Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold pick their end-of-season playoff picture in the NFL, live on Facebook.
The 2017 NFL playoffs loom large. With just five weeks remaining of the regular season, there’s plenty still to play for…
Who will get home-field advantage with that all-important No 1 seed in each conference? Who at No 2 will join them with a Wild Card weekend of rest and relaxation. Who will sneak into that No 6 spot, and who just will miss out?
Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold did their best to answer those questions, picking their predicted end-of-season playoff picture, live on Facebook.
Click on the video above to watch as they go through their picks, and read on below, before having a go yourself…
AFC#1: New England Patriots
Neil Reynolds: The Steelers are currently the top seed in the conference, at 9-2, but the Patriots are also hot on their heels, with an identical record, and the two meet in Week 15. There seems to be clear separation between those two and the rest of the AFC.
Some people begrudge what the Patriots are doing and want to see different teams succeed. But, we are witnessing a period of NFL history, where we will look back in 20 or 30 years and say ‘wow, that was true greatness there’.
Jeff Reinebold: Those two are the thoroughbreds. Everyone else in the AFC race is a mule, just trying to keep pace in the race. I really believe New England edges out Pittsburgh for No 1, as they’re playing so much better on defense right now. The Steelers D, in comparison, looked a little shaky last week against a bad Green Bay Packers team.
#2: Pittsburgh Steelers
Highlights of the clash between the Packers and the Steelers in Week 12 of the NFL.
NR: The Patriots seem to have the Steelers’ number, so even though that Week 15 match-up is in Pittsburgh, I’m fairly confident coach Bill Belichick will find a way.
JR: It’s similar to the way it used to be when New England have the rivalry with Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots are favourites, but I still like the Steelers at No 2.
#3: Jacksonville Jaguars
NR: At the moment, in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans are the No 3 seed, but we’re both in agreement that the Jacksonville Jaguars will ultimately win the South division and take this spot.
JR: I like the Jags here, with the caveat that the Kansas City Chiefs don’t wake up. If they can get back to their 5-0 form to start the season, they might well jump ahead.
#4: Los Angeles Chargers / Kansas City Chiefs
Highlights of the Chargers' Thanksgiving clash with the Cowboys in Week 12 of the NFL.
NR: I don’t like the way things are shaping up for the Chiefs in the West, having lost five of their last six, so I’m picking the Chargers at No 4.
JR: I’m sticking with the Chiefs. I just think the Chargers have too much ground to make up, and Kansas City will figure things out and get things right – they need to do it quick though, because the Chargers are hot!
#5: Tennessee Titans
NR: This is where Tennessee fall for me. I don’t think they’ll win the South but they’re the best of the wild card teams.
JR: I think so too. Though I do have concerns over Tennessee. They’re just about playing well enough to win, but look at what happened to them against a bad Colts team – they came back from a 10-point deficit in the second half, but you’re not going to do that against good teams down the stretch.
Look at the defense – they’re giving up too many yards, people can come in, push them around, run the ball against them. That’s a big concern, because in the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to run the ball, and stop the run.
#6: Kansas City Chiefs / Baltimore Ravens
NR: The Buffalo Bills are currently 6-5, but they’re so up and down! The Baltimore Ravens are 6-5 too, but have no real offense to speak of. It really could be anyone, but I’m going to say this is where the Chiefs wind up – I like them more than the other two I’ve just mentioned.
JR: Right now, I lean to the Ravens. I think they’ve got a slightly easier schedule to come and their defense is balling!
NFC#1: Philadelphia Eagles
Highlights of the clash between the Eagles and the Bears in Week 12 of the NFL.
NR: The Eagles are in the No 1 spot right now with an NFL-best 10-1 record. I don’t think you can look past them.
JR: Right now, to me, they are the most complete team in football. They play great defense, they can run the football, their quarterback Carson Wentz is playing amazingly well, great offensive line, good special teams. I like them a lot.
#2: Minnesota Vikings
Highlights of the Vikings' Thanksgiving clash with the Lions in Week 12 of the NFL.
