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NFL playoff picture taking shape

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Getty Images

With Thanksgiving behind us, the NFL season is heading into the home stretch, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Although no teams have clinched playoff berths, the Seahawks, Broncos and Chiefs all have a chance to clinch this weekend. And eight of the 12 playoff teams are close to sure things.

We take a look at the state of the playoff race below.

AFC

Safe: Broncos, Patriots, Chiefs, Colts, Bengals

The winner of Sunday’s Broncos-Chiefs game is the favorite to win home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, while the loser will become the favorite to get the No. 5 seed. The Patriots have all but locked up the AFC East, with a three-game lead and the tiebreaker edge over the Dolphins and Jets, and the Colts have all but locked up the AFC South, with a two-game lead and the tiebreaker edge over the Titans. The Bengals lead the AFC North by a game and a half over the Ravens, and even if the Bengals blow their big division lead, they’d probably end up with the final wild card spot.

Wild card scramble: Ravens, Titans, Chargers, Jets, Dolphins

At 6-6, the Ravens have a half-game lead over the other four teams in the wild card mix. Baltimore also owns head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins, who play each other on Sunday and again in Week 17. The bad news for the Ravens is that their schedule is tough: Baltimore’s last three games are all against teams with winning records, the Lions, Patriots and Bengals. The Titans and Chargers both have three games remaining against teams with winning records as well. This race is wide open, and a 9-7 record might be enough to win it.

Long shots: Steelers, Browns, Bills

The Steelers would have been in great position to earn a wild-card berth with a win in Baltimore, but their loss means they’d probably need to run the table, and even that might not be enough to make the playoffs. The Browns and Bills also have seven losses and are extreme long shots.

NFC

Safe: Seahawks, Saints, Panthers

The winner of Monday night’s Seahawks-Saints game has the inside track for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are heavy favorites to win the NFC West even if they lose to the Saints on Monday. The Saints and Panthers play each other twice in December, and if one team sweeps those two games, that team would all but lock up the NFC South. The team that doesn’t win the NFC South is virtually assured of a wild card.

Control their playoff chances: Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, Cardinals

The Lions have a half-game lead over the Bears in the NFC North and own the tiebreaker, so the Lions know they just need to keep winning to win the division. The Cowboys currently have a half-game lead over the Eagles in the NFC East and own the tiebreaker, but the Eagles still get another shot at the Cowboys in Week 17, so if the Eagles can keep pace with the Cowboys in the standings, that meeting on the last day of the season will determine the division. The 49ers and Cardinals are both 7-4 and play each other in Week 17, so they may meet with a wild card on the line in the last game of the year.

Need help: Bears

The Bears will need the Lions to lose at least once to win the NFC North, as Detroit owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. It’s still possible that the Bears could earn a wild-card berth, but those odds are long. The Bears’ best chance is to win out and hope the Lions lose one.

Long shots: Packers, Rams

Green Bay needs to win out while Detroit loses twice and Chicago loses at least once before hosting the Packers in Week 17. The Rams have to win out and get help, and winning out is almost impossible considering the remaining five games for St. Louis are at the 49ers, at the Cardinals, vs. the Saints, vs. the Buccaneers and at the Seahawks.

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59 Responses to “NFL playoff picture taking shape”
  1. tedmurph says: Nov 29, 2013 1:13 PM

    The Chargers look like the only contender for the 6th seed that can get to 9 wins, looking at the schedules.

  2. seatownballers says: Nov 29, 2013 1:13 PM

    And the march halts in Pittsburgh

  3. fissels says: Nov 29, 2013 1:13 PM

    Playoffs are just a formality because the Super Bowl will be Seahawks vs Broncos!

  4. bennyb82 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:15 PM

    I am a Lions fan but I just know they are looking at their schedule right now and figuring out which games they can lose and still get in the playoffs.

  5. dms5150 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:16 PM

    The Browns are not even close to being a long shot.

    - Sincerely,

    A depressed Browns fan.

  6. pacificnw7722 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:17 PM

    I think the Rams contain “Krap” and win this ball game.

  7. assuredmutualdestruction says: Nov 29, 2013 1:18 PM

    If Arizona beats Philly this week, I’ll start to believe in them. They’re going to have to get a couple wins no one thinks they can get to get in. The advantage they have is that head to head with Carolina and the season finally with frisco. If they lose this game to the Eagles, I don’t think they get in, though.

