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Two major injuries are still developing as I write this article that will have an effect on the rest of the season. New Orleans quarterback, Jameis Winston suffered a potential season-ending knee injury which will be a blow for the Saints. But, maybe even more damaging, is the foot injury to Tennessee running back, Derrick Henry. If he is out for an extended time, the Titans will be weakened significantly. There were great wins for Green Bay, Dallas, and New Orleans and the Cardinals lost for the first time. Let’s update the divisions and look at some early playoff projections.
LOCK TO WIN THE DIVISION: Dallas The Cowboys showed me a lot in their win over Minnesota on Sunday night. Behind back-up quarterback, Cooper Rush, they beat the Vikings 20-16 to run their record to 6-1. Playoff Projection: 100% Division Winner: 100%
NO CHANCE AT ALL: New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington The motivation for these three teams is finishing 2nd in the division and winning as many games as they can.
LOCK TO WIN THE DIVISION: Green Bay has this division, all but clinched after 8 games. They have more wins than the other three teams combined win total. Playoff Projection: 100% Division Winner: 100%
NO CHANCE AT ALL: Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit. Hard to make an argument for any of these three teams.
SUDDENLY WE HAVE A RACE FOR THE DIVISION: Tampa Bay and New Orleans. With their win Sunday over the Buccaneers, the Saints have made this a 2-team battle for the NFC South.
Tampa Bay is 6-2 after losing to New Orleans and they have to shore up the defense. They have nine games left and and they will be favored in every one of them. They have road games at Washington, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Carolina, and the Jets. Those are all very winnable. The home schedule includes the Giants, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Carolina. They might win all nine games they have left. Playoff Projection: 100% Division Winner: 75%
New Orleans is now 5-2, but they probably lost their quarterback for the rest of the season, in the win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. This puts a damper on the remainder of the season and it is harder to determine their playoff chances. Their remaining schedule includes difficult games at home against Buffalo and Dallas and road tests at Tennessee and Tampa Bay. They could lose all four of them and still be in the hunt. The rest of the schedule (home games with Atlanta, Miami, and Carolina), and (road games at Philadelphia, New York Jets, and Atlanta), are all very winnable. Playoff Projection: 50% Division Winner: 25%
LONG SHOT: Carolina broke their 4-game losing streak with a win at Atlanta. They are now at 4-4 and that’s about what they are. Their upcoming schedule includes home games with New England and Tampa Bay, and road games at Arizona, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. Those are all very difficult. Projected Record: 7-10
OUT OF THE PICTURE: Atlanta is 3-5 and just don’t have enough to contend.
LOOK LIKE LOCKS FOR THE PLAYOFFS: Arizona and Los Angeles Both of these teams are 7-1, and barring a collapse, one will win the division and the other will be a wild card team.
The Cardinals have nine games left and will be favored in five of them ( Carolina, at Chicago, at Detroit, Indianapolis, and Seattle). They have toss-up games at San Francisco and at Seattle. They will be probably be underdogs at home against the Rams and at Dallas. Playoff Projection: 90% Division Winner: 50%
The Rams schedule might be a little tougher than the Cardinals. They have home games with Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Francisco and they will be favored in all of them. They have difficult road games at San Francisco, Green Bay, Arizona, Minnesota, and Baltimore. Playoff Projection: 99% Division Winner 50%
CAN THEY MAKE A RUN?: San Francisco and Seattle.
The 49ers rebounded from a 4-game losing streak with a season-saving win at Chicago to bring their record to 3-4. Can they get back in the hunt and make a run at the playoffs? The next two weeks are crucial to their chances. They have Arizona and the Rams at home and if they can win both of those they suddenly are alive. Their other three home games, (Minnesota, Atlanta, and Houston), are all very winnable. The bad news is the road game schedule. They have a must-win at Jacksonville, followed by a gauntlet run at Seattle, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and the Rams. They have a chance; but are they good enough? Playoff Projection: 30% Division Winner: 0%
Seattle is 3-5 and they have five winnable games remaining. Assuming they can win all of those, that would give them 8 wins. Their other 4 games are a home and home with Arizona, and road games at Green Bay and Los Angeles against the Rams. Playoff Projection: 25% Division Winner: 0%
HEAVY FAVORITE TO WIN THE DIVISION: Buffalo 5-2 has the best team and a game and a half lead in the division. Out of their 10 games left, they will be heavy favorites in six of them. Their tough games include road games at New England, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. They also have the Patriots in Buffalo. Playoff Chances: 100% Division Winner: 95%
GETTING BETTER EACH WEEK: New England 4-4 has won two straight and have played well most of the season. They aren’t as good as the Bills but they could make a run at a wild card spot in the AFC. They have home games left with Cleveland, Tennessee, Buffalo, and Jacksonville. Winning all four will be difficult. The road schedule includes winnable games at Carolina, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Miami. They also have a trip to Buffalo. To win 10 games, they have to win six of those games. Playoff Chances 25% Division Winner 5%
PLAYING OUT THE STRING: The Dolphins and the Jets.
