NFL Playoff Picture Week 14: Latest AFC, NFC Standings and Bracket Scenarios

Maurice MotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2017

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) speaks with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 38-32. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

You hear this all the time. NFL playoff-caliber teams put their best effort on the field after Thanksgiving. To justify this statement, it's no surprise that the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots rose to the occasion over the past few weeks.

Many chirped about the flaws, which still exist, with the Patriots and Seahawks. However, both clubs have found ways to win football games and remain in the postseason discussion.

The Los Angeles Chargers don't fall into the category of perennial contenders, but it's a team moving in the right direction. Despite lacking quality wins, the eyeball test tells you it's not the same squad that started the year 0-4. Los Angeles could finish Week 14 as a division leader.

Thursday Night Football will give fans their first glimpse of desperation from a team in a competitive division. If the Atlanta Falcons lose to the New Orleans Saints, we can almost expect a new NFC South champion.

Every NFC team holding a playoff spot will square off against an opponent with a record better than .500 in Week 14. As a result, there's a crack in the postseason door for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.

We'll review the NFL standings and go through compelling playoff scenarios before Week 14 action starts with the Falcons and Saints.

                          

NFL Week 14 Division Standings

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

2. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

3. New York Jets (5-7)

4. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

2. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

4. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

AFC South

1. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

3. Houston Texans (4-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

2. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

3. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

4. Denver Broncos (3-9)

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

2. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

3. Washington Redskins (5-7)

4. New York Giants (2-10)

NFC North

1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

2. Detroit Lions (6-6)

3. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

4. Chicago Bears (3-9)

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

2. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

3. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

NFC West

1. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

2. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

3. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

4. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

                            

Bracket Scenarios

New AFC West Leader? 

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders shakes hands with Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs after the Raiders beat the Chiefs for their first win of the season at O.co Coliseum on November 20, 2014 in Oakland, California.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs have led the AFC West throughout the season, but that could change after Week 14.

Kansas City has lost six of the last seven games and host the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium in the upcoming matchup. The Silver and Black pulled off a stunning victory against the Chiefs in Week 7 on the final drive with no time left on the clock.

The Raiders have been inconsistent for most of the year. The Chiefs can't seem to find their way back in the win column. It's hard to predict what will happen between a team in a slump against a club with a subpar defense. Oakland barely beat the New York Giants with quarterback Geno Smith making his first start with the team.

Head coach Andy Reid delegated play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, which solved their issues in the scoring department. However, the defense surrendered 38 points to the New York Jets in Week 13.

There's a reason analysts have jumped on the Chargers bandwagon in this division. If they're able to beat the Washington Redskins and the Raiders sweep the season series with the Chiefs, Los Angeles will claim the top spot in the AFC West.

                       

New Orleans Saints Look for Separation in the NFC South

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands the ball to Alvin Kamara #41 during a game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 3, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachma
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Thursday Night Football will feature the first NFC South battle between the Saints and Falcons.

The Falcons will play division opponents in their last four regular-season games, and it starts with the NFC South leader at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta sits just outside the postseason picture looking up at the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans hasn't lost to a club within the division. A win over Atlanta pushes them to 4-0 against their rivals. Barring a three-game losing streak, which would include losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jets, the Saints have an opportunity to put a stronghold on the top spot in the NFC South.

Head coach Sean Payton will prepare for a Falcons team trying to stay afloat in a competitive conference.

                     

Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys Still Viable in NFC Playoff Picture

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Jourdan Lewis #27 of the Dallas Cowboys breaks up a pass intended for Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Ima
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Packers and Cowboys have fallen in the standings without their star players. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hopes to return from injury in Week 15 against the Panthers, but there's pending medical clearance required before he can take the field, per ESPN.com reporter Rob Demovsky.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott will rejoin the team in Week 16 after serving a six-game suspension.

The Packers potentially need to survive one more contest against the Cleveland Browns without Rodgers. The Cowboys face the crumbling Giants and the Raiders' poor defense in the next two games. Both squads could welcome their offensive playmakers back with playoff aspirations still intact. 

However, even with Rodgers and Elliott back in uniform, the road to the postseason won't come easy. The Packers and Cowboys have to play two strong NFC contenders in the final weeks of the season.