NR: I’m happy to stick with the Vikings at No 2. They’ve won seven straight, with Case Keenum at quarterback, and are 9-2 on the season. They’ve got some great chess pieces on defense for coach Mike Zimmer. Everything is a challenge when you face this defense.
JR: Talk about a team that has made strides! Last year, the quarterback was getting sacked about every third time he dropped back to pass. Keenum has come in and given this team a huge lift, and the defense is playing extremely well – they have ballers at every level! They’ve got guys that can rush the passer up front, their linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks can run, and are extremely physical, and then they’ve got one of the best secondaries in the league.
#3: Los Angeles Rams
Highlights of the clash between the Saints and the Rams in Week 12 of the NFL.
NR: The Rams, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are all linked at 8-3. The race between them in the NFC is going to be fascinating, because they’re all set to play each other down the stretch, with a lot of those games live on Sky Sports. I’m sticking with the Rams to win the West and stay put at No 3.
JR: You keep waiting for them to slip up and drift back to the rest of the pack – they went to Minnesota two weeks ago and got punched in the face, but they did a great job of responding by beating the Saints last Sunday.
Their quarterback Jared Goff has made maybe as big a jump between year one and two as any I’ve ever seen, Sean McVay as coach has done a great job with this football team, Wade Phillips has got the defense playing at a really high level. I like the Rams, they’re a good football team. They’ve also got a good kicking game.
#4: New Orleans Saints
NR: Who do we think will win the South and therefore get the No 4 seed? But also, do we think this division sends three teams to the playoffs? I say yes to the latter, with the Saints sneaking it.
JR: It’s a huge game between the Saints and the Panthers, live on Sky Sports, this Sunday. It was a blowout win for New Orleans the last time these two played, in Carolina. Plus, the Saints play really well at home – this game may determine, of those three teams, who is going to win the division.
#5: Carolina Panthers
NR: Cam Newton looks like the Cam of their Super Bowl run two years ago. Coach Ron Rivera said this offseason that they were going to make Cam a pocket passer but, really, he is a defensive end playing quarterback and he’s at his best when you let Cam be Cam, running around like a big kid.
JR: The thing I like about the Panthers is, they’ve got a defense that we know is good enough to win in the playoffs and a quarterback that has been to the Super Bowl. Cam is a freak athlete playing quarterback. Just let him go play.
#6: Atlanta Falcons
NR: The Falcons have got hot at the right time of the year. They’ve won three straight, and Julio Jones looks like he is finally healthy – 253 yards and two TDs last week! That’s the difference, and Matt Ryan is benefiting from that.
Falcons have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seattle Seahawks, the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys and the Packers! That means that on the teams immediately behind them, they have the cushion of an extra game in effect.
The Packers may well get Aaron Rodgers back in Week 15, but I fear it’s going to come too late. They’re currently 5-6, but they’d be hugely dangerous in the playoffs with Rodgers back. What a story that would be! Brett Hundley did better in Pittsburgh last week, but he has not produced enough to keep them competitive. They’d need to win out.
JR: The Seahawks will give a valiant effort, but just look at who they’ve lost on defense – Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman – and their offense has been all on Russell Wilson.
Had the Lions won against Minnesota on Thanksgiving, I’d have tipped them to make the jump into the playoffs, as they have the softest schedule down the stretch. But I think they’re too far behind now.
As for the Cowboys, in losing Ezekiel Elliott, they lost their identity. When you lose a marquee player like that, everyone else has to do a little bit more. But, look at that roster – there’s not a lot more that you’re going to get.
Who Neil and Jeff have missing out…. AFC NFC Buffalo Bills (6-5) Seattle Seahawks (7-4) Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) Detroit Lions (6-5) Oakland Raiders (5-6) Green Bay Packers (5-6) New York Jets (4-7) Dallas Cowboys (5-6) Miami Dolphins (4-7) Washington Redskins (5-6) Houston Texans (4-7) Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
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