking forward to the 2018 NFL Draft for help in multiple areas to try to build themselves as contenders next season. The quarterback carousel will be interesting to watch as many teams will look first to free agency to fill needs, while others will target the next young stars in the draft to lead their teams.

Be sure to check back next week to see the movement in these categories, which teams should start to be taken seriously, and the others we wish would just get off our TV screens for good.

Photo Credit: The Viking Age

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