The first 10 weeks of the 2016 NFL season are now complete and the playoff picture is starting to become just a bit clearer. It's still murky, but we have an idea of which teams will actually push for a playoff spot. Hint: It's not the 49ers or Browns.
This list should change a bit each week and while it's not quite the same as power rankings, it should look somewhat similar. This accounts for team's schedules as well as their divisions, so it's not based solely on record. So, here are my projections for the NFL Playoffs after 10 weeks.
1. New England Patriots (7-2)
Tom Brady is back and he's playing some of the best ball of his career. A loss to Seattle hurts their overall standings, but not in the AFC. I still think they come out on top, especially since they have the NFL's easiest schedule the rest of the season.
2. Oakland Raiders (7-2)
Congrats, Oakland. You're now the favorite in the AFC West, and thus, the No. 2 seed. The offense has been wonderful this year, and the defense is showing improvement. However, the schedule gets harder the rest of the way. Derek Carr wasn't as sharp in the second half of last season as he was in the first. Will that be the case again this year?
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5)
The AFC North is suddenly very competitive. The Ravens' win over Pittsburgh helped Baltimore in a big way. Despite a loss to the Cowboys, I still think the Steelers come out on top. The Ravens have the T-3rd hardest schedule the rest of the way, while the Steelers are T-30th. That's a major boost for Pittsburgh.
4. Houston Texans (6-3)
Houston is still atop the division in the AFC South thanks to a comeback win over the Colts. The defense is good, although the offense still has some work to do. Brock Osweiler has to start playing well, or the Texans won't make any noise in the playoffs. The AFC South is still a mess, with all four teams posting a negative point differential. I still think it comes down to the Texans and the Colts and that win over Colts earlier this year is critical. I think the winner of the AFC South takes the No. 4 playoff seed, and I'm no longer counting out the Titans to make a late push either.
5. Denver Broncos (7-3)
The Broncos are once again going to lead on the strength of their defense. Denver isn't perfect, especially on offense, but they're still 7-3 and in position for a playoff spot. The team looks very similar to last year: a stout defense and a just-good-enough offense. The Broncos will still push for the AFC West crown, although they do have the 7th hardest schedule the rest of the way.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)
A win over the Raiders was key for KC and they're playing well. They have a tough end of the year slate, which ranks second-hardest. But, they have a notable lead at this point. That lead might be enough to hold off other teams like the Ravens, Dolphins and Bills.
1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1)
This is officially Dak Prescott's team. While Dallas is built around the league's best offensive line and a dynamic rookie RB in Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott still plays a critical role. He's exceeded all expectations this year, as has the defense. The schedule is about league average the rest of the year and the Cowboys are positioned to not just win the NFC East, but secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)
The Seattle offense is back on track. I think. Either way, they are in firm control of the NFC West and that win over New England was impressive. A tie could affect their seeding, but they have the 28th-easiest schedule the rest of the year.
3. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
The Falcons remain the top team in the NFC South, despite a loss to the Eagles. They have some issues on defense, but the 29th-easiest schedule the rest of the year sets them up perfectly for a playoff spot and maybe even a bye.
4. Detroit Lions (5-4)
I no longer know what to make of the NFC North. I wouldn't be surprised if a team, be it Detroit, Minnesota or Green Bay, finishes 8-8 and wins the division. I'll give the nod to Detroit for the team being, since they have the easiest schedule. They're a .500 team though, so if either Green Bay or Minnesota can get it figured out, the Lions might not end up in the postseason.
5. New York Giants (6-3)
The NFC Wild Card is a cluttered mess right now, with up to nine teams having a shot. I don't totally trust New York, but they are 6-3 with the easiest schedule among the Wild Card contenders. That sets up well for Eli Manning and Co.
6. Green Bay Packers (4-5)
As hinted at above, you can take your pick of the contenders here. I'll go with Green Bay, since they have a slightly easier schedule than the Vikings and Cardinals. Plus, Arizona nearly lost to the 49ers and the Vikings offensive line is a total mess right now. I expect to flip flop on these wild card spots multiple times before the end of the season.
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