NFL playoff race: Who's hot, who's not? Chiefs streaking, Titans making late push
Our 'hot or not?' guide to teams in the NFL playoff hunt, including the streaking Chiefs, red-hot Titans and struggling Patriots
By Sky Sports NFL
Last Updated: 15/12/19 9:30pm
Which teams are getting hot at the right time ahead of the NFL playoffs? Which are slumping with just three weeks to go?
While some teams have threatened to mount a late surge, others have displayed worrying signs of fading away.
Here is our look at those that are hot and those that are not on the back of a dramatic Week 14…
Baltimore Ravens (11-2, W9, 1st in AFC North)
It's not just the fact they've won nine straight that is impressive. It's the fact they've defeated contenders along the way, destroyed playoff-calibre teams, and won in multiple ways.
In the second half of the season, they've beaten the Bills, 49ers, Patriots and Seahawks, to go with an 86-13 point differential in back-to-back weeks against the Texans and Rams. They are edging ever closer to securing the No 1 seed in the AFC - helped by a New England loss this weekend - as they have emerged as the conference favourites.
Tennessee Titans (8-5, W4, 2nd in AFC South)
What a turnaround it has been for the Titans since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter in Week Seven. In that time, he has led the team to a 6-1 record, completed 73 per cent of his passes, thrown 15 touchdowns to four picks and had a QB rating of 121.7.
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Add in Derrick Henry, who has managed an astonishing 599 yards and seven touchdowns in his last four games, and this team is getting hot at the right time. Currently sitting in the seventh seed as a wild card and matching the Texans' record in the division, they have their fate in their own hands as they play Houston twice in the last three weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, W3, 1st in AFC West)
After starting 4-0, the Chiefs had a bit of a mid-season slump - and that was before Patrick Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap in Week Seven. After a loss on his return, the Chiefs have come up with three straight wins, including two crucial AFC West victories and a monumental win in New England last week.
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Somehow he is flying under the radar as he's not operating at the breakneck speed he was at the start of the season, but last year's MVP Mahomes has still thrown for 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions with a passer rating of 105.3 this year. Watch out because if he gets hot, no one will want to face the Chiefs in January.
Chicago Bears (7-6, W3, 3rd in NFC North)
Is there enough time for a late surge for Chicago? They are giving it everything to try and sneak in as the sixth seed, but will need things to go their way.
Despite quarterback Mitchell Trubisky lighting it up in the last two games with seven total touchdowns and impressive showings with his arm and legs, the Bears face the 10-3 Packers, 9-4 Chiefs and 9-4 Vikings in their last three games, and are already one game behind Minnesota in the fight for the sixth seed.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, W3, 2nd in AFC North)
The Steelers are certainly the most under-the-radar team currently holding a playoff berth. They haven't had any 'signature' wins and have instead manage to scrape close wins with an outstanding defense and a combination of Mason Rudolph and undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges at quarterback.
Hodges has now won four straight games to start his career despite throwing just 71 passes across them. This is a well-coached, tough football team - but will they hold on to the sixth seed? Pittsburgh face Buffalo and Baltimore in the last three weeks (plus the Jets on the road) and have Tennessee nipping at their heels.
New England Patriots (10-3, L2, 1st in AFC East)
Last week, we asked: what is going wrong for Tom Brady? The future Hall of Famer had struggled, and New England had lost two of the last four. Now they lost again - to a potential postseason opponent in the Chiefs, who ended their 21-game home winning streak.
This is not the right time for any offense to struggle as much as they are, and the defense isn't at the elite level it was earlier in the year. Although New England are usually reborn in January anyway, there is some real concern. Brady has completed just 51.5 per cent of his passes in the last month with a 72.5 passer rating. It won't be good enough.
With Buffalo right behind them, the Week 16 clash between the two is massive.
Dallas Cowboys (6-7, L3, 1st in NFC East)
The woes continued last Thursday as Dallas dropped their third straight game - and fourth of the last five - to the Bears in Chicago. Ultimately, the season will come down to next week's NFC East decider when they visit the Eagles in Philly. But they simply have to prove they deserve in the playoffs or they will end up 'one and done' yet again.
Somehow, they still have the league's best offense when it comes to yardage (and a top-10 defense), so there is potential there. But will the team go to war for head coach Jason Garrett?
Indianapolis Colts (6-7, L3, 3rd in AFC South)
At one point in the season, the Colts were 5-2 with a 2-0 division record and looking in fine form. Since then, they've crashed back down to earth and all but lost the season. They can officially still squeeze in - they are just two games behind the Texans and Titans - but it will be a miracle if they do.
Andrew Luck's retirement did ultimately change the direction of this team, and they will have some decisions to make over the offseason. Where do they go from here?
Oakland Raiders (6-7, L3, 2nd in AFC West)
Four weeks ago, after moving to 6-4, Oakland were officially in the mix in the AFC. They had won three straight and were neck-and-neck with Kansas City in the West.
Since then, they've given up at least 34 points in three straight games - including a 34-3 shocker against the Jets - and cost themselves a playoff place. Like Indy, they can also sneak in - and they do play three losing teams in Jacksonville, the Chargers and the Broncos - but it may just be too late.