  8. pastabelly101 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:21 PM

    Once again after all the “put a stake in them,they are done” the Patriots are right there. Sorry trolls!

  9. gadgetdawg says: Nov 29, 2013 1:25 PM

    @fissels

    I hear that formality thing from fans every year. You may be correct this time but there is normally an upset/surprise somewhere during the playoff run.

  10. thinredline69 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:25 PM

    Steelers not as long a shot as one might think, according to the ESPN playoff machine…

  11. kaeptovernon says: Nov 29, 2013 1:31 PM

    pacificnw7722 says:
    Nov 29, 2013 1:17 PM
    I think the Rams contain “Krap” and win this ball game.

    That’s cute.

  12. mrwalterisgod says: Nov 29, 2013 1:39 PM

    To shorten things up, there’s the Seahawks, and then there’s everybody else.

  13. dcapettini says: Nov 29, 2013 1:42 PM

    The X Factor in the races for the wild card and the few division races still open is how soon the top teams clinch and can rest their players (euphemism for lose their competitive edge) and the race to the bottom by QB needy teams. Every prognostication goes out the window once they either don’t care or actually want to lose.

  14. titansbro says: Nov 29, 2013 1:43 PM

    Who ever said the pats were done? Pats fans gotta get a hold on their insecurities. It’s embarrassing. We all know the pats are good. That’s not the reason everyone hates them you know.

  15. tedmurph says: Nov 29, 2013 1:49 PM

    IMO there are 5-6 real contenders to win the SB out of the 12 playoff teams, but there are no great teams. Every team has flaws and vulnerabilities, including Seattle and Denver, who do deserve to be the favs at this point. It’s going to come down to, as it often has in recent yrs, who gets hot and who has the best luck with injuries. I wouldn’t crown the favs just yet. NE, SFran and NOrleans still might have something to say about it.

  16. steelersaregodsteam says: Nov 29, 2013 1:49 PM

    The Steelers are not long shots by any stretch. We are marching. Nothing will impede us on our path, not even the zebras.

    #winout

  17. yeevie13 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:50 PM

    Don’t sleep on Buffalo. Next 4 games: vs. Atlanta, @ Tampa Bay, @ Jacksonville, vs. Miami. All winnable games. Then they’d have to find a way to upset New England to get to 9-7. A long shot, but they always play them really tough so you never know.

  18. williebeaman says: Nov 29, 2013 1:51 PM

    Rams would be 7-4 without Bradford going down. Good to see them battling and alive. This year is unlikely but next year will be a breakout year for them, especially with a Top 5 pick from the Washington Football Club coming their way.

  19. kwickett85 says: Nov 29, 2013 1:51 PM

    ‘If’ the Bills can be consistent on offense I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a push for the last spot. They won’t make it but I think they’ll be a lot closer than they are now. Their next 3 games are against teams with a combined record of 7-26 (Falcons, Bucs, and Jags). Then 5-6 Miami who they already beat in Miami. Last game is against the Patriots which will most likely push them out, if not out already.

    That defense they have is definitely a playoff defense. The offense needs to be consistent and a little more aggressive.

  20. asarabi says: Nov 29, 2013 1:54 PM

    If the Bills win out and go 9-7 they get the final wild card. Considering they only have one game left against a team with a winning record I would say they have an okay chance.

  21. tedmurph says: Nov 29, 2013 1:56 PM

    dcap this yr it’s gonna be hard for teams to take weeks off. Even though some division races might be decided, seedings and home field should still be wide open.

    titansbro, are you kidding? People said the Pats were done up and down these threads earlier in the year. Although, they say that every yr.

  22. flavordave says: Nov 29, 2013 1:57 PM

    Chip Kellys 11 headed offensive monster Machine Tour 2013 is cranking at full speed. Its chewing up defenses and spitting out bones. The Cowboy fans should be fully prepared for the collapse week 17. They’re trained in December tank jobs. And there’s simply nothing anyone can do about it

  23. beerbudsnbevo says: Nov 29, 2013 2:00 PM

    What about the reigning NFC East Champs?

    They will be pondering what their record will look like next year, being they have not had any valuable drafts to build on….

    Probably 5-11 next year

  24. beardinals says: Nov 29, 2013 2:06 PM

    “fissels says:
    Playoffs are just a formality because the Super Bowl will be Seahawks vs Broncos!”

