Best Bet to win Last AFC Wild Card Spot in 2013

new-york-jets-wild-cardIn most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.

Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

1. New York Jets (5-6) Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.

joe-flacco2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.

3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.

4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?

5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.

cj-spiller6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.

8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.

Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 13 (Nov. 28th, 2013)

drew-breesThis year is shaping up to feature one of the most exciting playoff races in NFL history. Now 12 and a half weeks into the season, the AFC Wild Card race is no clearer than it was in Week 1 – with five teams tied at 5-6, and three more teams still in the mix with a 4-7 record. Currently, Tennessee is at the top of the 5-6 heap for the sixth seed; but that could easily change over the next five games.

Divisional races don’t look much clearer since the NFC East, NFC North and AFC West titles are still up for grabs. Taking all of this into account, our job for the Week 13 NFL power rankings is a VERY difficult one! But here goes anyways…

1. Denver Broncos (9-2); lost to New England 34-31 (OT), retains same ranking – Denver easily looked like the NFL’s most dominant team against New England as they jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead. However, the Patriots came storming back and scored on their first five possessions of the second half. But provided this game was at Mile High, we think the Broncos would’ve walked away.

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1); bye week, moves up one spot – With losses by the Broncos and Chiefs, Seattle suddenly finds themselves with the league’s best record. They’ll have to fight to keep this pretty 10-1 mark as the Saints come to town in Week 13.

3. New Orleans (9-2); beat Atlanta 17-13, moves up one spot – Road wins usually aren’t easy to come by, even against a two-win team. The Saints didn’t look their sharpest, but they did enough to get the job done. Now a huge road contest against Seattle looms ahead.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2); lost to San Diego 41-38, drops two spots – Nobody expected the Chiefs defense to give up 41 points to the Chargers at home. So this one was a definite shocker for a top-3 defense. But we do have to say that the Kansas City offense looked the best it has all year – especially Alex Smith, who threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in keeping pace with Philip Rivers (392YDS, 3TD).

tom-brady5. New England (8-3); beat Denver 34-31 (OT), moves up one spot – Tom Brady sparked a huge comeback as he threw all three of his TD’s in the second half. The Patriots got a little help in overtime, as Denver’s Tony Carter ran into Ray Allen’s punt, giving New England the ball at the Broncos’ 13-yard line. From here, it wasn’t difficult for Stephen Gostkowski to kick the game-winning field goal.

6. San Francisco 49ers (7-4); beat Washington 27-6, moves up one spot – The Niners’ vaunted running game wasn’t at the level it usually is (76 yards on 33 carries). But Colin Kaepernick made up for this with one of his best games after throwing for 235 yards, 3 TD’s and no interceptions.

7. Carolina Panthers (8-3); beat Miami 20-16, moves up two spots – Aside from the Chiefs, the Panthers have quietly become the NFL’s second-biggest surprise team. They’ve now won seven straight games and are looking like a playoff team for sure.

8. Arizona Cardinals (7-4); beat Indianapolis 40-11, moves up two spots – Yet another surprise team among our top 10, Arizona is quickly moving up the ranks. Their defense was particularly stout against the Colts, led by a Karlos Dansby 22-yard interception TD. Carson Palmer continues to make all the difference at quarterback, after throwing for 314 yards and two TD’s.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4); bye week, drops one spot – A road win against the Chargers would go a long way towards sewing up the AFC North title for Cincinnati. But San Diego is playing at a high level right now, so it won’t be easy.

karlos-dansby-interception10. Indianapolis Colts (7-4); lost to Arizona 40-11, drops five spots – The Colts continue their struggles with Reggie Wayne shelved for the season. A team that has road wins over Seattle and San Francisco, they’ve now been blown out by the Rams and Cardinals at home. This team should still win the AFC South, but that could change if they under perform yet again at home against Tennessee.

11. Dallas Cowboys (6-5); beat New York Giants 24-21, moves up two spots – Dallas finally cooled off New York and their four-game winning streak. Tony Romo (250YDS, 2TD) looked particularly good in leading a 14-play drive that set up the game-winning field goal.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5); bye week, moves up two spots – Nick Foles is riding the hot streak to end all hot streaks as he’s thrown 16 TD’s and no INT’s in the last four games. He’s going to need to continue being this good against a tough Cardinals defense.

13. Detroit Lions (6-5); lost to Tampa Bay 24-21, drops two spots – Matthew Stafford filled up the stat box in both good and bad ways after throwing for 297 yards, 3 TD’s and 4 INT’s. His last interception could be contributed to Calvin Johnson, though, as it went in and out of the star receiver’s hands on a potential game-winning drive.

