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Bill Barnwell - Ranking NFL's most likely playoff crashers from 11-1


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Long article. Barnwell ranks the teams from number 11 to 1. Just gonna post ours. Rest at the link.


Each year, there's at least one NFL team that goes on a run in the second half of the season and sneaks into the postseason. In 2013, the 5-7 Chargers won four straight to win a wild-card berth, while the 5-6-1 Packers held on just long enough for Aaron Rodgers to return and win the NFC North. In 2014, the Panthers went on a six-game losing streak to fall to 3-8-1 before winning four straight and claiming an unlikely NFC South title. A 5-7 Washington team won out to capture the NFC East in 2015, and last year, the Texans lost three straight to hit 6-6 before clinching the South with a three-game winning streak.

Some team will do the same thing this season, if only because there's still a bunch of playoff spots up for grabs. The AFC wild-card picture is wide-open. The AFC West, which belonged to the Chiefs after five weeks, is suddenly a real race. The Seahawks-Rams game in Week 15 could end up deciding the NFC West, and there's a three-way battle brewing in the NFC South between the Falcons, Panthers and Saints. One of those five teams is going to miss the postseason.

In an attempt to identify the teams that are most likely to make that breakthrough into the playoff picture, let's run through all of the viable contenders and look at why they might (or might not) be bound for meaningful football past Week 17, ranked from 11-1 in terms of my expectations of how likely they are to make the postseason. In addition, I'll identify which current playoff team is most likely to suffer if this outsider team sneaks into the postseason.

This analysis includes each of the teams that the ESPN Football Power Indexprojects to have at least a 1 percent shot of making the postseason after Week 12. It doesn't include the 12 teams that FPI already projects to make the playoffs, so if your favorite team is missing, you shouldn't be insulted. Note that this is different from the teams that are currently positioned in the six playoff spots in each conference, which is why the 6-5 Bills are included here as outsiders when the 5-5 Ravens are not.


Here are FPI's six projected playoff teams in each conference, plus their playoff odds:

1 Patriots 100.0% Eagles 100.0%
2 Steelers 99.9% Vikings 99.4%
3 Jaguars 97.4% Saints 94.3%
4 Chiefs 80.6% Rams 87.1%
5 Titans 77.9% Panthers 77.8%
6 Ravens





1. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

Playoff odds: 54.7 percent

The Falcons are the favorites to come away with the sixth seed in the NFC, with a 25.5 percent shot of opening the playoffs against the 3-seed, but the Seahawks have a better shot at making the postseason (60.4 percent) by virtue of their more competitive division race. Seattle still has a 38.1 percent chance of winning the West, while Atlanta has just a 9.8 percent chance of making up its deficit in the South.

After the Saints lost to the Rams on Sunday, they fell into a tie with the Panthers for first place in the South at 8-3 and dropped to within one game of the Falcons at 7-4. The tiebreakers currently favor New Orleans, given that they blew out the Panthers, who beat the Falcons in Week 9. An optimistic Falcons fan probably would point to the fact that Atlanta still gets to play New Orleans twice and has a home game in Week 17 against Carolina, but those are also three games against very good teams. They also have a home game against the red-hot Vikings next week.

The concerns about Atlanta's offense under Steve Sarkisian after the Panthers loss were overblown at the time, something Matt Ryan & Co. have proved over the past month. They've averaged 29.3 points per game in three wins over the Cowboys, Seahawks and Buccaneers, with Ryan posting a passer rating of 110.5 and a Total QBR of 88.8, the latter of which is second in the league behind Case Keenum. Over the entire season, the Falcons are third in yards gained per possession (36.7) and fifth in both points per possession (2.24) and three-and-out percentage (29.5 percent).

Instead, the real improvement has come on defense, particularly with the pass rush. Atlanta was 25th in pressure rate during the first half of the season, racking up 31 knockdowns in eight games. During this three-game winning streak, though, the Falcons have been 10th in pressure rate and generated 25 knockdowns. Not all of that is the Adrian Clayborn MVP game against the Cowboys, either; the Falcons have knocked down the opposing quarterback at least eight times in each of their past three games.

Concussions have sidelined Devonta Freeman and Desmond Trufant, but those are the only two Falcons starters currently on the shelf, which is rare for a competitive team after Thanksgiving. Last season, Atlanta hit a new level in January when its defense suddenly took a leap forward and started getting after the quarterback. It's entirely possible we're witnessing the Falcons' young, speedy defense make the same sort of jump two months earlier in 2017.

Who misses out: The Seahawks seem like the obvious candidates, given that they're the most vulnerable team in the field and lost to the Falcons two weeks ago. If the Falcons sweep the archrival Saints, though, New Orleans could suddenly be in danger of missing out on both the division and a wild-card berth.


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34 minutes ago, shc said:

I am not sure which is worse, that, or the loss to buffalo where the refs gifted them 7 points.

Miami was worse.  You can't fight the refs when they screw you. You just live with it and move on.  When poor coaching and lack of player execution screw you out of a win, there isn't anyway to spin the suck.

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