    - Says hardly any nuber 1 seeds ever!

  25. tedmurph says: Nov 29, 2013 2:06 PM

    The 4-7 Bills are gonna run the table? Tbay has won 3 in a row and is playing a lot better, they would have to sweep a div rival also in the hunt(Miami), beat NE on the road with NE probably needing the gm for seeding and pass 6 tms in the standings. Sorry, I’m gonna go ahead and sleep on the Bills.

  26. cornerstone2001 says: Nov 29, 2013 2:09 PM

    Peter’s Cheaters wont have enough players left to suit up for the playoffs if they drug test again this week.

    Seattle will run into a buzz saw next week when they visit the Stick…..

  27. cornerstone2001 says: Nov 29, 2013 2:11 PM

    steelersaregodsteam says:
    Nov 29, 2013 1:49 PM
    The Steelers are not long shots by any stretch. We are marching. Nothing will impede us on our path, not even the zebras.

    #winout

    ———————————

    Yes they are marching back home to clean out their lockers…….

  28. phelbin says: Nov 29, 2013 2:12 PM

    fissels says:

    Playoffs are just a formality because the Super Bowl will be Seahawks vs Broncos!

    - – - – - – - – - – -

    The last three Super Bowl winners were 10-6, 9-7, and 10-6. And only 2 number one seeds have won the Super Bowl since 2000. So this thing is far from decided yet.

  29. icanspeel says: Nov 29, 2013 2:12 PM

    A lot of things will be more clear after this week. For quite a few teams the playoffs start now.

  30. tedmurph says: Nov 29, 2013 2:12 PM

    The steelers were marching till they tripped over Tomlin’s feet.

  31. strongmackn says: Nov 29, 2013 2:19 PM

    All I read was blah blah blah. Seattle will take the division and make norcalmafias life miserable. Blah blah.

  32. paulage77 says: Nov 29, 2013 2:29 PM

    Does ‘steelersaregodsteam’ remind anyone else of Baghdad Bob?

  33. mrwalterisgod says: Nov 29, 2013 2:40 PM

    steelersaregodsteam says:
    Nov 29, 2013 1:49 PM
    The Steelers are not long shots by any stretch. We are marching. Nothing will impede us on our path, not even the zebras
    =================

    Marching in place maybe.

  34. flickaboogie says: Nov 29, 2013 2:42 PM

    As a Lion fan, normally this time of year I am getting my draft board together. Maybe this year I can wait until February.

  35. eightandeightlions says: Nov 29, 2013 2:42 PM

    Overall, the quality of football being played has markedly declined this year. I can’t remember a worse year for quality of Football, other than the lockout year.

    NFC North and NFC East have to send someone to the playoffs this year, but no team in either division belongs there, and there is not a single team in the AFC that can be considered good to a non-fan unless you count the biggest fraud in the non-fantasy football portion of the league, Peyton Manning.

    Maybe some consistency in what is considered a foul would be all that is needed to get back the integrity of the game, but I think the best is behind us.

  36. badmoonrison says: Nov 29, 2013 2:43 PM

    It will probably be the Seahawks vs the Pats in the Superbowl. Not that I root for either of those teams. Im just being realistic. Unless of course a team like Balt or the Saints starts to get hot at just the right time, which historically is the case with SB winning teams. They just seem to get hot at the right time.

  37. jnks10 says: Nov 29, 2013 2:48 PM

    As an Eagles fan it’s nice to just be in the hunt this late in the season after the way Andy left this team in ruins. I am certainly a believer in chip.

    Oh an KC fans/National Media. Remember when Eagles fans would always complain about Andy Reid and said Andy loses you at least 1-2 games a year on just stupidity. Well you saw an example of that with his great clock management abilities last week. Sadly you guys hired Marty Schottenheimer Junior, the same guy you ran out of town a few years ago.

  38. stunzeed5 says: Nov 29, 2013 3:04 PM

    NFC East is pathetic….Cowboys are a joke and the Eagles stink.

  39. panthers34 says: Nov 29, 2013 3:06 PM

    I’ll feel more confident after a win against Tampa this weekend. Splitting with the Saints is a possibility. Arizona makes me nervous since they have the tie break, will be rooting for Philly this weekend.

