Written by Pat Pryor, @PryorNFL
After quite the week, where we witnessed the second Wednesday night game in 72 years, the NFL heads into the 13th week of the year with no cancellations. The Bucs and Panthers wrap up the midseason with their bye weeks, and after this week we’ll have a full slate of 16 games each week as teams get into making their final runs.
We’ll start out this week with some playoff-clinching and elimination scenarios, courtesy of @NFLScenarios on Twitter (these aren’t all the scenarios, just the most likely ones. The full list can be found on their Twitter) :
The Bengals, Falcons, and Lions can all be eliminated if they lose, without any other teams able to save them.
Both Pittsburgh and Kansas City can clinch a playoff spot, with wins on their own. Even without a win, the Steelers can still clinch if any of the following teams lose: Raiders, Dolphins, or Raiders.
If Kansas City wins, and Las Vegas loses, they will own the AFC West and turn their looks to the number one seed for these final few weeks. Pittsburgh could grab the division but would need too much help to realistically hope for that just yet.
The Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Chicago loss.
The Chargers can get eliminated with a loss and a Colts win.
Not every game that matters has a clinching scenario. We’re still a few weeks away from that, so let’s take a look at some upcoming matchups that will have an effect once we get to that point.
Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (6-5), Sunday 4:05 PM
Ever since the Hail Murray against the Bills, the Cardinals have gone bust, losing to the Seahawks and then the Patriots. The Rams had a statement win over the Bucs in primetime but were embarrassed in a divisional loss to the 49ers last week. Whoever wins this game will be in control of at least second place in the division, and hold the first head to head tiebreaker before their Week 16 matchup. The Seahawks could also use a Cardinals win, as that would keep the division safe in case they drop their own game against the Giants. Currently, both the Cardinals and Rams are in the playoffs, but if Arizona drops this game, and the Vikings win, they’ll be out of the playoff picture for this week. The 49ers could also be ready to pounce on the Cardinal’s spot (despite them being so friendly to lend the 9ers their stadium), as early as next week if things go right. A Rams win would give several teams renewed life in their playoff hunts, as the Cardinals would drop to a .500 record.
Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-4), 8:05 PM
A Tuesday night game, featuring teams with a combined record of 9-12, that can affect the playoff picture. Yes, the worst team in the NFC could be leading the East next week. Not only is this possible, but it’s also much easier than it sounds. The Giants face the Seahawks and Cardinals, and both games come without starting quarterback Daniel Jones. Washington plays the undefeated Steelers, and the 49ers make a final push. The Eagles play the Saints and Packers, the first and third seeds in the NFC respectively. This game could perhaps put the East in the hands of the Cowboys. As for the Ravens, this game may be a must-win. After their Covid breakout, they lost an ugly game to the Steelers and would drop to ninth in the conference with a loss this week. Dropping a home game against a 3-8 team would, and should, send Baltimore into panic mode, and every game starts to become a must-win. The Cowboys hold their fate in their own hands this week and the Ravens must fight back to keep their season alive.
Cleveland Browns (8-3) at Tennessee Titans (8-3), Sunday 1:00 PM
Both these teams having winning records at the same time is an unfamiliar site, and both of them in the playoffs, well that hasn’t happened since 2002. For reference, the Titans just drafted Albert Haynesworth and would start Steve McNair. Tim Couch would take snaps in Cleveland. Obviously, it was a long time ago, but both teams are changing that with good 2020 campaigns. They’ve both had some rocky games, but have come out on top enough to earn them the third seed, for the Titans, and the fifth for the Browns. Neither team can actually be knocked off their spot just yet, even if the Colts win (the Browns would need three straight losses by the Steelers just to enter a tiebreaker conversation). With that said, however, this game could be crucial in the final seeding. Both teams could end up in the wildcard spot, at anywhere between 10-12 wins. If they have the same record, this week would be the beginning and end of the tie-breaking process. If Cleveland pulls out a victory here, they can put the worst behind them and likely hold onto the number 5 seeds rather easily. With a loss, they have to turn to the Colts to actually lose, as they have the head to head win over them, and would end up ahead in the seeding if they have the same record. A loss is by no means a killer for the Browns, but it would put their fate in the hands of the far from decided AFC South.
The Draft can’t be shaken up too much this week, except for a Philadelphia loss, paired with a Dallas victory, would dip the Eagles into the top 5.