NFL playoff picture taking shape after Week 12

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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.

23 responses to “NFL playoff picture taking shape after Week 12

  1. The entire AFC playoff field (as it stands now) looked weak this week, aside from the Patriots. The Texans got an undeserved OT win against the Lions, the Ravens went to OT against the lowly Chargers, and the Steelers lost to the Browns for the first time since ’09. Of course, I doubt the result would be the same with Roethlisberger. The Colts and Broncos looked less vulnerable, I guess, but both had not-so-impressive wins against definitely-not-impressive teams.

  2. Falcons are the easiest #1 seed I’ve seen in my life. It will be fun to see RGIII and the Redskins knock them out of the playoffs.

    5 Easy games remain for the Skins – vs NYG, BAL, CLE, PHI, DAL. 5 Easy wins. 2005 all over again.

  3. 5 easy wins for the Redskins? Flacco will torch Deangelo Hall and Josh Wilson since Fed Ex Field will have at least 40,000 Ravens fans coming down 295…so it’ll basically be a home game.

  4. After all we’ve suffered through, we know how to accept a gift, but to say the Texans aren’t the deserving AFC favs is ridiculous.

    Bulls on Parade.

  5. The Redskins hold the head to head tiebreaker above every team vying for the 6th seed (aside from the hawks) Washingtons playoff chances are astonishingly realistic. Kind of hard to say that when they were “out” 3 weeks ago.

  6. The 2nd seed is Denver’s to lose. If they win out, including a win vs Baltimore they will get the 2nd seed. New England is bound to lose one to the Texans or 49ers in back to back weeks.

  7. im a packers fan, and the sky isnt falling. were getting jennings back next week and hopefully clay and shields. we will sweep the division and win it, mark my words. were gonna get hot so beware

  8. 96 hours ago, I was hearing about how Ben risked nerve and arterial damage to his throwing arm if he played. There was even talk of putting his aorta at risk.

    But over the last 14 hours, the talk is about how Ben can play against Baltimore — a team that is far up on the Steelers in record and ALL tiebreakers.

    In other words, we better make damned sure Ben is healthy before playing Ben in a hopeless effort to win the AFC North — and instead focus on being as healthy across-the-board with a #5 or #6 seed. We rushed out a hobbled Ben (and others) last year against the ‘Niners — and that insanity shotgunned our season.

    We have no reasonable chance at the AFC North (especially after the Chargers’ inexcusable meltdown) — but we’re well up on the remainder of the AFC field.

    And though we’re “only” a game up on Cincy — we currently hold the tiebreakers, plus we HOST Cincy in December. We need to be smart here. It doesn’t help to make the playoffs with a team that belongs in a M*A*S*H unit.

  9. drglory says:
    Nov 26, 2012 12:21 AM
    After all we’ve suffered through, we know how to accept a gift, but to say the Texans aren’t the deserving AFC favs is ridiculous.
    In the media’s eyes, the only 2 teams that are “deserving” as AFC favorites are the Patriots and the Steelers. Always has been, always will be. No respect for any other team. Coming from a Ravens fan (whose team dismantled the Pats and took out Pitt in their own house), the Texans are hands down the best AFC team. We have first hand experience. But trust me, it won’t be THAT bad of a beat down when we face off in the AFCC!

  10. RGIII is a beast, but if they don’t protect him better AND play better defense the Skins will lose 3 of their last 5 and be on the outside looking in (again). They nearly blew a 25 point lead a few days ago and Skins fans think they are going to the playoffs? C’mon man!

  11. The only thing you are forgetting is Broncos only need to beat the Ravens, and they could be the 2nd seed, the Patriots have to play both the Ravens and Houston that is at least 1 lost.

  12. @rockthered1286

    The Texans currently hold a 1.5 game lead over the Ravens for the top spot in the AFC, which means most likely a Texans v Ravens AFCCG will most likely happen away from M&T where its quite obvious Flacco is a less than par QB.

    To be honest, I am MUCH more worried about beating a renewed Denver team in the divisional round.

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