  40. mohrmd says: Nov 29, 2013 3:18 PM

    The Chiefs are not SAFE at all. If they lose to Denver on Sunday it might be time to start talking about how they may actually be in trouble, and how we may witness the biggest collapse in NFL history.

    They have lost 2 in a row, have an inconsistent passing game, injuries are mounting on defense, and, more importantly, with only 2 sacks in their last 4 games, teams may have actually figured out how to beat the defensive scheme.

    And lets not forget they had the worst record in the league last year.

    Their remaining schedule (Den, @Wash, @Oak, Ind, @SD) is no cupcake. They can lose out. If they do, they will find themselves at 9-7 with 6 conference losses, and quite possible on the outside looking in.

  41. annes22 says: Nov 29, 2013 3:40 PM

    One or two of the Seahawks need to behave themselves and mind the DUI’s. Keep going and they may be missing from any playoffs.

  42. dtownsportslions says: Nov 29, 2013 3:50 PM

    NFC Wildcard weekend would have some awesome story lines if its Carolina vs Dallas and SF vs Detroit. Up start Panthers against the Boys in big D, will Romo Choke again? or will they get over the hump?

    The Lions hosting their first playoff game in 20 years against Harbaugh and the niners. That would be a physical game, Schwartz v. Harbaugh.

    I love the NFL.

  43. ninefingers9 says: Nov 29, 2013 4:06 PM

    Suck it Packers!

  44. bullcharger says: Nov 29, 2013 4:44 PM

    yeevie13 says:Nov 29, 2013 1:50 PM

    Don’t sleep on Buffalo. Next 4 games: vs. Atlanta, @ Tampa Bay, @ Jacksonville, vs. Miami. All winnable games. Then they’d have to find a way to upset New England to get to 9-7. A long shot, but they always play them really tough so you never know.

    ————————–

    Since 2001 the Patriots are 12-0 against the Bills in New England with and average victory margin of 13.75. Including the Matt Cassel year.

    The Bills don’t play the Patriots tough in New England.

  45. infectorman says: Nov 29, 2013 4:53 PM

    can someone look in on “steelersaregodsteam”?

    Make sure he didn’t swan-dive off of the 14th floor?

  46. truths4all says: Nov 29, 2013 5:07 PM

    You failed to mention that in the event Arizona and Carolina end up with identical records with a playoff sport left between them, Arizona owns the tie breaker.

    Not sure that Carolina is going to end up smoothly getting into the playoffs as you guys already believe they are in. This is the NFL with players on underdog teams trying to win, coaches trying to win, and officials trying their best to shape the outcome of games, probably due to that insidious betting interests.

  47. quarterbackjudge says: Nov 29, 2013 5:29 PM

    How does it feel to be in the playoffs?

    Sincerely, a Jaguars fan

  48. bert1913 says: Nov 29, 2013 5:31 PM

    i love football

  49. Noel Thomas says: Nov 29, 2013 6:08 PM

    steelersaregodsteam says: The Steelers are not long shots by any stretch. We are marching. Nothing will impede us on our path, not even the zebras.
    ———————-
    Be nice to the zebras. Without them giving you bogus calls and TDs, you don’t beat the Seahawks in Superbowl a few years ago.

    When you say nothing will impede you, you are referring to more cheating, I suppose. I’m sure Tomlin has more cheating tricks up his sleeve. Might as well, as those 4 1970′s Superbowl Steelers were so juiced with steroids, the whole offensive line has died on steroid complications.

  50. itsfootballfolks says: Nov 29, 2013 6:16 PM

    Has anyone checked on Forsbergler? Haven’t seen a post from him since the Patriots beat the Broncos.

    AFC Championship Game in Denver. Could be frigid and snowing. Could be 70 and clear. It will be a tough game to predict a winner.

  51. fmc651 says: Nov 29, 2013 6:41 PM

    Why put the packers up ther after the Lions game the world could see they are more than a Lonf shot. They are planning for the draft right now. They are done. When Rodgers comes back they could win a game but it is just hurting their draft position by doing it.

  52. computojon says: Nov 29, 2013 7:15 PM

    steelersaregodsteam reminds me a lot of logicalvoice says. Different team, but same gung-ho blather.

    Come to think of it, we haven’t heard a lot recently from logicalvoicesays, have we? Last time I heard, it was “Redskins will run the table and go 11-5, making the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl.”

    Maybe they’re really the same person, perpetually stuck in fantasy land. Buh-bye, steelersaregodsteam and logicalvoice says. Buy-bye.

  53. tompapp1 says: Nov 29, 2013 7:58 PM

    I feel the Saints are the best team in the NFC and are SB bound as the Seahawks now have real issues in their vaunted secondary. Its probably going to be the Broncos but I hope its the Colts cause I really like Luck.

    Brees vs Peyton or Luck would be a QB connoisseurs dream for the SB.

  54. itsfootballfolks says: Nov 29, 2013 8:00 PM

    I’m a Patriots fan. I’ll breathe a little easier when the Giants and Ravens are mathematically eliminated. Both those teams scare me, with good reason.

  55. coachbeck says: Nov 29, 2013 9:00 PM

    Andy Dalton gets hot and it’s Bengals/Saints

  56. uplate5301 says: Nov 29, 2013 10:10 PM

    Seahawks and Broncos SHOULD be the odds-on favorites to get to the Super Bowl. But the Seahawks, and any team quarterbacked by Peyton Manning have ABYSMAL playoff records…. and always while seeming to be favored to go all the way. They SHOULD be the teams.

    But if I was a fan of either, I’d get more and more nervous as the playoffs approach…….

  57. doubleogator says: Nov 30, 2013 11:06 AM

    Panthers and Eagles both lose this weekend…you heard it here first.

  58. justamoguy says: Nov 30, 2013 5:00 PM

    mohrmd says:
    Nov 29, 2013 3:18 PM
    The Chiefs are not SAFE at all. If they lose to Denver on Sunday it might be time to start talking about how they may actually be in trouble, and how we may witness the biggest collapse in NFL history.

    They have lost 2 in a row, have an inconsistent passing game, injuries are mounting on defense, and, more importantly, with only 2 sacks in their last 4 games, teams may have actually figured out how to beat the defensive scheme.

    And lets not forget they had the worst record in the league last year.

    Their remaining schedule (Den, @Wash, @Oak, Ind, @SD) is no cupcake. They can lose out. If they do, they will find themselves at 9-7 with 6 conference losses, and quite possible on the outside looking in.

    ==================================

    Sounds like a little wishful thinking.

    Let me get this straight the Chiefs are going to lose 7 straight after winning 9 straight?

    And you are basing this off losing to team (Broncos) that is in the discussion to win it all, and losing in the last minute of a game in which we lost 2 of our best players?

    So you are focusing on the last two weeks, ignoring the first 9, but then focusing on last season. No, you are not picking and choosing your facts. LOL

    So who are we suppost to lose to:

    Denver: Okay, this one could happen. Not a given at all, though.

    Washington: Who have lost 3 games to teams the Chiefs have beat.

    Oakland: I see what you are talking about. I mean we did squeak out a 24-7 victory last time.

    Colts: You mean the team that has lost 40-11 and 38-08 in the last 3 weeks, and barley beat the Texans (who the Chiefs beat ) after the Texans fell apart following their coach’s collapse at halftime.

    Chargers: Yea they just beat us. We will see, but I think as long as we have Houston back, it will not be a problem to win.

    Yep, you thought your post out before you started typing. LOL

  59. jom60 says: Nov 30, 2013 6:15 PM

    “You failed to mention that in the event Arizona and Carolina end up with identical records with a playoff sport left between them, Arizona owns the tie breaker.”

    You need to remember that for determining the wild card teams, ties are broken first from within divisional opponents.

    If the 49ers, Cardinals, and Panthers all end up in a three way tie for the best non-divisional champ in the NFC, the Cardinals will probably be the team the doesn’t make it, and here’s why:

    Before any ties are broken involving the Panthers, the tie between the 49ers and Cardinals is broken to see who competes with Carolina for the 1st wild card spot. The 49ers will almost certainly win this tie because they are ahead of the Cardinals head-to-head (1-0), and are ahead on the next divisional tie breaker, divisional record (2-1 vs 0-3). This means that the Cardinals can only get a wild card spot after the 49ers get a wild card spot.

    However, the 49ers would lose the tiebreaker to the Panthers, giving the Panthers the first wild card spot and leaving the 49ers with the second wild card spot. Thus, even if the cardinals would beat out Carolina in a tie breaker, if the Cardinals tie with both the 49ers and panthers that tie breaker would never go into effect.

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