Happy Thanksgiving! The Thanksgiving slate was filling this year, with thrilling games between archrivals in the NFC East and North. On Sunday, the action continued. With so much parity around the league, the best teams from last year are out of the playoff picture and teams that haven’t been in the conversation for a while are knocking on the door of a postseason berth. Here are three teams that are making a late surge after years of mediocrity.
X Option: Miami Dolphins (7-4, projected 6th seed)
Remaining Games: at Ravens, vs Cardinals, at Jets, at Bills, vs Patriots
Quietly, Miami has won six in a row and are now penciled in at the six spot in the AFC playoffs. New coach Adam Gase has transformed the offense by establishing Jay Ajayi as a workhorse back. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has also stepped up his game, holding a 94.7 passer rating. That being said, I don’t trust Miami to hold on. The only team they’ve beat with a winning record is Pittsburgh, which is just above average at 6-5, and all five of their opponents could definitely beat them. Another Miami collapse is coming.
My Prediction: 8-8, miss playoffs
Y Option: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5, projected 7th seed)
Remaining Games: at Chargers, vs Saints, at Cowboys, at Saints, vs Panthers
I’m proud. Proud because my boldest prediction this offseason is looking strong as ever. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team I thought would take the sixth seed in the NFC and break a long playoff drought, is looking like a playoff caliber team. The Bucs have beaten three very skilled opponents in Atlanta, Kansas City, and Seattle, and now Tampa can’t be taken as a fluke. The combination of quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans (1020 yards, 10 touchdowns) has been lethal and the defense has generated 20 takeaways, third in the league. Tampa can very well win four of their next five and take that last NFC playoff spot. I’m sticking with my preseason prediction.
My Prediction: 10-6, make playoffs as wild card
Z Option: Tennessee Titans (6-6, projected 10th seed)
Remaining Games: vs Broncos, at Chiefs, at Jaguars, vs Texans
Marcus Mariota looks like a franchise quarterback, the Tennessee rushing attack is one of the best in the league, and the Titans are only a half game out of the AFC South lead. Sadly for the Titans, the playoffs are a mirage. Tennessee’s divisional struggles (0-3 against Houston and Indianapolis) hurt their chances, and with games coming up against true playoff contenders in Denver, Kansas City, and Houston, the Titans would be fortunate to finish at .500.
My Prediction: 7-9, miss playoffs
Checkdown: Are the NFC powers out?
There is no doubt that the Cardinals, Panthers, and Packers have had disappointing seasons this year after stellar 2015 seasons. But are any of them doomed? For two of these teams, it’s probably too late, but for the other, they can’t be counted out. At this point in the season, the Cardinals and Panthers, the two teams that met in last year’s NFC Championship Game, have only four wins apiece and are at least 2.5 games out of the last wild card spot with five games left. With their recent struggles, both can probably be counted out. However, Green Bay is only a game under .500 and could steal the NFC North title from the hands of the Lions.
Quarterback Scramble: Streaks
Right now, some teams are red hot while others are ice cold. The Cowboys’ win streak hit double digits on Turkey Day, while their NFC counterpart 49ers losing skid also reached 10 games. Six-game win streaks have pushed the Giants and Dolphins into prospective playoff bids, and the Raiders have strung five wins in a row to move into the second seed in the AFC. Of course, the longest streak is in Cleveland, where the Browns moved to 0-12 on the season, continuing their bid for a winless season.
Week 13 Pick’em
Last Week’s Record: 9-7
Ravens over Dolphins
Cowboys over Vikings
Saints over Lions
Falcons over Chiefs
Patriots over Rams
Broncos over Jaguars
Packers over Texans
Bengals over Eagles
49ers over Bears
Steelers over Giants
Cardinals over Redskins
Seahawks over Panthers
Jets over Colts