14. Chicago Bears (6-5); lost to St. Louis 42-21, drops two spots – Nobody can seem to pull away in the NFC North as both the Bears and Lions failed to capitalize on great opportunities. In Chicago’s case, their run defense was atrocious as they gave up 258 rushing yards on just 29 attempts.

philip-rivers15. San Diego Chargers (5-6); beat Kansas City 41-38, moves up three spots – San Diego’s remaining schedule isn’t exactly the NFL’s easiest. But they still remain in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race thanks to a difficult win at KC. Their reward: hosting a tough Bengals team this week.

16. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1), tied Minnesota 26-26 (OT), drops one spot – After horrendous stints in Seattle and Oakland, Matt Flynn is back with a team where he can excel. The career backup came in for an ineffective Scott Tolzien and threw for 218 yards and a TD, helping Green Bay close a 16-point deficit. With Aaron Rodgers still out, Flynn will start against Detroit.

17. Baltimore Ravens (5-6); beat New York Jets 19-3, moves up two spots – Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a 66-yard touchdown throw, and that’s pretty much all Baltimore needed to dust off a struggling Jets team.

18. Miami Dolphins (5-6); lost to Carolina 20-16, drops one spot – Miami was dominated in the second half, as they were outscored 14-0. With a complete lack of a running game, the Dolphins may be one 5-6 team that’s not truly in the AFC Wild Card race.

19. New York Jets (5-6); lost to Baltimore 19-3, drops two spotsGeno Smith is playing awful right now as he’s thrown 7 INT’s and no TD’s in the last four games. With New York in the midst of a playoff race, you have to wonder how long he’ll remain the starter.

20. Tennessee Titans (5-6); beat Oakland 23-19; moves up two spots – Ryan Fitzpatrick played really well in this contest, as he threw for 320 yards, 2 TD’s and no turnovers. Most importantly, he threw a 10-yard touchdown to Kendall Wright with just 10 seconds remaining, which kept Tennessee very much alive in the playoff hunt.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6); beat Cleveland 27-11, moves up three spots – After starting the year 0-4, Pittsburgh has now made a miraculous comeback, winning 5 of their last 6 games. The Steelers ended Jason Campbell’s good run at quarterback, after giving him a head injury and forcing him out of the game.

benny-cunningham22. St. Louis Rams (5-6); beat Chicago 42-21, moves up three spots – Whether it’s Zac Stacy or Benny Cunnhingham running the ball, St. Louis has suddenly put together a very good running game. Of course, they’ll hope that Stacy is ready to go after he was forced out of the Chicago contest with a mild concussion.

23. New York Giants (4-7); lost to Dallas 24-21, drops two spots – New York has definitely played better over the past five weeks, after starting the year a miserable 0-6. However, they missed a big chance to beat a quality opponent at home.

24. Cleveland Browns (4-7); lost to Pittsburgh 27-11, drops four spots – Cleveland can’t seem to run or pass the ball, which really puts pressure on their solid defense. Now they’re back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback, who gets a fairly soft matchup at home against the Jaguars.

25. Oakland Raiders (4-7); lost to Tennessee 23-19, drops two spots – The Raiders really have to be disappointed with how they gave up a near-last-second touchdown pass to lose. If only Sebastian Janikowski hadn’t missed two late field goals…

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8); beat Detroit 24-21, moves up two spots – Is it too late to save Greg Schiano’s job? If Tampa Bay keeps winning, anything is possible.

27. Buffalo Bills (4-7); bye week, retains same ranking – Buffalo finally got a much-needed bye week. Now let’s see if CJ Spiller comes out fresher from his injuries and can live up to the preseason hype.

28. Washington Redkins (3-8); lost to San Francisco 27-6, drops two spots – Bad teams seem to find controversy throughout the season. Last week, it was RG III seemingly bashing the coaching staff; this week, it’s his dad causing a stir by coming into the Washington locker room right after the game.

29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1); tied Green Bay 26-26, moves up two spots – Minnesota really missed a chance to grab a win in Green Bay. But a tie is no doubt better than a loss.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9); beat Houston 13-6, moves up two spots – For the first time all year, Jacksonville moves out of the league cellar! A big reason for this is running blocking and MJD, who ran for 84 yards and a TD against Houston.

31. Atlanta Falcons (2-9); lost to New Orleans 17-13, drops one spot – Atlanta overachieved last season, and they certainly weren’t built for injuries this year. But at least the defense showed some life against an excellent New Orleans offense.

