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NFL Playoff Notes
Early Thoughts for Week 16

There are only two weeks left in the NFL season and while that typically means the playoff picture is becoming clearer, only the AFC can boast that claim. Four of the six playoff spots in the AFC have been claimed with Houston, Denver, New England and Baltimore already in. Only the first three there have clinched their division, so the Ravens aren’t quite out of the woods yet. But of those two remaining open spots, there are only four teams left, with two of them facing “win and they’re in” scenarios this weekend. Both the Colts (@KC) and Bengals (@Pittsburgh) can clinch a playoff spot with a win in Week 16, while Pittsburgh and Miami still need to win and get some help along the way.

In the NFC, only three spots have been claimed with two of those being division crowns. Mathematically there are eight teams fighting for those remaining three spots and it will likely take this week’s action to make the picture just a little clearer.

AFC playoff teams

The biggest game on the board in terms of the AFC is this Cincinnati (+4) @ Pittsburgh game this week. These two division rivals hate one another and know that if either is going to make the playoffs they have to go through the other to get there. Cincinnati is in the better position here as a loss in this game won’t flat out eliminate them from contention as it will for Pittsburgh, so expect the Steelers to be ready. Pittsburgh is quite banged up though and appears to be in a bit of a free-fall after losing four of their past five. With that being said, both teams are desperate and this game is likely to end up being close till the end. Laying more than a FG may be too much.

NFC playoff teams

The two teams that currently sit in the wildcard spots (Seattle and Minnesota) are both underdogs this weekend as Minnesota (+7.5) travels to Houston while Seattle (+1) hosts San Francisco on Sunday Night Football. Minnesota can’t clinch with a win and until QB Christian Ponder throws the ball with any sort of effectiveness it’s only a matter of time before a team completely shuts down potential MVP Adrian Peterson. Seattle is looking for revenge on the 49ers and a win gets them into the second season. However, with CB Richard Sherman’s suspension ruling coming down on Friday, bettors who like the Seahawks should wait until that announcement is made.

Teams that are out

Of all the games featuring two teams that are simply playing out the string, you’ve got to believe the best value lies with San Diego (+2) @ NY Jets. Yes, the Chargers are playing with a “lame duck” coach who is out at season’s end, but the Jets collapse on MNF sealed their fate and they are a team that will shake up plenty this off-season too. They are in complete disarray right now and have named 3rd stringer Greg McElroy the starter. They haven’t scored more than 19 points for an entire month now and with the lack of weapons they have, nothing will change this week.

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