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NFL Playoff Picture: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 15

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NFL Playoff Picture: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 15

Week 14 has come and gone and the regular season is almost over.

With another week finishing, the playoff picture shifts and the bracket alters, if ever so slightly.

And while to no surprise the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are sitting atop of the AFC, the wild card spots are still very much up for grabs. 

With three weeks to go, AFC teams have a lot to play for.

Let's take a look at all the possibilities. Let's take a look at the AFC Playoff Picture.

RELATED: NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE AFTER WEEK 15

AFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:

— #1 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) vs. BYE

— #2 New England Patriots (10-3) vs. BYE

— #3 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) vs. #6 Buffalo Bills (7-6)

— #4 Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) vs. #5 Tennessee Titans (8-5)

AFC Playoff Picture Week 15

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (#1 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
11-2/5-0
— Remaining Games: @Patriots (10-2), @Texans (4-9), vs. Browns (0-13)
— Playoff Scenarios: The Steelers sit atop of the AFC playoff picture and clinched the AFC North with their 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Now they are fighting for home field advantage for their likely divisional round game against the New England Patriots.

Coincidentally, their next matchup is against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Needless to say, their Week 15 game will be an important one.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (#2 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
10-3/3-1
— Remaining Games: @Steelers (11-2), vs. Bills (7-6), vs. Jets (5-7)
— Playoff Scenarios: To everyone's surprise, the Patriots lost Monday night to the Miami Dolphins. You read that right, the Miami Dolphins.

Sitting in the second seed, this lost could mean a lot or a little depending on what they do Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's highly doubtful that the Pats will allow back-to-back losses on home turf, but if they do they'll be fighting to keep the second seed to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags are hosting the Texans, which should be an easy win.

Sunday's game is a big one for the Patriots. 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (#3 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
9-4/3-1
— Remaining Games: vs. Texans (4-9), @49ers (3-10), @Titans (8-5)
— Playoff Scenarios: If someone told you at the beginning of the season that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be the third seed in the AFC playoff picture, you probably wouldn't believe them. 

The Jaguars could have clinched a playoff berth Sunday with their win over the Seattle Seahawks and some help from a couple other teams.

They didn't get that help, but they did take control of the AFC South. On their tail is the 8-5 Tennessee Titans who still have to face the 49ers, Rams and Jaguars.

The AFC East title may not be decided until Week 17.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (#4 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
7-6/3-1
— Remaining Games: vs. Chargers (7-6), vs. Dolphins (5-7), @Broncos (4-9)
— Playoff Scenarios: The Chiefs' season has be filled with ups and downs.

They currently have the same record as the Los Angeles Chargers, but win the tie breaker based on head-to-head win percentage for the AFC West division title. The two will meet in Week 15 and just like the Patriots, a win is crucial for both. 

The Chiefs then face the 10th seeded Miami Dolphins and the already eliminated Denver Broncos. The Chargers still have to face the Jets and Raiders, and with the team on a four game winning streak, a lot could happen.

TENNESSEE TITANS (#5 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
8-5/4-1
— Remaining Games: @49ers (3-10), vs. Rams (9-4), vs Jaguars (9-4)
— Playoff Scenarios: The Titans are a mediocre team and if they want to keep their playoff spot, they're going to have to work for it. The 49ers should be a win, but then they face the red-hot Rams and a tough Jaguars defense.

With several AFC teams on the rise, the Titans are going to have to be on point for the remainder of the season if they want to keep their wild card spot.

BUFFALO BILLS (#6 seed)
— Record/Division Record:
7-6/1-2
— Remaining Games: vs. Dolphins (5-7), @Patriots (10-2), @ Dolphins (5-7)
— Playoff Scenarios: Right now, the Bills would win a three way tie breaker with the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers for the sixth and final playoff spot based on strength of victory and win percentage in conference games.

The Bills should win two of the next three, but the Ravens are likely to win their next three.

Either way, it's going to be a race to the finish line for both of them.

RELATED: UPDATED 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

IN THE HUNT:

7. BALTIMORE RAVENS
— Record/Division Record: 
7-6/2-2
— Remaining Games: @Browns (0-13), vs. Colts (3-10), vs. Bengals (5-8)
— Playoff Scenarios: The Ravens basically need to do their job and get three easy wins and they should secure a wild card spot.

Of course the Bills still have an easy remaining schedule and the Chargers have won their last four. At the moment though, the Ravens win a tie breaker over the Chargers based on win percentage in conference games.

A wild card spot for the Ravens looks easy and they are certainly in control of their own destiny. 

8. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
— Record/Division Record:
7-6/2-2
— Remaining Games: @Cheifs (7-6) , @Jets (5-8), vs. Raiders (6-7)
— Playoff Scenarios: Sunday's game against the Cheifs is a big one for the Chargers.

They're on a four-game winning streak, but a win is crucial if they want to remain in the hunt for the AFC West title. The Jets are 5-8 and should be an easy win for the Chargers and the 6-7 Raiders are just behind them in the rankings but don't pose too much of a threat.

Sunday's game will determine a lot for this team.

9. OAKLAND RAIDERS
— Record/Division Record:
6-7/2-3
— Remaining Games: vs. Cowboys (7-6), @Eagles (11-2), @Chargers (7-6)
— Playoff Scenerios: Things aren't looking good for the Raiders as they are in third in the AFC West and are facing the Cowboys, Eagles and Chargers over the next three weeks.

It doesn't seem as if there are any scenerios that would help them make the post season.

10. MIAMI DOLPHINS
— Record/Division Record:
6-7/2-2
— Remaining Games: @Bills (7-6), @Cheifs (7-6), vs. Bills (7-6)
— Playoff Scenerios: The Dolphins are coming off a big win against the New England Patriots, but their season looks pretty dim moving forward.

With a tough remaining schedule, their playoff hopes seem far fetched. While they have the same record as the Raiders, Oakland wins a tie breaker based on head-to-head win percentage.

11. NEW YORK JETS
— Record/Divison Record:
5-8/2-3
— Remaining Games: @Saints (9-4), @Chargers (7-6), @Patriots (10-3)
— Playoff Scenerios: Being the 11th seed in anything isn't good and with your remaining opponets being the Saints, Chargers and Patriots, you might as well call it a season now. 

12. CINCINNATI BENGALS
— Record/Division Record:
5-8/2-3
— Remaining Games: @Vikings (10-3), vs. Lions (7-5), @Ravens (7-6)
— Playoff Scenerios: Just like the Jets, the Bengals don't have a fighting chance with their remaining schedule and being third in the AFC North.

Eliminated

Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, Indianaplos Colts, Cleveland Browns

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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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