Heading into Sunday, five NFL teams had a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Four of them succeeded.
The Patriots, Broncos and Falcons all clinched their divisions on Sunday, while the Texans clinched a spot in the AFC playoffs. But the Ravens, who would have clinched the AFC North if they had won and the Bengals had lost, instead clinched nothing, as they didn’t win, and the Bengals didn’t lose.
Below we provide the state of the playoff race through Sunday’s games, with the six playoff teams that would be in the postseason in each conference if the playoffs started today.
1. Falcons (11-1): Atlanta officially became the NFC South champions when the Buccaneers lost on Sunday, and the Falcons are also the overwhelming favorites to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
2. 49ers (8-3-1): The 49ers are still holding onto the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, but their chances of catching the Falcons for the NFC’s top spot took a hit with today’s loss to the Rams.
3. Packers (8-4): Green Bay moved ahead of Chicago and into the NFC North lead on Sunday.
4. Giants (7-4): With a win over the Redskins on Monday night, the Giants would all but wrap up the NFC East, and would move ahead of the Packers and into the No. 3 spot in the conference.
5. Bears (8-4): Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks could hurt; it moves the Bears out of the lead in the NFC North.
6. Seahawks (7-5): Seattle now has a one-game lead in the NFC wild-card race.
In the mix: The 6-6 Buccaneers and Vikings could still catch the Seahawks for the final wild-card spot. The 6-6 Cowboys and 5-6 Redskins could still make waves in both the wild card race and the NFC East race, especially if the Redskins beat the Giants on Monday night.
1. Texans (11-1): With a two-game lead over the rest of the conference, it looks like the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Houston.
2. Patriots (9-3): New England owns the tiebreaker edge over the 9-3 Ravens and 9-3 Broncos based on the Patriots’ superior conference record.
3. Ravens (9-3): Baltimore drops to No. 3 in the conference after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh.
4. Broncos (9-3): If the playoffs started today, Peyton Manning’s old team would come to town for a Colts-Broncos first-round playoff game.
5. Colts (8-4): Sunday’s win over the Lions puts the Colts in the driver’s seat in the AFC wild card race.
6. Steelers (7-5): At the moment, Pittsburgh has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cincinnati and therefore owns the sixth and final playoff spot.
In the mix: The 7-5 Bengals visit Pittsburgh in Week 16, and the winner of that game will likely win the final AFC wild-card spot. Every other team in the AFC is 5-7 or worse and likely out of contention.