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NFL Panic Index 2017, Week 14: The playoffs are finally going to look different, maybe

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One of the worst movie cliches is the unkillable villain who keeps coming back to terrorize the main characters, despite being stabbed and shot and drowned and set on fire. The NFL has a few teams like that, as we’re reminded every year around this time.

Remember when the Patriots were 2-2 and looked like they forgot how to play defense? Well, they’ve now won eight in a row and haven’t given up 20 points in a game since.

Or how about the Steelers, who lost to the Bears once this season (YES, THAT HAPPENED) and are riding a seven-game winning streak. Those last two wins, by the way, came on game-winning field goals as time expired, naturally.

Then there’s the Seahawks, who weren’t even in the playoff picture a week ago. But right on schedule, they got their annual statement win, this time over the previously one-loss Eagles. Seattle is now the No. 5 seed in the NFC. With another win over the Rams, the Seahawks could take the NFC West.

And don’t forget about the Packers. They’re just 6-6, but Aaron Rodgers is poised to come back from a broken collarbone in Week 15, maybe giving him enough time to save the day in Green Bay.

No team has officially clinched a postseason berth yet, but those all sound like familiar — and tired — storylines. We know how this movie ends in January: the Steelers vs. Patriots in one bracket; in the other, the Packers vs. an NFC South team, or the Seahawks vs. an NFC South team, or the Packers. vs. the Seahawks.

Sure, a few teams, including the Jaguars, Vikings, Eagles, and Saints, are ready to crash the party. But it’s hard to feel optimistic for the hard-luck teams trying to sneak into the playoff picture, like the Chargers or Bills, because we know we’re just going to get stuck with the dishwater teams no one wants to watch (looking at you, Ravens and Titans).

Panic index: If the season ended today, only four teams from last year’s playoff group would return: the Steelers, Patriots, Seahawks, and Chiefs. There will be fresh blood and that alone is reason to believe this year’s playoffs won’t follow the same script.

Are the Eagles ready for the playoffs?

Being 10-2 is nothing to be ashamed of for the Eagles. Even with last Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, they have a lock on the NFC East title and are still tied for the top of the NFC standings, and the kind of schedule that gives them a leg up for home-field advantage come January.

But that schedule is also a concern. Of those 10 wins, only one came against a team currently holding down a playoff spot, the Panthers. The beat the Chargers too back in Week 4, before the Bolts went on their current surge.

Both of Philadelphia’s losses came against likely playoff teams. While the Chiefs have slumped since then, getting beat by a banged up Seahawks

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