As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time to start clearing our plates a little.
We’re approaching the point where teams start to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but just because 1-9 Carolina hasn’t been officially eliminated yet doesn’t mean I’m expecting a series any time now.
It’s a different story with four-, five- and six-win teams — a subset that currently comprises more than half of the NFL. These are the teams I’m really talking about. Some are very engaged in the race for the playoffs. Others face a harsh reality.
Week 11 began Thursday night with the Bengals falling to 5-5 and losing Joe Burrow for the season. Cincinnati is 5-5, so all hope isn’t lost, but…let’s be real: It’s not looking great. Then on Sunday, the Jets fell to 4-6 (in 14th place in the AFC), with Zach Wilson on the bench. Maybe Aaron Rodgers can take all the time he needs to rest his Achilles now. The 4-6 Chargers have their quarterback, but they’re in the same boat: paddling upstream through Class V rapids.
On the other hand, the Bills’ desperate win over the Jets saved their season for now, with Buffalo still very much in the game at 6-5. And what about those raging Broncos, winners of four games in a row? Whoever buried them after the 70-20 loss to Miami or when they got to 1-5 look foolish now because Denver and Indianapolis have outside chances of making the playoffs. Plus, you can’t slam the door on the 4-6 Rams and Packers right now.
But after week 12? There’s a good chance I can knock a few more teams off my list of real contenders. While it doesn’t fit neatly into a week of thanks and giving, it’s the cold platter of reality served up every year at this time of year in the NFL.