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PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 10: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against Michael Pierce #97 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 10, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The return of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been medically cleared to play, is going to make the NFC playoff race interesting down the stretch. Although the Pack haven’t officially named him the starter for Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers, it’s hard seeing him miss it at this point.

If he suits up Green Bay will have Rodgers back for its last three games with a wild-card spot in reach. The Pack are only one game out with matchups remaining against the 9-4 Panthers, 10-3 Minnesota Vikings and 7-6 Detroit Lions, all of whom are in playoff contention. Even if Green Bay doesn’t make the playoffs, it could still offer a few road blocks to teams with high aspirations.

It should be interesting to see how everything shakes out down the stretch given this added dimension to the race, but until then, here’s a look at the latest standings, Super Bowl LII odds (via OddsShark) and some notes on the AFC and NFC heading into Week 15.


AFC Standings

Division Leaders

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-2

2. New England Patriots: 10-3

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: 9-4

4. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-6


Wild Card

5. Tennessee Titans: 8-5

6. Buffalo Bills: 7-6


In the Hunt

7. Baltimore Ravens: 7-6

8. Los Angeles Chargers: 7-6

9. Oakland Raiders: 6-7

10. Miami Dolphins: 6-7

11. New York Jets: 5-8

12. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-8

13. Houston Texans: 4-9


14. Denver Broncos: 4-9

15. Indianapolis Colts: 3-10

16. Cleveland Browns: 0-13


NFC Standings

Division Leaders

1. Philadelphia Eagles: 11-2

2. Minnesota Vikings: 10-3

3. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4

4. New Orleans Saints: 9-4


Wild Card

5. Carolina Panthers: 9-4

6. Atlanta Falcons: 8-5


In the Hunt

7. Seattle Seahawks: 8-5

8. Detroit Lions: 7-6

9. Green Bay Packers: 7-6

10. Dallas Cowboys: 7-6

11. Arizona Cardinals: 6-7


12. Washington Redskins: 5-8

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-9

14. Chicago Bears: 4-9

15. San Francisco 49ers: 3-10

16. New York Giants: 2-11


Super Bowl LII Odds (via OddsShark)

1. New England Patriots: 11-4

2. Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-2

3. Minnesota Vikings: 7-1

4. Philadelphia Eagles: 10-1

5. New Orleans Saints: 10-1

6. Atlanta Falcons: 12-1

7. Los Angeles Rams: 14-1

8. Seattle Seahawks: 16-1

9. Carolina Panthers: 16-1

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: 16-1

11. Los Angeles Chargers: 20-1

12. Kansas City Chiefs: 22-1

13. Green Bay Packers: 25-1

14. Baltimore Ravens: 50-1

15. Oakland Raiders: 66-1

16. Detroit Lions: 66-1

17. Tennessee Titans: 80-1

18. Dallas Cowboys: 80-1

19. Buffalo Bills: 100-1

20. Arizona Cardinals: 100-1

21. Miami Dolphins: 125-1

22. Cincinnati Bengals: 250-1

23. Washington Redskins: 250-1

24. New York Jets: 500-1

25. Houston Texans: 1,000-1

26. Denver Broncos: Eliminated

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eliminated

28. Indianapolis Colts: Eliminated

29. Chicago Bears: Eliminated

30. New York Giants: Eliminated

31. San Francisco 49ers: Eliminated

32. Cleveland Browns: Eliminated


AFC Notes

The Pittsburgh Steelers can clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over the New England Patriots and a Jacksonville Jaguars loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

That’s easier said than done, of course, as the Pats have 10 wins and the Jags are facing the 4-9 Houston Texans at home. However, Pittsburgh is clearly in the driver’s seat after New England lost to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

Elsewhere, two divisions are up for grabs still as the Jaguars and Tennessee Titans fight for the AFC South, while the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders do the same for the AFC West.

The Jags and Titans both play the San Francisco 49ers and face off against each other in Week 17 in Nashville. Jacksonville’s third remaining matchup will be against the aforementioned Texans, while the Titans will host the 9-4 Los Angeles Rams.

Given that Jacksonville already has a game in hand and plays an easier third opponent in the Texans, it has the significant edge on winning the division heading into Week 15.

As for the AFC West, it’s hard to bet against the Los Angeles Chargers given that they are 7-2 in their last nine games. The Kansas City Chiefs have gone 2-6 in their last eight, while the Oakland Raiders were down 26-0 to those same Chiefs last Sunday before scoring 15 late points.

Los Angeles’ toughest remaining game will be against the Chiefs on the road this Saturday, but they will also face the New York Jets without quarterback Josh McCown, who suffered a broken left hand and is out for the season. L.A. closes the year against the Raiders at home, and the pick here is for the Bolts to win out and take the division at 10-6.

The wild-card race should go down to the final week as it usually does. Six teams sit at 7-6 or 6-7 in the AFC. Ten wins will almost certainly get a team in the playoffs, while nine is a possibility as well. Anyone who is currently 5-8 or 4-9 but still mathematically alive is pretty much out.


NFC Notes

The Philadelphia Eagles have a one-game lead on the rest of the NFC field for home-field advantage throughout the entire conference playoffs, but they’ll have to go the rest of the way without superstar quarterback Carson Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday and is out for the rest of the season.

Nick Foles, who quarterbacked the Eagles for one-and-a-half years during the Chip Kelly era, will take over for Wentz.

He fared well during the 2013 season when he tossed 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions, but he hasn’t found as much success since then.

Still, if he’s able to perform close to his 2013 form, then the Eagles might be fine. They are a well-rounded team that is strong in all three phases of the game, and their home-field advantage is one of the best in American professional sports.

Their remaining games with the 2-11 New York Giants, 7-6 Dallas Cowboys and 6-7 Oakland Raiders are all winnable. If they take care of business in at least two of those matchups 13-3 should be good enough to let them hold onto the No. 1 spot.

It will be interesting to see who joins them for a wild-card bye. At 10-3, the Minnesota Vikings have a clear edge and face the 5-8 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and the 4-9 Chicago Bears to close the year. Sandwiched in between is a game with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, but the Vikes would likely get the bye with a 12-4 record even if they lost that one.

One scenario in which they wouldn’t is if the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South and find themselves tied with the Minnesota Vikings alone for the second spot in the NFC at 12-4. Carolina beat Minnesota last Sunday and would jump over the Vikings due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Getting there won’t be easy for the Panthers, though, as they will likely see Rodgers in his return to the field. They also must face the 8-5 Falcons in Atlanta and would need the 9-4 New Orleans Saints to lose a game, as the Panthers lost to them twice and would fall short in the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Ultimately, it should be a fun race to watch down the stretch with many top teams facing off against each other in the season’s closing weeks.

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