Well, NFL Week 7 is (almost) completely in the books and to me at least it felt both chaotic and boring.
The Titans beat the Chiefs, giving a seemingly chaotic result, but it was a 27-3 blowout so in actuality it was actually fairly boring.
The Giants beat the Panthers in a game that clarified the NFC pecking order a bit, but again it was a 25-3 blowout.
The Bengals arguably had the upset of the week by beating the Ravens, but it was an uninteresting 41-17 blowout that I do not know if there is a lot to learn from.
But I do think that there was plenty to take away from NFL Week 7 as the playoff picture seems to be clearing up dramatically.
The AFC Playoff Picture
#1 Seed: Tennessee Titans
After beating the Bills and then the Chiefs, combined with having the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, I think it is safe to say the Titans are firmly entrenched in the race for the #1 Seed.
There is something to be said for the Bengals and Raiders still being in the race, but the AFC North and West are significantly more challenging than the AFC South.
#2 Seed: Buffalo Bills
That failed fourth-down conversion could come back to haunt the Bills. They have an incredibly easy remaining strength of schedule (ranks 30th) and get to play the Jets twice, the Patriots twice, and the Dolphins again, which at worst should be four easy wins.
The Bills are still in the race for first, but they are firmly behind after their loss to Tennessee.
#3 Seed: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers may sit second in the AFC West, but it is only because they had a bye week while the Raiders did not.
Seeing as they already got a tough win at Arrowhead, have a head-to-head over the Raiders, and have the more manageable schedule (26th), I’ll give the AFC West to LA.
#4 Seed: Cincinnati Bengals
I hate having to pick this one because it feels way too close to call. The AFC North could legitimately go to anyone (okay, maybe not the Steelers) and could come down to Week 18.
I am inclined to give it to the Bengals because they have the win against the Ravens, and I think that Ja’Marr Chase and Burrow will continue to be a lethal combination.
That being said, the Pittsburgh Steelers could repeat as the AFC North Champion, and I would not bat an eye.
#5 Seed: Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are 100% written in pencil here. Since the firing of Jon Gruden, the Raiders are 2-0 and look pretty good. Their offense is firing on all cylinders, and the defense has improved dramatically from last season. Las Vegas even has a favorable remaining schedule which is why I have them in fifth.
However, I am skeptical of the Raiders and am prepared to see them fall off at any point. I also think they will not be able to catch the Chargers, as they feel like the better team and already have a head-to-head win.
#6 Seed: Baltimore Ravens
Because I feel such little confidence in the AFC North, you can just pencil in AFC North loser here. It could be the Ravens here, or it could be the Bengals here with the Ravens at the 4, or it could be the Browns.
My only reason for putting the Ravens here is that they have an incredibly tough schedule ahead (6th most difficult), and they lost a game to the Bengals they desperately needed.
#7 Seed: Indianapolis Colts
This one feels a little dangerous considering that the Colts are currently 3-4, but hear me out. My next team is the Cleveland Browns, but as I said with the Ravens and Bengals, being in the AFC North is a con, not a pro.
I am not necessarily saying that I like the Colts more than the Browns; instead, I like the Colts schedule more than the Browns. The Colts play the Jets, the Texans, and the Jaguars twice; those are essentially four free wins.
The Browns have ALL SIX of their divisional games ahead of them still, and when your worst divisional opponent is the Steelers, you have a tough division ahead.
The NFC Playoff Picture
#1 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unlike their Kansas City counterparts in the AFC, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown no signs of regression. I think Tampa will be just fine because they were so injured against the Bears but still found a way to win 38-3.
They have the easiest strength of schedule of the NFC division champions, so I think Tampa Bay will keep rolling.
#2 Seed: Dallas Cowboys
In the offseason, I had thought that Dallas might see a little bit of competition from the Washington Football Team. Washington looked poised to have a great defense, and I was a little worried about Dak recovering from his injury.
However, the Cowboys’ defense seems to have improved dramatically from last season, and the offense may have gotten better, which feels nearly impossible.
And on top of that, Dallas finished third in the NFC East at 6-10, meaning they got a more manageable schedule than they would have otherwise. Dallas currently has the 22nd hardest schedule in the NFL, meaning that much like Tampa, the Cowboys should continue their winning ways.
#3 Seed: Green Bay Packers
I’ll be honest, the Packers’ blowout loss to the Saints had me a little nervous; was Rodgers’ summer hold out going to have negative ramifications for a week or two and cost the Packers valuable games?
Luckily for Packers fans, the answer seems to be no, and Rodgers has returned to his MVP form from last season. I think that the Packers can snag the third seed thanks to the Bears and Lions being so bad and the Vikings struggling.
I also think there is something to be said for the Packers only getting better from here. They currently are missing WR MVS, OT David Bakhtiari, Center Josh Meyers, LB Za’Darius Smith, and CB Jaire Alexander.
#4 Seed: Los Angeles Rams
With the Arizona Cardinals ahead by both record and the head-to-head result in hand, the Rams might feel like a bit of a bold pick. But I genuinely believe in the Rams, they were my offseason Super Bowl selection, and that has not yet changed.
I think, much like the AFC North, this division will cannibalize itself, if you will. I am not saying that the Rams are worse than the teams above them; they have a demanding schedule.
#5 Seed: Arizona Cardinals
Short of the Cardinals losing every single one of their games from Week 8 onward, the Cardinals are a lock to make the playoffs. Winning your first seven in a row will do that.
The Cardinals are without question one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but I am still skeptical they will stay that hot. Again, they play in a brutal division with good teams. The Cardinals are not fifth because they are the fifth-best team; they have a demanding schedule.
I also think that we could see teams catch on to the Cardinals.
I believe the solution to the problem of the Cardinals offense is the same solution people have been using against the Chiefs. Rush three (or four) and drop eight (or seven). Murray thrives against the blitz, so don’t blitz him.
#6 Seed: New Orleans Saints
This comes with the assumption that the Saints win against the Seahawks. If Seattle can beat New Orleans tonight, then those two are both in a race for sixth and seventh. If the Saints win, it will push the Seahawks out of connection and help cement the Saints’ chances of getting in.
Many of the Saints have lost to the Panthers, but I think they should be able to sweep the Falcons, split with the Panthers, and even possibly split with the Bucs. They also have the plus of still having to play the Jets, Eagles, and Dolphins.
#7 Seed: Minnesota Vikings
I am skeptical of the Vikings making the playoffs. The Vikings have the second most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL, and they went 3-3 during the easy portion of their schedule and have now entered the more challenging part.
The only reason they are here is that, well, Seattle lost Russell Wilson, the 49ers are underperforming where I thought they would be, and the Falcons are likely to finish below .500. The Vikings seem to be the only NFC team that hasn’t already been mentioned that isn’t below.500 and just awful.