Fourteen weeks of the NFL season are in the books, which means there are only four weeks of regular season football left. The playoffs are definitely in the offing, and playoff racing around the league is heating up as a result. The New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks struggled down the stretch, opening the door in the NFC wild card contest.
After opening the season with a 1-6 record, the Lions have won five of their last six games. They have a relatively favorable schedule along the stretch. However, they are still 1.5 games away from the last playoff spot in the NFC. Will they be able to complete their epic comeback or will they run out of time? Let’s take a look at the current playoff picture in both conferences and the betting odds surrounding each team’s hopes of making it.
The Lions are still underdogs to enter
The Philadelphia Eagles became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth this past weekend. Minnesota will sweep the NFC North with a win in their last four games. The San Francisco 49ers can clinch the NFC West with a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. The 49ers are a 3.5-point road favorite.
Sitting at 10-3, the Dallas Cowboys are also safe bets to enter. They’ll need a lot to make their way to winning the division, but they’ll be in the playoffs unless there’s an epic collapse. That’s four of seven NFC playoff spots that look pretty locked down.
Of course, one of the last three conference playoff berths will go to the winner of the NFC South. Tampa Bay is a sizable -350 favorite to win the division, but Carolina is hardly dead and currently holds many key tiebreakers. Yahoo’s Frank Schwab takes a look at why Carolina might be worth a bet here.
After that, only two playoff berths remain in the conference. There are four main contenders to claim those seats. Two of them are growing up at the right time and two of them are struggling at the worst time.
The Washington Commanders are -190 playoff favorites on BetMGM, giving them the best odds of the bubble teams. Washington plays a huge game on Sunday night this week against the New York Giants. Washington is a home favorite with 4.5 points. Both teams are 7-5-1 and tied heads-up just two weeks ago. The Commanders are coming off a bye week while the Giants are coming off a resounding defeat to the Eagles.
The Commanders opened the season 1-4 but went 6-1-1 in their last eight games before bye week. After the Giants, Washington has San Francisco, Cleveland and Dallas to finish the year. It’s a tough schedule, but if they take business as home favorites this weekend, they’ll be in a good position.
The Seattle Seahawks are viewed as the next most likely team to make the playoffs, as they are -145 favorites to enter according to the odds. In mid-November, the Seahawks were 6-3 and looking great before a trip to Berlin. Since then, the Seahawks have lost three of four games with their lone win coming in the closing seconds against a John Wolford-led Los Angeles Rams team. Seattle has the 49ers on Thursday and the Chiefs on Christmas Eve. They finish the season with home games against the New York Jets and Rams. Can they right the ship?
After opening the season with a 7-3 record, the New York Giants are now underdogs to make the playoffs at +115. New York is in the nation’s capital this weekend for the aforementioned meeting with the Commanders. New York also still has trips to Minnesota and Philadelphia planned. Their best chance at a win comes against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17. New York will likely have to pull off some upsets down the stretch to make the playoffs.
After the Giants, there is talk of the championship in the Detroit Lions. The Lions have won five of their last six games and have looked very good. I’m a 1 point underdog against the Jets this weekend. This may be the toughest game left on their schedule as they finish the year with games against the Panthers, Bears and Packers. It’s certainly not out of the question for Detroit to win.
With the current form of the Giants and Seahawks, perhaps both teams collapse completely down the stretch and blast the door wide for Detroit. However, it’s getting late and the Lions are still 1.5 games behind the playoff cut line. That’s why Detroit is a +240 underdog to enter. If the Lions get a big road win against a good Jets team this weekend and the Seahawks and Giants both lose as underdogs, they’ll set up an epic three-week Finals.
Do dolphins risk falling?
A similar situation is at play in the AFC with a group of teams competing for the final wild card spots. Buffalo can go a long way to shutting down the AFC East this weekend if it beats the Miami Dolphins as a home favorite by 7.5 points. Kansas City can lock down the AFC West with a win over Houston.
The Baltimore Ravens are a slight -135 favorite to win the AFC North over the Cincinnati Bengals, but both teams are huge playoff favorites as they currently sit with matching records of 9-4. In the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans are still -600 favorites to win the division despite losing three straight games. Jacksonville is a +450 long shot to win the division.
Again, that means we can safely place five teams in the playoffs, which means there are two spots left. Much like the NFC, there are four teams that are realistically battling for those two spots.
Life comes your way fast in the NFL. Two weeks ago, the Dolphins were 8-3 and Tua Tagovailoa was a borderline MVP candidate. Now, Miami is 8-5 and people are once again debating whether Tagovailoa is even good. More importantly, the Dolphins are in slight risk of missing out on a playoff spot.
Of the bubble teams, Miami still has the best odds of making the playoffs. There are -300 favorites to enter. However, there are definitely questions now that Tua is struggling and the teams have done a good job of silencing their wide receivers. Their schedule is also not ideal. They have cold weather games coming up in Buffalo and New England. It wouldn’t be shocking at all to see this coming to the week 18 game where Miami hosts the Jets.
The next team most likely to enter based on betting odds are the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers pulled off a huge win as 3.5-point home favorites against the aforementioned Dolphins last weekend, and are in good shape as a result. The Chargers host the Titans this weekend, who have lost three straight. Los Angeles is a 2.5 point favorite. The Chargers close out the year with games against Indianapolis, Rams and Denver. The Chargers are -185 favorites to make the playoffs, but nothing will ever feel safe or secure when it comes to this franchise.
Based on the odds, it seems the oddsmakers think the Dolphins and Chargers are well on their way to claiming the final two playoff spots in the AFC. However, the Jets and Patriots still stand tall with their 7-6 records. The Patriots are +160 underdogs to enter while the Jets are +165 to enter.
New England still has Buffalo, Cincinnati and Miami lined up. It’s certainly a tough stretch to wrap up the year. The Jets have a slightly more favorable schedule, but it’s still far from easy. The Jets finish with games against the Lions, Jaguars, Seahawks and Dolphins. There are no hard losses in that program and there are certainly no easy wins.
The Dolphins have yet to play both the Patriots and Jets to finish the year. If they take care of business in those games, they’ll be a playoff team. However, if they continue to battle the chasing teams, it will be a heartburn finish.