NFL Playoff Picture Week 14: Eagles clinch NFC East, but Wentz injury looms large


The NFC playoff race continues to be the most exciting thing about the 2017 NFL season, and that didn’t change in Week 14. Things got started with a wild Saints-Falcons game on Thursday and things got really shook up when Carson Wentz left the Eagles‘ 43-35 victory over the Rams with what was determined to be a knee injury.

The Eagles are concerned it may very well be an ACL injury for Wentz and if that’s the case, it throws the NFC playoff race into a blender on the same day they clinched the NFC East and a playoff spot.

Wentz has been one of the top MVP candidates through 13 weeks of the season and was his typical impressive self against Los Angeles. He was dodging tacklers, making throws into really tight windows and running the ball like a linebacker. And then, when Wentz plunged into the end zone for a touchdown that would be called back, he took a huge shot to the knee and everything changed.

You can argue the Eagles could still make a Super Bowl run with Nick Foles — multiple people have tried to do that since the Wentz injury — and that’s a thing that could happen, but it seems unlikely given the defenses Philadelphia will have to beat in the playoffs to get that far. 

So who’s the best team in the NFC now? The Vikings are the highest seed outside of Philadelphia, but they just lost to Carolina (granted the game was close and it was a third straight road game). The Saints have looked a lot less explosive the last few weeks and really need Alvin Kamara out on the field to be as dangerous on offense. The Rams just lost to the Eagles, even though they got a quarter of Nick Foles. 

The Panthers have played well, but they’re up and down and got swept by New Orleans. The Falcons are intriguing but they aren’t consistent on offense. The Seahawks are just too beat up. The Cowboys and Packers need a lot of help to get to the playoffs, but they would be scary if they got there.

Maybe the best team in the NFC is still the Eagles? That wouldn’t be my choice, but they are a dangerous team even with Foles thanks to the defensive line and running game.

There’s no easy answer — the move is probably to default to the Vikings, but everything could change next week when Rodgers comes back or if the Saints look dangerous again. The NFC was going to be wild down the stretch no matter what, but the Wentz injury just created a ton of chaos.

Here’s how the rest of the NFL playoff picture looks, as well as a snapshot of some games that could impact what it looks like after Week 11 and beyond.

AFC: Who’s in

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

The Steelers play the Ravens on Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

2. New England Patriots (10-2)

The Patriots play the Dolphins on Monday night in Miami.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) 

What an effort from the Jaguars at home against the Seahawks, with Jacksonville putting itself in position to try and snare a bye if it can win out. The Jaguars nearly let Seattle back in the game, but ultimately prevailed and looked, once again, incredible on defense.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)

The Chiefs bounced back from a rough stretch in a huge way, absolutely destroying the Raiders — don’t let the score fool you, they were not close to losing this game at any point. And they should have scored more points, but Alex Smith got victimized by a lot of drops. Kansas City controls its destiny in the AFC West with a matchup against the Chargers next week and probably shot down the Raiders’ chances of making a run.  

5. Tennessee Titans (8-5)

The Titans were lethargic against the Cardinals, losing an ugly 12-7 game in Arizona that suddenly puts their once guaranteed playoff status straight up in jeopardy. Tennessee’s offense can’t get going and they have a really difficult schedule remaining, not to mention a tightening AFC wild card situation.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

The Ravens play the Steelers on Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

AFC: Who’s out

7. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6): Don’t look now but here come the Chargers! L.A. destroyed the Redskins in easy fashion on Sunday, waltzing to a victory that puts them in a two-way tie with the Chiefs for first place in the division with a Saturday night showdown coming up next weekend. L.A. is just a game out of the wild-card race now too.

8. Buffalo Bills (7-6): The Bills remain in the playoff hunt despite utilizing Joe Webb and Nathan Peterman in order to beat the Colts 13-7 in a wild snow-filled game on Sunday afternoon. 

9. Oakland Raiders (6-7): The Raiders looked like they were just going through the motions against Kansas City. At one point in the third quarter Kareem Hunt had more yards and points scored than the entire Raiders offense. 

10. Miami Dolphins (5-7): The Dolphins play the Patriots on Monday night in Miami.

11. New York Jets (5-8): The Jets were absolutely dominated by the Broncos on Sunday afternoon and they lost Josh McCown to injury, forcing Bryce Petty into the game. Still an impressive season for this team.  

12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8): The Bengals laid down like a team that had its heart ripped out the week before against Pittsburgh, which was the case for Cincy. They were down a lot of players to injury and it showed in their low-effort loss to the Bears. 

13. Houston Texans (4-9): The Texans had a major issue involving Tom Savage and a concussion on Sunday and now have to answer some questions about their concussion protocol process in addition to their record. 

AFC: Who’s Eliminated

14. Denver Broncos (4-9) 

15. Indianapolis Colts (3-10)

16. Cleveland Browns (0-13)

NFC: Who’s in

1. (y) Philadelphia Eagles (11-2)  

A bittersweet victory for the Eagles, because they clinched a playoff berth and won the NFC East, but they very well may have lost Carson Wentz for the season. Wentz reportedly may have suffered a torn ACL, or at least the Eagles are concerned that he did. Best case scenario for Philly probably involves an MCL injury and a few weeks without Wentz. Either way, they’re going to the postseason but people in Philly are very nervous. 

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3)

The Vikings got banged around by the Panthers defense with some offensive linemen missing, and Case Keenum threw a couple of picks but still didn’t look terrible. Minnesota can very much make a run at the No. 1 seed if Wentz is missing and the Eagles struggle.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

Brutal loss at home considering the circumstances: the Eagles had to play Nick Foles for a quarter and the Rams were leading for large stretches of this game. They are secretly in danger of missing the playoffs if they only go 1-2 down the stretch and the Cowboys or Packers get hot.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)

The Saints are suddenly in a very interesting position, having dropped a game to the Falcons on Thursday night. There’s plenty of games left to be played, but they have a dogfight to win the division.

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)

The Panthers don’t have a tiebreaker with the Saints, but they do have a tie for the division lead. That’s huge because they might be the first team against Aaron Rodgers if he returns next week and still have to play the Falcons again. They’re in good shape but not out of the woods just yet.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

Atlanta’s Thursday win was massive — they get a mini-bye late in the season and now close with Tampa, New Orleans and Carolina. They are still in play to win the division.

NFC: Who’s out

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Seattle got to look in the mirror at its doppleganger and it got beat up pretty bad by the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Russell Wilson tried to make something out of this game, but they came up short.

8. Detroit Lions (7-6): The Lions snuck by the Bucs with a banged-up quarterback and kept their playoff hopes alive.

9. Green Bay Packers (7-6): The Packers needed overtime to beat the Browns but managed to pull it off (and cover, sigh). Aaron Rodgers is coming back next week and things are going to get interesting.

10. Dallas Cowboys (7-6): The Cowboys hammered the Giants on Sunday to set themselves up for a possible playoff run if/when Ezekiel Elliott comes back from suspension. They get the Raiders next week and then Zeke returns. It’s very interesting.

11. Arizona Cardinals (6-7): The Cardinals are not going to make the playoffs but they are not eliminated yet, and they keep fighting hard despite playing without their starting running back and featuring a third-string quarterback. 

NFC: Who’s Eliminated

12. Washington Redskins (5-8)

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)

14. Chicago Bears (3-9)

15. New York Giants (2-9)

16. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Legend: (x) clinched playoff berth | (y) denotes division winner | (z) denotes first-round bye | (*) clinched home-field advantage

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