With 12 weeks down and five to go in the NFL season, the playoff race is taking shape. The Bears’ win and the Packers’ loss changed the top of the NFC North, while the Bengals’ win and the Steelers’ loss tightened the battle for the final AFC wild card spot.
Below we provide the state of the playoff race through Week 12, with the six playoff teams that would be in the postseason in each conference if the playoffs started today.
1. Falcons (10-1): Beating the Buccaneers makes the Falcons the overwhelming favorites to win the NFC South, and the heavy favorites to win home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
2. 49ers (8-2-1): A big win in New Orleans strengthens the 49ers’ hold on the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye.
3. Bears (8-3): They lead the NFC North for now, but a big three-week stretch looms with the Seahawks, Vikings and Packers coming.
4. Giants (7-4): Their big Sunday night win over the Packers, combined with the Redskins beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, gives the Giants some breathing room in the NFC East.
5. Packers (7-4): Green Bay’s five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt in New Jersey. Now the Packers need to bounce back against the Vikings next week.
6. Seahawks (6-5): Despite Sunday’s disappointing loss in Miami, Seattle’s head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Minnesota and conference record tiebreaker edge over Tampa Bay still gives the Seahawks the inside track for the final wild-card berth.
In the mix: The 6-5 Buccaneers and 6-5 Vikings both missed golden opportunities to capitalize on Seattle’s loss, but they remain right in the thick of the playoff race. The 5-6 Redskins own the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over both the 5-6 Cowboys and the 5-6 Saints. No other NFC teams have realistic playoff hopes.
1. Texans (10-1): The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston.
2. Ravens (9-2): Baltimore’s overtime win in San Diego keeps the Ravens in prime position to earn a first-round playoff bye.
3. Patriots (8-3): New England owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.
4. Broncos (8-3): Denver clinches the AFC West with either a win or a Chargers loss next week.
5. Indianapolis (7-4): With the Colts in the wild card lead, a showdown between Peyton Manning and his former team looks likely in the first round of the playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh (6-5): The Steelers currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals for the final wild-card spot.
In the mix: The 6-5 Bengals control their playoff destiny, as they still have a Week 16 rematch with the Steelers. The rest of the AFC — including the 5-6 Dolphins, 4-7 Chargers, 4-7 Titans, 4-7 Bills and 4-7 Jets — will all need something approaching a miracle to reach the playoffs.