Updated 2017 NFL Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 9

Here's what the field would look like if the 2017 NFL Playoffs were to begin today.

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Believe it or not, we’re already at the midway point of the 2017 NFL campaign. Now that we’re finally getting to the good part of the season, we’ve begun to see some of the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. As we can gather by looking at the updated NFL playoff picture following Week 8, though, there are still some unexpected teams trying to force their way into the postseason.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the field would look like if the NFL playoffs began ahead of Week 9. Even with half of the season in the rearview mirror, there’s still plenty of football left to be played and more for us to learn about this year’s top contenders.

Just Missed the Cut: AFC No. 8 Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
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Despite their struggles this season, the Baltimore Ravens keep hanging around. They’re coming off a 40-0 destruction of the Miami Dolphins, and now head into another winnable matchup with the Tennessee Titans. It’s not going to be easy, but the potential is there for them to sneak their way into the playoffs if the elite defense continues to mask the miserable offense.

Just Missed the Cut: AFC No. 7 Miami Dolphins (4-3)
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Speaking of the Dolphins, I’m seriously surprised they’re still in the picture. They’ve been bipolar to say the least this season, looking like a contender one game and then getting shut out the next. Considering their offensive woes and general ineffectiveness in 2017, I find it hard to believe they’ll be in the playoff picture much longer.

AFC No. 6 Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)
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At this moment, the Jacksonville Jaguars would sneak into the playoffs despite a roller coaster ride of a season. They’ve looked like a great team at times, while they’ve completely dropped the ball (figuratively) in a couple of games. If the defense continues to shine and Blake Bortles can avoid a midseason meltdown, the Jaguars could stay in this Wild Card spot come January.

AFC No. 5 Buffalo Bills (5-2)
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One of the bigger surprises of the 2017 campaign, the Buffalo Bills have responded well to the presence of new head coach Sean McDermott. Since taking over, he’s helped this franchise turn things around on both sides of the football. As a result, they’re racking up wins and appear firmly entrenched in the playoff race heading into November. We’ll see if they can keep pace down the stretch.

AFC No. 4 Tennessee Titans (4-3)
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Honestly, the Tennessee Titans may be the worst division leader in the NFL right now. Despite their 4-3 record, they’ve been far from impressive on the road to earning that mark. Marcus Mariota has underwhelmed in what was supposed to be a huge season for him, and the defense has been a wreck. Luckily for them, the rest of the AFC South continues to underwhelm in 2017 — although the Houston Texans are on the rise.

AFC No. 3 New England Patriots (6-2)
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The wins just keep coming for the New England Patriots, who are currently riding a four-game winning streak. It hasn’t all been pretty for the Patriots, who currently field one of the worst defenses in the league. Despite that, Tom Brady has been on his game this season and is putting together an MVP-caliber campaign. With Jimmy Garoppolo gone, though, they simply can’t afford to lose the 40-year-old passer.

AFC No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)
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After a two-game skid, the Kansas City Chiefs are back on track following a Monday night win against the Washington Redskins. For the most part, though, this season has been nothing short of spectacular for the Chiefs. Alex Smith is having a career year, Kareem Hunt is an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and the defense is doing a great job of turning mistakes into turnovers. They’ve got a firm grip on the AFC West heading into Week 9.

AFC No. 1 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
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After a couple of off weeks to start the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally figured it out. The offense is running like a well-oiled machine, and the defense is taking advantage of the endless youth and athleticism the group possesses. As long as their offensive weapons stay healthy throughout the year, the Steelers will be the biggest threat to unseat the Patriots as kings of the AFC.

Just Missed the Cut: NFC No. 8 Green Bay Packers (4-3)
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The Green Bay Packers are still clinging on to the hope that the loss of Aaron Rodgers won’t effectively end their season. In their only game since his departure, though, the Packers looked out of sorts with Brett Hundley under center. Green Bay could still push for a Wild Card spot, but it’s not looking good heading into Week 9.

Just Missed the Cut: NFC No. 7 Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
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The Atlanta Falcons kept themselves in the hunt in Week 8 with a much-needed win. Still, as you can tell by their current seeding, it’s still far from guaranteed that they’ll be playing in January. The offense must improve very quickly before their inefficiencies on that side of the ball end their hopes of another run at the Super Bowl.

NFC No. 6 Carolina Panthers (5-3)
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Despite some very shaky play, the Carolina Panthers have kept themselves right in the postseason mix. Cam Newton is having an off year and the offense in general has stalled, but the defense is getting it done and raking in the wins. It’s worked up to this point, but that recipe will not suffice when the playoffs begin.

NFC No. 5 Los Angeles Rams (5-2)
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We didn’t see the Los Angeles Rams play this past weekend, so we can’t say too much about their progress. They do, however, sport one of the league’s most efficient, well-rounded offenses and a defense that loves getting after opposing quarterbacks. If they can secure a few more wins against contenders between now and Week 17, they’ll be playoff bound for sure.

NFC No. 4 New Orleans Saints (5-2)
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Week after week, the New Orleans Saints get it done. They’ve now won five games in a row, having recently shut down the Chicago Bears. The Saints still boast one of the league’s top passing attacks led by Drew Brees, who seems ready to do whatever is needed to put together a serious Super Bowl run for this franchise.

NFC No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (5-2)
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After a slow start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks are firing on all cylinders. They’re coming off an epic showdown with the Texans that included a last-minute touchdown to seal the victory. The Seahawks have all of the momentum right now, but face an uphill battle with the Rams nipping at their heels.

NFC No. 2 Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
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One of the bigger surprises of the 2017, the Minnesota Vikings are riding a five-game winning streak that has them sitting comfortably atop the NFC North. Not only has their defense been deadly this season, but their offense has overcome injury to play with surprising efficiency. If they keep this up, the Vikings could be the first home team in Super Bowl history.

NFC No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)
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Through eight games, the Philadelphia Eagles have been nearly unstoppable. They’re enjoying the emergence of sophomore gunslinger Carson Wentz, who is lighting up opposing secondaries on a weekly basis. If their defense can continue to make plays when they matter most, the Eagles will be right in the mix for a Super Bowl berth. The acquisition of Jay Ajayi only helps their cause.