Sunday in the NFL saw several teams clinch their playoff berths (welcome the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks to the postseason party); while the Broncos and Vikings are still waiting to punch their playoff tickets. The team that defeated Denver on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, strengthened their grip on the final wild-card berth in the AFC (right behind Kansas City, right ahead of the Jets.) Meanwhile, Cam Newton entered rarified quarterback air, becoming the first NFL QB to ever pass for over 300 yards, rush for over 100 yards and toss 5 TDs in a single game. Cam, along the way to his historic day, also became only the fifth quarterback to have three or more games with 5 touchdowns in a single season. Seriously, just give Cam the MVP trophy now.
The AFC’s bonkers playoff chase
The Steelers, Chiefs and Jets are all tied with 9-5 records. As things stand right now, the Chiefs, thanks to a head-to-head win over Pittsburgh, are the first wild card and the Steelers are the final playoff team due to tiebreakers they own over the Jets. New York, sorry, Jets fans, need some help to make the playoffs at this point. They face a New England squad who can clinch the #1 overall seed in the AFC with a win this week, while the Steelers play Baltimore and KC hosts the Cleveland Browns. Stranger things have happened in the NFL, but right now the Jets are outside looking in at the playoffs and their chances don’t look great. We do know that some combination of New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, New York and Houston will make the AFC playoffs, but outside of the Pats and Bengals, it’s still anyone’s guess.
The NFC’s (relatively) placid playoff chase
With two weeks left to play, two-thirds of the NFC’s postseason field is filled. The Panthers are the #1 seed, Arizona won the division on Sunday (and will be no lower than the three-seed), the Packers are in and so are the Seahawks. The Vikings needed an Atlanta loss to Jacksonville to make the playoffs this week and now will qualify with a win over the Giants in a suddenly important Sunday night game, or will qualify even with a loss if the Falcons lose to Carolina. The final NFC seed will go to whoever wins the NFC East and that may not be decided until Week 17.
Another (sorta) intriguing storyline is the NFC’s two-seed. With Green Bay’s visit to Arizona in Week 16, the Cardinals could clinch the second seed with a win, while the Packers can creep closer to that second seed (and the first-round bye) by defeating Arizona and then hoping the Cardinals lost to Seattle in Week 17.
If not Cam, than Russell!
Cam Newton’s season-long rampage has only gotten more impressive as he continues his torrid pace week after week. However, if there’s a quarterback playing better in the league right now it’s Russell Wilson. Wilson’s demolition of the Browns at Century Link (Seattle’s seventh win in the last eight weeks) has RW in some very rare company. Here’s his two cents on accomplishments, the playoff berth and the win with SiriusXM’s NFL Radio: