The NFL Playoffs are looming on the horizon. We are on the downhill side of this convoluted pro football season, so players, coaches and fans alike are starting to think playoffs. However, injuries and the coronavirus have affected many players and coaches in the league, and it is difficult to calculate how those two factors will affect the NFL Playoffs this season. As it stands going into NFL Week 13, here is how the playoffs are shaping up.
The Steelers Dominate The AFC
In the AFC, the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers are dominate at the moment. They face the Baltimore Ravens today in a game that has been moved from Thanksgiving night, to Sunday afternoon, then to Tuesday night and finally to Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 CST. All moves were made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL front office in an attempt to deal with the COVID-19 cases that are affecting both the Steelers and particularly the Baltimore Ravens.
But the Steelers will remain in first place in the AFC and rate a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The rest will follow the established playoff scenario of 7 at 2, 6 at 3 and 5 at 4. As it stands today, that will put the #7 Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (10-1), the #6 Miami Dolphins (7-4) at #3 Tennessee Titans and the #5 Cleveland Browns (8-3) at #4 Buffalo Bills (8-3).
No team has clinched a spot in the playoffs just yet. Even if the Steelers beat the Ravens this afternoon, they are not guaranteed to be in, although they would have to really crash and burn at this point to fall out of contention.
The Baltimore Ravens, who had the #1 seed in the AFC at this time last year, are still on the outside looking in and need to win some games if they want to even qualify for a wild card spot.
The mighty New England Patriots have won the AFC East each year for the past 11 seasons, but appear to be incapable of extending that streak. Cam Newton is still struggling to fill the big shoes left when former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady moved down south to Tampa Bay. A lot will have to happen for the Pats to overtake the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East this year. The Bills have not won a division title since 1995.
In the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs are in the pole position at this time and need just two more wins to secure another division championship no matter what the runner up Las Vegas Raiders do.
In Week 12, the Tennessee Titans took over the lead in the AFC South with an impressive 45-26 win over the Indianapolis Colts making the Titans the team to beat if they are to be displaced at the top of the division.
As for the Wild Card Race, the upstart 8-3 Cleveland Browns, under the leadership of quarterback Baker Mayfield, are in the lead at the moment and have aspirations of making the playoffs for the first time since 2002
The Saints Look To Control The NFC
Over in the NFC, the determined New Orleans Saints at 9-2 are aiming at the playoffs again this year with or without veteran quarterback Drew Brees, who only has 11 cracked ribs to deal with himself. Head coach Sean Payton has a guy he refers to as his “Swiss Army Knife” in 30-year-old Taysom Hill, who is capable of playing any position on the field, but has been pressed into service as quarterback of the Saints due to the injury to Brees. Hill played quarterback at BYU when he was in college. New Orleans still has an experienced quarterback in Jameis Winston in reserve. The Saints have a first-round bye in the NFC Playoffs, and will gladly take advantage of the extra downtime.
If the NFC Playoffs started today, the #7 Arizona Cardinals would take on the #2 Seattle Seahawks, the #6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers would play the #3 Green Bay Packers and the #5 Los Angeles Rams would be matched up with the #4 New York Giants. However, there is still more work to be done and there is still a lot of NFL football to be played this season.