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Two NFL division winners for the 2015 season have already been decided, and another race is all but over — the Patriots have clinched the AFC East, the Panthers have secured the NFC South, and the Cardinals would have to utterly collapse down the stretch to lose their stranglehold on the NFC West.
While there may not be much drama within those three divisions though, there should be plenty to watch elsewhere in the league. Currently, two divisions feature a tie for first place and another has its top two teams separate by a single game. Even in the AFC North and AFC West, where the leaders have a two-game cushion, the first-place teams have backup quarterbacks starting for them, while the second-place teams are on on hot streaks.
Let’s break down each of the five divisions that remain up for grabs…
Washington (6-7) may be in the best position here — if Jay Gruden‘s club can win at home this weekend against the Bills, two division games await in Weeks 16 and 17, with Washington likely needing wins against the Eagles and Cowboys.
Those Eagles (6-7) also have two division games on tap, with Washington on the schedule in Week 16 and the Giants in Week 17. Philadelphia will also be in tough against a talented Cardinals squad this weekend.
The Giants (6-7), meanwhile, have the most challenging remaining schedule, with games against the Panthers and Vikings up next, in advance of a Week 17 showdown against the Eagles.
Like the NFC East, the AFC South features four teams below .500, with only the last-place Titans out of the picture. The Colts (6-7) and Texans (6-7) are currently tied for the lead, and whichever team wins their matchup this weekend will take over first place for the time being.
The Jaguars (5-8) shouldn’t be overlooked either, given the way their offense has been firing on all cylinders lately. They have the Falcons, Saints, and Texans left on their schedule, and all three contests are winnable, but Blake Bortles and company won’t have much margin for error. Particularly since the Colts and Texans each still have a game to play against the 3-10 Titans.
The Packers (9-4) have a one-game lead over the Vikings (8-5), but they could be in tough the next two weeks, with games in Oakland and Arizona. If Minnesota hangs around, a Week 17 matchup between these two NFC North teams could decide the division.
AFC North / AFC West:
In each of these divisions, the first-place team should hang on, but their two-game leads don’t quite look safe yet. The Bengals (10-3) will likely be relying on A.J. McCarron for the rest of the regular season, which means contests against the 49ers and Ravens shouldn’t be considered automatic victories — to say nothing of a Week 16 game in Denver.
Those Broncos (10-3) are in a similar boat, with Brock Osweiler struggling to get the offense into the end zone and Peyton Manning still sidelined. Games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati during the next two weeks won’t be easy for Denver.
If either of those first-place teams falters, it could open the door for the surging Steelers (8-5) or the red-hot Chiefs (8-5) to grab a division title.
What do you think? How do you the see the last three weeks of the regular season playing out in these five divisions? Who are your picks for the division winners? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts!