The Titans began the season with a perfect 10-0 record before getting clobbered 34-10 at home by the New York Jets. They have bounced back to win their last two games for an impressive 12-1 mark, good for a two-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC.
In each conference, four division winners qualify for the playoffs along with the two teams with the next-best records. If it ended now, the Giants, Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, and Minnesota Vikings would hail as NFC division winners. The Giants and Cardinals have already clinched their respective division crowns. The Tampa Bay Bucs and Dallas Cowboys would qualify as the two wild card teams. In the AFC, the Titans, Steelers, Jets, and Denver Broncos would be crowned division champions if the playoffs started today. The Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts would earn the last two positions.
Securing one of the two best records in each conference is critical, as the teams who accomplish that task earn first-round byes in the playoffs. The other four-playoff teams in each conference must play an opening-round game in the postseason in order to reach the conference semifinals, where the top two seeds will be waiting. As a result, the Giants and Panthers currently have the best chance to reach Super Bowl 43 out of the NFC, while the Titans and Steelers are looking good in the AFC.
The Giants are seeking their second Super Bowl trophy in a row. Last season they stunned the New England Patriots, who were undefeated at 18-0 heading into the final game. This year, New England is 8-5 and in a struggle for its division title along with the Jets and Miami Dolphins. Missing the playoffs would deny New England a chance to win its fourth Super Bow in the last nine years. Tennessee has never won the NFL’s biggest prize, but the Titans last reached the Super Bowl in 2000, when they fell to the St. Louis Rams.
Three weeks remain in the NFL regular season as the 32 teams continue to battle for playoff positioning. When the season ends in late December, the playoffs will kick off with the first weekend in January and at that point the road to Super Bowl 43 will truly begin.