We’re already 13 weeks into the NFL season. That means it’s time to start talking about potential playoff matchups and scenarios, how seeding will work, and what needs to happen for certain teams to make the postseason throughout the rest of the season.
The latter is especially interesting because there are a few sleeper teams that still have a chance to get into the playoffs. Which teams that are currently being slept on could get in? We have three teams that we like to make a late push.
NFL Playoff Odds
Odds are changing all the time. One win or loss can swing a team’s odds substantially one way or the other, especially as there are fewer games left on the schedule. Let’s take a look at the current playoff odds from bet365:
3 Teams to Bet on to Make the Playoffs
A lot can happen in the final five weeks of the season. Momentum can swing, injuries can play a factor, and teams can make a late push to get into the playoffs. Despite having plus-money odds, these three teams could wind up in the postseason and reward savvy bettors who had the foresight to see them succeed.
Buffalo Bills (6-6, +360)
To say that the 2023 season has gone poorly for the Bills would be an understatement. A Super Bowl favourite when the season began, everything that could go wrong for the Bills has gone wrong. One of the largest reasons for their mediocre play so far is that the defence has been ripped apart by injuries to major contributors like Matt Milano and Tre White. In addition, the offence looked confusing, at least until Offensive Coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired.
The offence has started to look great in the last couple of weeks, but the Bills seem snakebitten. The overtime loss to the Eagles a week ago makes it feel like there’s no coming back. The road ahead – featuring the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Dolphins in the final five weeks – is not easy.
That said, since the offence has come alive, there is still hope. Josh Allen has been playing out of his mind as well, making better decisions and not trying to play the hero-ball style that has cost him in the past. The Bills are right there in a cluster with teams like the Broncos, Steelers, Colts, Texans, and Browns. If they can find a way to capitalize on big moments – such as the one they just missed in overtime against the Eagles, for instance – this is a team that can go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Denver Broncos (6-5, +130)
Following a 19-8 loss to the Chiefs in the middle of October, the Broncos were 1-5 and a laughingstock of the league. The season felt over, and just about everyone wanted QB Russell Wilson out of town. Over the last five weeks, however, there might not be a hotter team than the Denver Broncos.
With wins over the Chiefs, Bills, Vikings, and Browns, the Broncos are right back in the playoff race. Wilson has been very good, even if he isn’t the same “Danger Russ” of old. The defence has also been playing at a higher level, keeping opposing quarterbacks confused.
The Broncos are doing all of the little things right. The ground game has started to emerge, taking a bit of pressure off of Wilson. There are still six games left in their season, so a lot can change. Given their current trajectory, it looks like the Broncos could be one of the teams to capture a Wild Card spot in the AFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7, +300)
You might be reading this wondering how on Earth a 4-7 team could make this list. It comes down to seven simple words: someone has to win the NFC South. It is the worst division in the league, with the Falcons and Saints tied for first at the moment with a 5-6 record.
The final six weeks of the schedule for the Buccaneers are mostly against division foes. The Bucs can make up a lot of ground by beating divisional opponents. They have had just two games in the division so far, going 1-1 in the process.
There is talent on this team even if the roster isn’t super well-rounded. Baker Mayfield has a good rapport with wide receiver Mike Evans and can steal a game from time to time. The defence has talented players and might just need a few games against middle-to-bottom-tier offences to get going. There is no world-beater in the NFC South, so the Bucs could become one of the best value picks to make the playoffs.
Schedule Breakdowns for Our Three Sleepers
One of the most important considerations to make when determining if these teams can make the playoffs is their remaining schedules. Sure, other factors are involved, but quality-of-schedule can be a major determining factor in how the rest of the season plays out. Let’s check out the road ahead for these three potential sleeper teams.
Buffalo Bills Remaining Schedule
- @ Chiefs 12/10
- vs. Cowboys 12/17
- @ Chargers 12/23
- vs. Patriots 12/31
- @ Dolphins 1/7
In terms of sheer talent, the Bills can go toe-to-toe with anyone. They went blow for blow with the 10-1 Eagles last week and could have easily won the game several times. The Bills just need to take a deep breath and focus on one game at a time at this stage of the season.
The next two weeks will tell us everything we need to know. If they can somehow beat both the Chiefs and Cowboys, it should give them the boost needed to steamroll two bad teams (Chargers and Patriots) going into the Week 18 showdown with the Dolphins (who might not even need the game if they wrap up the AFC East).
Josh Allen has not been the problem, contrary to popular belief. He is playing at an all-world level of late. If he can keep that up against two good defences in the Chiefs and Cowboys, it could be enough to not only grab important wins but give what is a very dangerous team a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. The last thing the AFC wants right now is a hot Buffalo Bills team to get into the playoffs with a major chip on their shoulder.
Denver Broncos Remaining Schedule
- @ Texans 12/3
- @ Chargers 12/10
- @ Lions 12/16
- vs. Patriots 12/24
- vs. Chargers 12/31
- @ Raiders 1/7
This is a fashionable pick simply because of how well the Broncos have played as of late. Another reason to love them is their remaining schedule. Sure, four of the final six games are on the road. That said, there are a lot of reasons why the Broncos can get to the playoffs.
They’ll play the Chargers twice, a team that seems like they can’t get out of their own way. The Raiders have been a tough team but are not nearly as scary as the major contenders. The Patriots are a tire fire and should be considered an automatic win if the Broncos continue to play as they have.
The two challenging matchups are trips to Houston and Detroit. If the Broncos can manage to win four of their final six, a 10-7 record could be enough to grab one of the AFC Wild Card spots. Given how they are playing right now, the Broncos can beat anyone and could become a team no one wants to play when January comes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Remaining Schedule
- vs. Panthers – 12/3
- @ Falcons – 12/10
- @ Packers – 12/17
- vs. Jaguars 12/24
- vs. Saints 12/31
- @ Panthers 1/7
The single biggest reason to get behind the Bucs to make the playoffs is because of their remaining schedule. Having had just two divisional games so far, four of the final six games will be against NFC South opponents.
Getting the Panthers twice will show us where the Bucs stand. If they can kick off this stretch with a win at home, it could give them the confidence needed to take as many as four of these games. The only game in which they are definitively the underdog is on Christmas Eve against the Jaguars. Past that, everything is a realistic opportunity to win.
The Bucs are clearly rebuilding compared to recent years. That said, they are in the most winnable division in the NFL. With a few bounces and timely conference wins, we could find a sub-.500 team hosting a playoff game.
The NFL season is far from over. The playoff picture could see a major shakeup in any number of ways, including favoured teams dropping out of the picture. These next two games will be critical for the teams on this list, but they may all give themselves a chance at the playoffs with a win in Week 18. Watching it all play out is going to be the best part as we approach the final weeks of the NFL season.