While several of the NFL’s Week 10 outcomes helped to ensure tightly contested Wild Card races on both sides of the playoff bracket, the Vikings, Giants, and Dolphins all pulled away, and are well-positioned to return to the NFL Playoffs this year.
Not only did these three teams win on Sunday, the Giants and Dolphins benefitted from their division rivals, the Bills and Cowboys, dropping games to the Vikings and Packers. Throw in the Chargers’ loss on Sunday Night Football to the 49ers, and you have two NFL conferences with a few standout teams and a pack in the back of the wild card race.
Before we get into the respective playoff races, remember to sign up for The Oracle’s picks today – The Oracle is putting together another big season in 2022, and after signing up, you’ll get his best NCAA and NFL plays texted directly to your phone. Now, on to the NFL futures; odds are provided by DraftKings.
Vikings, Giants, Dolphins Playoff Locks?
At 8-1 and with no competition in the NFC North, Minnesota’s playoff odds are off the board at DraftKings, an indication the book sees the Vikings as a lock. It’s fair to debate whether Minnesota is as good as their record suggests, given that they are 7-0 in games decided by eight or fewer points, a rarity in the NFL, but nevertheless, the Vikings have locked in those wins, and barring a complete collapse in the second half, Minnesota will win the NFC North comfortably.
The Giants (-400 to make playoffs) and Dolphins (-900) have also seen their odds lengthen in recent weeks; New York has matchups against the Lions, Commanders (2x), and the Colts left on the schedule, so even if the Giants don’t turn out to be a contender come January, Brian Daboll’s squad has an excellent chance to reach double-digit wins, which should be more than enough for a playoff berth.
As for Miami, the Dolphins are past worrying about matchups. Head coach Mike McDaniel’s offense is tailor-made for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, whose ability to operate a quick-strike offense at an exceptionally high level continues to shine through. The Dolphins are 7-3 heading into their bye and play the Texans at home before finishing up with six games against playoff contenders. Last year’s Dolphins took advantage of a horrendous second-half schedule and nearly rallied to make the playoffs; this year’s squad will be looking to establish themselves as a legit Super Bowl contender as we get down the stretch.
NFC Wild Card
Had the Dallas Cowboys beaten the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, the NFC playoff picture would have been close to cemented coming out of Week 10. Chaos is always a possibility, but the Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Vikings, Buccaneers, Seahawks, and 49ers would have been on the verge of pulling away from the pack.
Instead, Aaron Rodgers and company pulled off the comeback, and now the field is opened up. Were it not for the Lions pulling off the comeback win on the Bears, Justin Fields’ team would have been in the thick of things, but the Packers, Commanders, and Cardinals all have more reason for optimism after Green Bay’s win. The same could be said for the bottom three NFC South teams, but after the 3-7 Panthers drubbed the 4-6 Falcons and the 3-7 Saints lost decisively to a 3-6 Steelers team, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
After Sunday, the Packers are +350 to make the playoffs and the Cardinals are +800. Given the success Arizona has had with McCoy at the helm over the past two seasons and the emergence of Rondale Moore across from DeAndre Hopkins in an attack that should get Hollywood Brown back down the stretch, the +800 might be more tempting if starting quarterback Kyler Murray were down for the season. Murray is leaps and bounds more talented than McCoy, but there seems to be something off with the team when he’s at the helm, which makes it harder to like Arizona given that Kyler should be back sooner than later (though last year’s lingering ankle injury raises questions on that front). Green Bay’s +350 is more interesting, particularly if you like Philadelphia to beat Washington tonight and have concerns about whether Seattle, San Francisco, and/or the New York Giants will hold up down the stretch.
AFC Wild Card
Despite Denver and Las Vegas seemingly dropping out of contention with their respective losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis, there should still be some interesting races down the stretch.
Indianapolis remains a long shot (+650), but this team found some semblance of their old swagger with new head coach Jeff Saturday at the helm. The NFL’s reigning rushing king, Jonathan Taylor, topped 100 yards for the first time since Week One, going for 147 against a Las Vegas defense that continues to struggle on all fronts, and quarterback Matt Ryan returned to the starting lineup with his most efficient performance of the season. One game is far from decisive, and the Colts have to face the Eagles next week, but if Indianapolis starts playing more like the team many expected when they were preseason AFC South favorites, they could surprise some teams down the stretch.
The AFC Wild Card race will be further complicated if New England beats the Jets in Week 11; New York has the better record, but the Patriots have been kryptonite for Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, and if the 5-4 Patriots beat the 6-3 Jets, it muddies up the waters around all three AFC Wild Card spots. Cleveland is now 3-6 after their loss to Miami and needs to beat either the Bills or Buccaneers without Deshaun Watson in the next two weeks to have a chance at 10 wins, and even that would take going 6-0 down the stretch.
One team that could miss out if things go sideways is the Los Angeles Chargers, who need to beat the Chiefs in Week 11 to avoid dropping to 5-5 on the season. As stunning as it would be to see Justin Herbert fail to reach the playoffs yet again, Los Angeles’s -115 odds to make the tournament indicate the book sees the Chargers’s playoff chances as fairly close to a coin-flip.
The positive is that the Chargers have a reasonably favorable schedule once they are past the Chiefs; with matchups against the Cardinals, Raiders, Titans, Colts, Rams, and Broncos to go along with a home game against Miami, the Chargers have a great chance to finish 6-1, particularly if receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams return to the lineup down the stretch. This team appears to have too many flaws to go the distance, but with a manageable back half, the -115 odds are solid, but it might be worth waiting; if the Chargers lose to the Chiefs and see their odds lengthen ahead of their final stretch, they would be an excellent value coming out of Week 11.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.