32. Houston Texans (2-9); lost to Jacksonville 13-6, drops three spots – A team that was built to win a championship this season, Houston has truly been the NFL’s biggest disappointment. And now, they lose to the league’s former worst team at home.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 10 (Nov. 7th, 2013)

sean-smith-chiefsThis past weekend’s NFL action was filled with a number of surprises, which made for extremely exciting storylines. The Dolphins knocked off the Bengals, the Jets beat the Saints, Washington beat San Diego and a Jay Cutler-less Bears team downed the Packers. This is a complete turnaround from last week, when there were hardly any upsets. And this means that our Week 10 power rankings will be much more entertaining, with quite a few teams moving around.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0); beat Buffalo 23-13, retains same ranking – This wasn’t the Chiefs’ best defensive effort from a yardage perspective, as they gave up 241 yards on the ground to CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. However, the defense came up with two big scores – one on a Tamba Hail fumble recovery and the other on a Sean Smith 99-yard interception return. And this was all they’d need against the Bills.

2. Denver Broncos (7-1); bye week, retains same ranking – The Broncos didn’t play, and nobody did anything significant enough to overtake them for the second spot. Peyton and company travel to San Diego this week in what could be a tough matchup against their division rival.

3. Seattle Seahawks (8-1); beat Tampa Bay 27-24, retains same ranking – For the second week in a row, Seattle was in a tight game against a subpar opponent. This time, Seattle had to claw their way back from an early 21-0 deficit. But thanks to some strong play by Russell Wilson down the stretch, Seattle was able to pull out another victory.

 ty-hilton-touchdown4. Indianapolis Colts (6-2); beat Houston 27-24, moves up one spot – The Colts were in a very similar position to the Seahawks: having to rally against a bad team. In the Colts’ case, it meant overcoming an 18-point deficit thanks to three touchdown passes from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton.

5. San Francisco 49ers (6-2); bye week, moves up one spot – Given the way San Francisco played in weeks leading up to their bye week, they may be playing the best football of anybody in the NFC right now. With a strong running game, a quarterback who can run, and a very good defense, the 49ers will be tough to beat in the playoffs.

6. New Orleans Saints (7-2); lost to New York Jets 26-20, drops two spots – Losing to the Jets on the road isn’t such a terrible thing. But with the Colts and San Francisco continually winning, it’s hard to keep the Saints above them after this loss. It certainly shouldn’t keep New Orleans from winning the NFC South, though.

7. New England Patriots (7-2); beat Pittsburgh 55-31, moves up two spots – Look who’s back! With a healthier team, the Patriots piled up over 600 yards of total offense against the Steelers, including 432 passing yards and four TD’s by Tom Brady. His tight end, Rob Gronkowski, also put up 141 receiving yards and one touchdown on a career-high nine catches.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3); lost to Miami 22-20 (OT), drops one spot – Just when Andy Dalton starts to look like a franchise quarterback, he follows it up with a poor performance by throwing three picks and no touchdowns. This team still has plenty of weapons, though, and can’t be counted out moving forward.

9. Detroit Lions (5-3); bye week, moves up one spot – Detroit visits Chicago with first place in the NFC East on the line. The offense is clicking after the come-from-behind win against Dallas, so expect the Lions to score plenty of points in this pivotal game.

dwayne-harris10. Dallas Cowboys (5-4); beat Minnesota 27-23, moves up two spots – One week after allowing Detroit to beat them with less than a minute left, Dallas staged their own comeback to beat Minnesota. Tony Romo found Dwayne Harris in the end zone with 35 seconds left for the go-ahead score. This victory keeps the Cowboys a game ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC East.

11. Chicago Bears (5-3); beat Green Bay 27-20, moves up two spots – Few people gave the Bears a chance to win at Lambeau Field with Jay Cutler sidelined. But Chicago knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a shoulder injury and proceeded to shut down Green Bay. Now they’ve forced a three-way, first-place tie in the NFC North standings.

12. Green Bay Packers (5-3); lost to Chicago 27-20, drops five spots – Green Bay is still a good football team without Rodgers. But with number 12 sidelined for 4-6 weeks, simply being “good” might put Green Bay behind Chicago and Detroit in the North. Look for Eddie Lacy and James Starks to carry the load while Rodgers is out.

13. Arizona Cardinals (4-4); bye week, moves up one spot – Arizona’s compass is pointed north since they come out of the bye week with games against Houston and Jacksonville. Of course, nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Cardinals move to 6-4 soon.

14. Carolina Panthers (5-3); beat Atlanta 34-10, moves up three spots – The Panthers have turned their season around thanks to a four-game winning streak. Defense has been the key to this run, which, in this particular game, included three interceptions of Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. Carolina is now a formidable team, especially with Jonathan Stewart back from injury.

