NFL power rankings: Putting Detroit Lions aside, playoff races will be quite entertaining

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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It was not that long ago, a little over a month to be exact, that we looked at the Detroit Lions’ post-bye week schedule and thought: This team could get on a roll here.

In a seven-game stretch, the last of which comes Thursday against the lowly Houston Texans, the Lions will have played six teams with sub-.500 records. So far, they’re 3-3 in those games, hardly the hot streak die-hards were hoping for to get in the playoff hunt.

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Oh, the Lions are still technically in the playoff mix. They’re currently 10th in the NFC standings. But it’s pointless to talk about pipe dreams so we won’t go there today.

We will talk playoffs, though, and the amazing races that are shaping up in the NFC and AFC. In the NFC, the New Orleans Saints currently have the No. 1 seed, and the bye week that comes with it. Everyone wants homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and there’s a pretty tight race to get it. The Saints have eight wins, and four NFC teams are right on their tail with seven.

But for the teams that don’t get the No. 1 seed, the next best playoff seed might be No. 5. That means a road playoff game to start, but it also means you get to play the NFC East winner, and that team will be lucky to win six games.

The Los Angeles Rams, by virtue of their 7-1 conference record, are currently second in the NFC standings, but frankly I’d rather be the Seattle Seahawks (same 7-3 record, but fifth in playoff seeding) right now.

Weirdly enough, there’s a good chance those teams flop seeding in the coming weeks. The Seahawks and Rams meet in Week 16, but Seattle does not play another team with a winning record all year. The Rams still have two games against the Arizona Cardinals, currently the seventh seed in the NFC, plus that date with Seattle left on their schedule.

In the AFC, the real race is for the No. 1 seed, where the Pittsburgh Steelers remain unbeaten, just ahead of the one-loss Kansas City Chiefs, who sit atop my power rankings.

If the playoffs started today, the No. 2 seed would face the Las Vegas Raiders, who’ve given the Chiefs all they can handle in both meetings this season (not to mention their only loss of the year).

Pittsburgh and Kansas City don’t play this season, and both have equally tough schedules ahead. The Steelers have games vs. the Ravens, Colts, Bills and Browns to navigate, while Kansas City still must visit Tampa, Miami and New Orleans.

Of course, if the Lions have taught us anything over the last six weeks, it’s not too get too caught up in looking at the schedule to predict wins.

This week’s rankings

1. Chiefs (9-1)

2. Steelers (10-0)

3. Saints (8-2)

4. Bills (7-3)

5. Packers (7-3)

6. Seahawks (7-3)

7. Colts (7-3)

8. Titans (7-3)

9. Rams (7-3)

10. Buccaneers (7-4)

11. Raiders (6-4)

12. Ravens (6-4)

13. Browns (7-3)

14. Dolphins (6-4)

15. Cardinals (6-4)

16. Vikings (4-6)

17. Bears (5-5)

18. 49ers (4-6)

19. Broncos (4-6)

20. Patriots (4-6)

21. Panthers (4-7)

22. Lions (4-6)

23., Falcons (3-7)

24. Eagles (3-6-1)

25. Giants (3-7)

26. Texans (3-7)

27. Chargers (3-7)

28. Washington (3-7)

29. Cowboys (3-7)

30. Bengals (2-7-1)

31. Jaguars (1-9)

32. Jets (0-10)

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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