BALTIMORE MD - DECEMBER 05: Matt Birk #77 of the Baltimore Ravens prepares to snap the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5 2010 in Baltimore Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots, Jets, Steelers And Ravens Separate Themselves In AFC

With four weeks to play, the NFL playoff picture is starting to come into focus.

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NFL Playoff Picture: Falcons On Track For No. 1 Seed In NFC; Wildcard Still Unsettled

The NFC playoff picture is more open than the AFC as every division includes either two teams tied in first place or a second place team just one game out. The Atlanta Falcons are establishing themselves as the top team in the conference while the New Orleans Saints are nipping at their heels.

This one can go a lot of different ways but here's a snapshot of the NFL playoff picture:

NFC East: The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants are tied at 8-4 with four games remaining, including a head-to-head matchup. They meet on Dec. 19 in New York so I'll give the edge to the Giants in this race, though plenty can change. The loser of this division will be in a tight race for the wildcard. Currently, second place in the NFC East would be battling the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints for a wildcard spot. The Eagles have a tough slate with two games against the suddenly-hot Dallas Cowboys.

Prediction: Giants win the division

NFC North: Surprisingly this one is coming down to the Chicago Bears and Packers. The Bears lead the division by one game and these two teams meet in Week 17. That will more than likely decide the division. Second place in this division will have a shot at a wildcard battling with the Giants/Eagles and Saints.

Prediction: Packers win the division, Bears get the wildcard

NFC South: The Falcons are in the driver's seat for the top seed in the NFC at 10-2 including a one-game lead on the Saints. These two teams will meet in Week 16 so Atlanta will seal it in that game or New Orleans will make it much more interesting.

Prediction: Falcons win the division, Saints get the wildcard

NFC West: Ugh. Who wants to win this division? It's coming down to the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams who are both tied atop the division at 6-6. This is a difficult one to predict but we'll go with the Seahawks winning this division in Week 17 then these two teams play.

Prediction: Seahawks win the division, no wildcards


NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots, Jets, Steelers And Ravens Separate Themselves In AFC

The NFL focused this year on putting more divisional games late in the season to spice things up and potentially prevent situations like we saw with the Indianapolis Colts last year where they can rest their starters in Week 16 and 17. That' resulted in lots of late-season division games and, for the fans, likely more exciting finishes.

With four games to play, we're starting to see four of these teams separate themselves from everyone else. The Patriots, Jets, Steelers and Ravens seem a step above everyone else. It's looking like we'll see both wildcards come out of those divisions.

Here's a look and a prediction on the AFC playoff picture:

AFC East: The Pariots and Jets are both at 9-2 and they'll both more than likely make the playoffs -- one as the division winner and one as the wildcard. They currently hold the two best records in the NFL (outside of Atlanta) so there's no reason to think they both won't get it. The Dolphins are two games behind the Ravens for the wildcard.

Prediction: Patriots win division, Jets are a wildcard

AFC North: The Steelers and Ravens met on Sunday Night Football in a game that saw Pittsburgh win giving them a 9-3 record over the 8-4 Ravens. The Steelers are now favored to win the division and the Ravens have a two-game lead over all the wildcards. Looking at the rest of the wildcard-possible teams, it's hard to envision a scenario that doesn't have both the Steelers and Ravens in the playoffs.

Prediction: Steelers win division, Ravens are a wildcard

AFC South: Surprisingly, this is still very much a contest and, even more shockingly, the Colts may not be favored to win. The Jaguars stand at 7-5, a full game ahead of the Colts at 6-6. There likely won't be a wildcard from the South so one of these teams will have to win this division. The Colts probably need to run the table -- and that includes a Dec. 19 matchup with the Jaguars.

Prediction: Colts win the division, no wildcards

AFC West: Seven of the eight divisions in the NFL have a team within at least one game of the division lead. The one division that doesn't is the AFC West and the KC Chiefs, who now hold a two-game lead over everyone in the division. Both the Chargers and Raiders play the Chiefs in the final four games so they'll need to win those games and get some help if they're thinking playoffs.

Prediction: Chiefs win the division, no wildcards

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