John Woz, Jr. | November 13th, 2019
Focus turns to the NFL playoff picture in this week’s edition of Woz’s NFL Notebook. The Baltimore Ravens dominated last week’s edition, and they are my team-of-the-week, but we start this week in the NFC. The NFL playoff picture is fascinating and there are many permutations. Teams with aspirations of playing football in January are fighting for every inch on the field.
NFC Playoff Picture
There’s still lots of good football to look forward to and the last remaining undefeated record is dust. The battle for the Number 1 and Number 2 seed is fascinating, but don’t overlook the wildcard seeds.
No.1 San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
The 49ers have surprised me in 2019. Despite an early sack on Russell Wilson, the 49ers number two ranked defense could not stop the Seahawks from claiming victory in overtime. There are questions on the other side of the football, with special teams and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. A missed field goal attempt cost the 49ers their undefeated record on Monday Night Football.
Garoppolo’s overall rating of 71.5 is a concern and his completion percentage has deteriorated in the last three weeks. How will the 49ers react to Monday’s defeat, and how will the perform with the Seahawks hot on their heels?
No.2 Green Bay Packers (8-2)
The Packers bounced back from an ugly loss in Week 9. Green Bay’s defense stood firm to stop MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers. The Packers will need more of the same during the rest of the season. Aaron Rodgers is getting a lot of production out of Aaron Jones, the NFL’s touchdown leader (14). Davante Adams bolsters the Packers offense, and he is playing at a high level. Rodgers can extend plays, that’s an important trait for the second half of the season.
No.3 New Orleans Saints (7-2)
The Saints fell to the 2-7 Atlanta Falcons for only their second defeat of the season. Teams have a bad day at the office. The Saints must react to a Week 10 defeat with a win. I predicted the Saints to win six of the remaining games. The Week 14 matchup at home to the 49ers is mouthwatering. The Saints have plenty of experience on their roster but I want to see more from their offense in the Red Zone. New Orleans must make improvements on a Red Zone scoring percentage of 48.57.
No.4 Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
The Cowboys lost at home in Sunday’s late game. The NFC East is a coin toss, with the 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles in pursuit of the division title. The Cowboys are not a good football team, and they can’t stop the run. I predict they will lose out to the Eagles. The Cowboys ought to have a better record with the No.1 ranked offense in the league, but Jason Garrett isn’t aggressive enough with his play calling.
No.5 Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
The Seahawks are playing good football and Monday’s victory blows the doors wide open in the NFC West. Wilson is a forerunner in the MVP conversation, he has been playing brilliantly of late. The Seahawks have posted the most points in the NFC West and they are making plays on defense. Pete Carroll’s team can overturn slow starts to games, as they did against the 49ers. Wilson is enjoying his football, and he summed up Monday’s win on Social Media.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) November 12, 2019
No.6 Minnesota Vikings (7-3)
Kirk Cousins improved to 2-7 against teams in Prime Time after the Vikings won 28-24 on the road in Dallas. The Vikings improved to 7-3 after Sunday’s win, and their schedule is not too tough. Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs are an elite duo on Minnesota’s offense. Cook is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and Diggs has great ball-handling skills. Mike Zimmer’s team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Minnesota has three divisional games at home, and I like their chances of making the playoffs.
AFC Playoff Picture
As of Week 10, the Ravens are the only team with the ability to challenge the 8-1 New England Patriots in the postseason. The projected AFC playoff picture has the Ravens at No.2. After analyzing the schedule I predict both teams will win five of their remaining games.
No.1 New England Patriots (8-1)
The Patriots have seen it and done it. A weak division gives New England an easy path to January football. The Buffalo Bills slipped up at the weekend against the Cleveland Browns, meaning the AFC East is all but secure for Tom Brady and company. Two of New England’s final three games come against the Bengals and the Miami Dolphins. Bill Belichick is on track to lead his team to a 12-4 record.
No.2 Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
If you’re not already on board, it’s time to get excited about the No.2 seed. Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a 7-2 record after demolishing the doomed 0-9 Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson’s brilliant 47-yard touchdown run was the highlight of the game. Jackson is a front-runner in this season’s MVP conversation.
The Ravens have a balanced offense, and they’re the first team in 2019 to score 300 points. Baltimore is a complete package. The key for the Ravens is to stay healthy and maintain consistency, can they learn from last season’s defeat to the Chargers? If they do, I predict the Ravens will play in the AFC title game.
No.3 Houston Texans (6-3)
A tightly contested AFC South is up for grabs, and any one of four teams could clinch the division. The Texans have lost elite pass rusher JJ Watt for the season, and they have problems with their offensive line. I don’t trust the Texans but they have the No.4 ranked offense. Keep an eye on Bill O’Brien‘s play-calling in Week 13 when Houston host New England. The Texans play the Titans on the road in Week 15, and then at home in Week 17, rounding off an interesting end to the regular season.
No.4 Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
There’s no need to hit the panic button, but the Chiefs have not been consistent since Week 5. Sunday’s loss to the Titans was tough. Patrick Mahomes has missed two games, but he’s been unbelievably good when healthy. Mahomes has been a fantasy owner’s dream, scoring 179.24 points. The current MVP has thrown 18 touchdowns in eight games. The Chiefs have four divisional games remaining, and three wins should hand them the AFC West.
No.5 Buffalo Bills (6-3)
The Bills’ loss to the Browns is disappointing, and they’re two games behind the Patriots. Buffalo’s strength lies with its No.3 ranked defense. There are question marks galore over their No.23 ranked offense. The Bills have scored fewer points than any of the AFC playoff contenders. Josh Allen is an erratic and inconsistent quarterback, he needs to improve quickly. Allen’s last three completion percentages read, 47.06, 70.0 and 53.66. Finding targets downfield can win football games, but stray passes won’t get you anywhere.
No.6 Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4)
Mike Tomlin lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season, and the Steelers had to rely on a third-string quarterback. The fact Pittsburgh are in the playoff conversation highlights how competitive, or how poor the AFC has been this season. Take nothing away from Pittsburgh, they have come back from a 1-4 record, to win four straight. There’s absolutely no reason the Steelers can’t win six of their remaining games.
The NFL playoff picture is taking shape. Keep a close eye on the NFC West showdown with San Francisco at Seattle in Week 17. The Ravens are hot, and TV announcers are running out of superlatives for Baltimore’s star quarterback. Would Jackson pass on the league MVP title for a Super Bowl win? You bet! Check back on The Scorecrow for all the latest NFL news.
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