WHO WILL WIN THE DIVISION: Baltimore 5-2 is probably the favorite, but there is a ton of football left. In all likelihood, these teams are going to take turns knocking each other off. The Ravens schedule includes home games against Minnesota, Cleveland, Green Bay, the Rams, and Pittsburgh. There isn’t a breather in the bunch. They go to Miami, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Playoff Chances: 95% Division Winner: 50%
Pittsburgh 4-3 The Steelers have won three straight and are starting to play their way back into the playoff picture. In the next two weeks, they have Chicago and Detroit at home and those are must wins. Their other three home games are toughies against, Baltimore, Tennessee, and Cleveland. They need to win at least 2 of those because their road schedule is brutal with trips to Cincinnati, the Chargers, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Baltimore. Playoff Chances: 60% Division Winner 35%
Cincinnati 5-3: The Bengals are going to look back at Sunday’s loss to the Jets and get sick to their stomach. In this difficult division, you can’t afford to lose those games. They have six games left at home, beginning next week against Cleveland. The other five games are against Pittsburgh, the Chargers, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Kansas City. The good news is they only have 3 road games left with trips to Las Vegas, Denver, and Cleveland. Playoff Chances 30% Division Winner 10%
Cleveland 4-4: The Browns have been disappointing but they can point to a ton of injuries as part of the blame. They haven’t been able to win close games and that is the sign of a non-playoff team. They are on the road the next two weeks against Cincinnati and New England and these two games might be the key to their season. They also have road games at Baltimore, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh. The four home games left are against Detroit, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Cincinnati. Playoff Chances 10% Division Winner: 5%
LOOKS LIKE A LOCK TO WIN THE DIVISION: Tennessee Titans 6-2 They won their 3rd straight big game as they outlasted division foe Indianapolis 34-31. They have 9 games left and will be favored in at least 6 of them, even if Derrick Henry is out with an injury. Playoff Chances: 100% Division Winner: 100%
ONLY OTHER TEAM WITH ANY CHANCE: Indianapolis 3-5 The Colts really needed to win last Sunday at home against Tennessee. They still have tough games at Buffalo and Arizona ,and home tests against Tampa Bay, New England, and Las Vegas. Let’s assume they win two of those and all of the other four games left that would leave them at 9-8. Playoff Chances: 5%
NO CHANCE IN HELL: Jacksonville 1-6 and Houston 1-7.
ANY OF THESE TEAMS CAN WIN THE DIVISION: Las Vegas, Kansas City, Los Angeles
Las Vegas: The Raiders are 5-2 and are in first place after the Chargers loss on Sunday. They have must-win games at home against Washington, Denver, and Cincinnati. On the road, they can’t slip up against the Giants and Indianapolis. They are probably going to lose at Dallas and Cleveland. The division title is likely to come down to the two games with Kansas City and the Chargers at home on the last game of the season. Playoff Chances: 50% Division Winner: 33%
Kansas City: The Chiefs are still the team to beat in this division, if they can get back on track. Their schedule isn’t easy as they have Green Bay, Dallas, Vegas, Pittsburgh, and Denver at home. Four of those teams are in the playoff hunt. Their road games are at Vegas, the Chargers, Cincinnati, and Denver. It’s not going to be easy, but they have the quarterback and the talent to make a run. Playoff Chances: 50% Division Winner 33%
Los Angeles: They were the darlings of the league three weeks ago, but they have become the Chargers of the past, losing two games wrapped around a bye week. They are 4-3 and their schedule is easier than the other two contenders. Their home games are against, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Kansas City, and Denver. The Kansas City game is especially important because if they beat the Chiefs, they would have beaten them in both meetings. They go on the road against, Philadelphia, Denver, Cincinnati, Houston, and Las Vegas. If they get back to form, they could parlay this schedule into a division title. Playoff Chances: 50% Division Winner: 33%
PLAYING THE SPOILER ROLE: Denver The Broncos will have a say on who wins the division as they play the Chargers and Chiefs twice and the Raiders once. However, they aren’t good enough to make the playoffs this year.
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