In these weekly previews, I’ll highlight the results that I found shocking from the previous week, as well as preview the game I am most looking forward to from the weekend ahead. As we get later into the season, I may add some other sections to this, including playoff positioning and a look forward to the upcoming draft.
The Top Games From Week 15
Los Angeles Chargers 29 – Kansas City Chiefs 28
We previewed this one a bit as our Game of the Week last week, and it definitely lived up to that billing. Early, it looked like the Chiefs would come out on top and clinch the AFC West. They led 14-7 at halftime after scoring twice in the first quarter, and kept the Chargers at bay, leading by at least a touchdown until the very end. A furious fourth quarter comeback – led by MVP candidate Philip Rivers – had the Chargers with a chance to tie the game at the one yard line after a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
With four seconds left, Rivers hit Mike Williams for a touchdown, and after review, the Chargers left the offense on the field to go for two and the win. The conversion attempt was probably the easiest play of the night, and the Chargers left Kansas City tied with the Chiefs, though losing the tiebreaker for the AFC West. The Chargers will likely need to win out to win the division, while also hoping for the Chiefs to lose at least one of their remaining games (more on their game this week in a moment).
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 – New England Patriots 10
The Patriots also entered the weekend with the chance to clinch their division. A win against the Steelers would also help them in their quest to clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs. Instead, the Patriots tied their lowest scoring output on the season (in three of their five losses, they have scored only 10 points). The Patriots should win the division regardless – they finish the season against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets – but it will be an uphill battle to clinch that first-round bye. And Patriots teams without a bye haven’t fared all that well during the Belichick-Brady era, according to this fantastic article at the Ringer.
The Steelers, on the other hand, staved off the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North title for at least another week. With a loss, combined with the Ravens win, they would have fallen out of the playoffs completely, thanks to that Week 1 bye against the Cleveland Browns. They will still need to find success over the final two weeks – this week’s game at New Orleans is particularly worrisome – but the Ravens have their own troublesome game this week against the Chargers.
Week 16 Game of the Week
Either one of those games featuring the AFC North teams would be a valid choice for this spot, but I’m sticking with the Kansas City Chiefs because they still have something to play for as well, and they are facing off against a Seattle Seahawks team that, prior to last week, looked like one of the strongest teams in the NFC. But strong teams don’t typically lose to a broken San Francisco 49ers team. Nevertheless, the Seahawks remain in the first wildcard position in the NFC – the Los Angeles Rams have clinched the NFC West above them – and a victory against the Chiefs at home will all but make their Week 17 matchup against the woeful Arizona Cardinals all but meaningless. The Seahawks cannot finish any better than 5th in the conference, and would probably prefer to play the Cowboys over the Bears (if that’s how things end up).
As mentioned above, the Chiefs enter the week tied with the Chargers (though ahead on tiebreaker), so a win here will all but lock up the division for them, with only a home game against the Oakland Raiders remaining. The Chiefs have struggled a bit since they scored 51 points in a loss to the Rams a few weeks ago, but they are still in the leading position to clinch the number one seed in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes needs to add a couple of great games if he wants to be in the final MVP discussion (with the aforementioned Rivers and Drew Brees), and this would be a great opportunity to do that, as this game will be played on Sunday Night Football in front of the entire nation.
NFL Playoff Picture
With two weeks to go in the season, here’s how the playoffs would look if they started today:
1. x-Kansas City Chiefs (West) – 11-3
2. Houston Texans (South) – 10-4
3. New England Patriots (East) – 9-5
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) – 8-5-1
5. x-Los Angeles Chargers (WC #1) – 11-3
6. Baltimore Ravens (WC #2) – 8-6
In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans (8-6), Miami Dolphins (7-7), and Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)
1. z-New Orleans Saints (South) – 12-2
2. z- Los Angeles Rams (West) – 11-3
3. z-Chicago Bears (North) – 10-4
4. Dallas Cowboys (East) – 8-6
5. Seattle Seahawks (WC #1) – 8-6
6. Minnesota Vikings (WC #2) – 7-6-1
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles and Washington (7-7); Carolina Panthers (6-8)
Note: z- clinched division; x- clinched playoff berth
2019 NFL Draft Order
Since the NFL is all done with byes, this space will no cover the current draft order as it stands, or at least as close as I can figure based on SOS tiebreakers. We’ll go through the 20 teams that aren’t currently in playoff position.
Note: I have calculated strength of schedule for the team’s entire season’s worth of opponents (instead of just through the first 13 games), so my numbers will be slightly different from what might be elsewhere.
|3||New York Jets||4-10||0.502|
|4||San Franscisco 49ers||4-10||0.504|
|8||New York Giants||5-9||0.518|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-9||0.518|
|11||Green Bay Packers||5-8-1||0.482|
Until next time…