The Race to Minnesota: Week 11

Week 11 had a fairly significant impact on the Play Off picture, even if those sitting in the box seats didn’t actually change that much. Several teams either slipped back toward the pack or saw their chances improve thanks to others failing to capitalise on their advantage.

Here is how the Play Off picture looks after Week 11:

In the AFC, the Steelers maintained their edge over the Patriots for home field advantage with a commanding win over the Titans. Replicate those sort of performances and they should avoid travelling in the Play Offs given their remaining schedule sees them play only one team with a winning record. We all know about the Steelers and ‘lesser’ opposition though.

The Chiefs missed out on the chance to solidify their post season position after a dismal performance against the Giants. They still have a two game cushion over the rest of the West, but they might want to start looking over their shoulders soon.

The Jaguars are now a game ahead in the South and have a relatively easy run in so the division is theirs to lose. That Week 17 game against Tennessee is still key in my opinion.

The Ravens are now in the Wild Card round courtesy of their shut out of Green Bay and Sean McDermott’s best efforts to avoid playing in January (more on that shortly). A strong finish from them and they control their own destiny.

In the hunt

Buffalo Bills (5-5) – I can only presume Sean McDermott has a holiday booked early in the New Year. The Nathan Peterman experiment was a flat out terrible idea in my opinion and the timing of the decision even worse. The Bills now find themselves chasing a Wild Card spot again, and you have to wonder what the mood is in the locker room right about now.

Oakland Raiders (4-6) – losing to the Patriots is no big surprise, but there is a definite lack of spark with the Raiders right now. Defensively weak and offensively lacking any direction, they are certainly on a back slide, and with strong opposition a plenty still to come, they could well be out of the hunt before long.

Miami Dolphins (4-6) – could Jay Cutler’s concussion be the best thing that has happened to the Play Off push for the Dolphins? Matt Moore isn’t Tom Brady, but at least he looks interested. If they can string a few wins together, they could well sneak a Wild Card spot.

New York Jets (4-6) – a week off and the Play Off picture slid back toward the Jets. It’s an outside shot still but the way the AFC is going, who knows?!

Cincinnati Bengals (4-6) – yes, the Red Rifle could make that Play Off game yet. He’d lose it though. Probably.

Houston Texans – (4-6) – Tom Savage looks (a little) better each week and they are yet to play each of the Ravens, Jaguars and Titans. Some must win matchups coming thick and fast for Savage.

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) – if the Chiefs are looking over their shoulder, they’ll see BoltMan coming for them (terrifying, right?). Don’t overlook the possibility of the Chargers being the team that finishes the season as the hot hand. If they do, they’ll likely sneak a spot in the post season, where anything can happen.

 

In the NFC, the Eagles blew away the Cowboys to secure a surely unassailable lead in the East. I don’t see anyone being able to add to their loss column before season end, so fully expect them to be the number one overall seed come the post season.

The Vikings showed just how good they are by shutting down the high scoring Rams and maintained the two game gap over Detroit. They go head to head for Thanksgiving, and it should be a great match up. The Saints went 8 straight courtesy of an overtime win against Washington and are pushing the Vikings all the way for the number 2 seed. The Rams slipped back toward Carolina after the loss in Minnesota but weren’t punished by Seattle Monday Night.

The Falcons’ win over Seattle means they leapfrog in to the WildCard slot courtesy of the head-to-head record they now hold with both Seattle and Detroit.

In the hunt

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – having missed out on the chance to tie the Rams atop the West, some interesting play calls and struggles through injury mean they are now outside looking in.

Detroit Lions (5-4) – I said last week the Lions were my outside bet for the Play Offs and they stay in the hunt with a typical Lions win over the Bears. A tough test this week hosting the Vikings for Thanksgiving, but with the NFC race being so close, even a loss there wouldn’t hurt them too badly.

Green Bay Packers (5-5) – being shut out at home is never ideal but doing so when divisional rivals and others around you in the Play off race win makes it all the harder to swallow. Mike McCarthy could be calling his last half dozen games in Green Bay if they don’t find a way to make the post season.

Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – OK, so it was the Eagles coming off a bye week, but the Cowboys looked like a defeated team before they even started last week. I’m not sure Dak can carry this team to the post season and that’s a problem, especially given they need some big game wins to get back in to the hunt.

A big week of results in terms of contenders and there are several key match ups in Week 12 that could further impact the race for the post season, particularly in the AFC, where it’s a question of who is less weak rather than the strongest I think. Should be very interesting!

Until next week…