15. San Diego Chargers (4-4); lost to Washington 30-24 (OT), drops four spots – The Chargers may have seen their playoff chances go out the window with this loss. They now move into the meat of their schedule, and it won’t taste good. Two games against both Denver and Kansas City loom ahead.

16. New York Jets (5-4); beat New Orleans 26-20, moves up two spots – Nobody can figure the Jets out. One week, they lose by 40 to the Cincinnati Bengals; the next week, they’re beating a team that’s contending for the NFC title. New York seems to have found an offensive identity in running the ball more with Chris Ivory.

17. Tennessee Titans (4-4); beat St. Louis 28-21, moves up two spots – Chris chris-johnsonJohnson looked like the player that amazed people two years ago after racking up 150 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Shonn Greene adds another dimension to the running game and could help preserve Johnson down the stretch.

18. Miami Dolphins (4-4); beat Cincinnati 22-20 (OT), drops one spot – What should be a celebratory week for the Dolphins after their big victory over Cincinnati has turned into a nightmare. Richie Incognito’s bullying of Jonathan Martin has likely left both linemen done for the season (or career in Incognito’s case). And there are rumors that Miami assistant coaches could be on the chopping block too.

19. Cleveland Browns (4-5); beat Baltimore 24-18, moves up three spots – As long as Brandon Weeden isn’t quarterbacking this team, it seems like the Browns have a chance to win. This is especially the case when Jason Campbell throws for three touchdowns!

20. Baltimore Ravens (3-5); lost to Cleveland 24-18, drops five spots – These Ravens definitely don’t look like repeat Super Bowl champions. Their traditionally strong running game has hit rock bottom, as evidenced by Ray Rice’s 17 yards on 11 carries.

21. Washington Redskins (3-5); beat San Diego 30-24 (OT), moves up three spots – After starting the year a dismal 0-3, Washington has now won three out of their last five to improve to respectability. This effort was led by fullback Darrell Young, who literally came out of nowhere (2 car. on the season) to score three touchdowns.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5); beat Oakland 49-20, moves up five spots – It’s hard to tell if Nick Foles is the guy who looked completely lost running Chip Kelly’s read option three weeks ago, or an ultra-talented QB of the future. This time around, he most definitely looked the latter part.

23. Oakland Raiders (3-5); lost to Philadelphia 49-20, drops three spots – Just when the Raiders looked like they had something special going, they give up an NFL-record-tying seven TD passes to Nick Foles. They’ll try to re-create the magic as they face the Giants.

24. New York Giants (2-6); bye week, moves up two spots – The Giants seek their third win in a row against a Raiders team that’s traveling across the country. They’ll get a boost from RB Andre Brown, who’ll play his first game this year.

25. Atlanta Falcons (2-6); lost to Carolina 34-10, drops four spots – Any delusions of a mid-season turnaround were cut down with this loss. Matt Ryan has now thrown seven interceptions in his last two games.

26. Houston Texans (2-5); lost to Indianapolis 27-24, drops one spot – Houston really let this one slip through their fingers, as they were leading 21-3 at the half. A healthy Arian Foster would’ve enabled them to grind out the clock and grab a victory. The good news is that head coach Gary Kubiak is expected to be coaching again by Week 11 after collapsing at halftime.

27. Buffalo Bills (3-6); lost to Kansas City 23-13, drops one spot – The Bills were actually controlling this game with a strong running effort (241 RYDS). The defining moment came when Jeff Tuel threw an interception at the Chiefs 1-yard line that went all the way back for a touchdown.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6); lost to New England 55-31, retains same ranking – After giving up a franchise-record 55 points, it’s clear that Pittsburgh needs to go into full-on rebuilding mode.

29. St. Louis Rams (3-6); lost to Tennessee 28-21, retains same ranking – St. Louis has now lost their third game in a row and appears to once again be headed for a high pick in next April’s draft.

30. Minnesota Vikings (1-7); lost to Dallas 27-23, retains same ranking – After giving up a last-minute win to the Cowboys, Minnesota players were questioning both of their coordinators. Defensive players were especially peeved that they only ran three-man rushes during the Cowboys game-winning, 90-yard drive.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8); lost to Seattle 27-24, retains same ranking – This team can’t even win when they’re practically gifted a 21-0 lead. Seattle dominated the remainder of the game and kept Tampa Bay winless.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8); bye week, retains same ranking – After a week to rest, maybe Jacksonville can come out and be more competitive throughout the second half of the season.