NFL playoff picture: Broncos overtake No. 1 seed in AFC

Doug Pensinger

After knocking off Kansas City, Denver is now atop the AFC standings. Here's a complete look at the playoff picture.

For the first time this season, the Kansas City Chiefs are no longer at least tied for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. By losing to Denver on Sunday, the Chiefs dropped from the top spot all the way to the No. 5 seed. Kansas City will get a chance to regain the top spot against Denver in two weeks, but for now the Broncos are on top.

There was also some movement in the NFC this week with the wild card race tightening up. Here's a complete look at the latest playoff picture.

NFC Playoff Picture

Division leaders

No. 1 Seattle Seahawks 10-1 (NFC West leader)

No. 2 New Orleans Saints 8-2 (NFC South leader)

No. 3 Detroit Lions 6-4 (NFC North leader)

No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles 6-5 (NFC East leader)

Seattle now has a 3.5-game lead in the NFC West with five games to play. The Seahawks still have to go on the road to play the 49ers, but Seattle is well on its way to a division title. The Saints are in good position for a top-two seed and a bye week. The Saints and Seahawks will meet in Seattle in two weeks with the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line.

Detroit is tied for the NFC North lead with Chicago, but the Lions currently hold the tiebreaker thanks to two head-to-head wins over the Bears. Philadelphia is currently a half game ahead of Dallas in the NFC East with the Giants also surging.

Wild card leaders

No. 5 Carolina Panthers 7-3

No. 6 San Francisco 49ers 6-4

Carolina held on by the thinnest of margins against New England and the win gives the Panthers a one-game lead over San Francisco for the top wild card spot. The Panthers are also just one game behind the Saints in the NFC South race and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Francisco.

The 49ers have lost two straight games, dropping them into a tie for the final wild card slot. San Francisco currently holds tiebreakers over Arizona and Chicago. The 49ers have a head-to-head advantage over the Cardinals, but the two teams will play again in Week 17. With so many teams close in the standings, conference record will be key moving forward.

Still in contention

Arizona 6-4, Chicago 6-4, Dallas 5-5, Green Bay 5-5, New York 4-6, St. Louis 4-6

The Cardinals have won three straight games and are now tied for the final wild card spot. Arizona has key upcoming games against Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco. Chicago is 3-4 in conference play, which hurts it in tiebreaker scenarios. Five of Chicago's six final games are against NFC teams.

Dallas will have a good opportunity to play its way in with several games against other teams in contention. It begins this week with a game against the Giants. Green Bay has lost three straight and is struggling without Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have a key game against Detroit in two weeks.

New York has won four straight games, playing itself back into the playoff picture. A loss to Dallas on Sunday, however, would be a major blow to the Giants' chances. The Rams have a lot of ground to make up and might need to jump two teams in their division. The Rams can win their way into contention with games against Chicago, San Francisco and Arizona over the next three weeks.

AFC Playoff Picture

Division leaders

No. 1 Denver Broncos 9-1 (AFC West leader)

No. 2 Indianapolis Colts 7-3 (AFC South leader)

No. 3 New England Patriots 7-3 (AFC East leader)

No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals 7-4 (AFC North leader)

The Broncos jumped from the No. 5 seed to the top of the conference with their win against Kansas City. Denver and Kansas City are tied for the AFC West with Denver currently holding the tiebreaker. Denver will have to continue to play well to stay on top with their next two games on the road at New England then on the road at Kansas City.

New England held the No. 2 spot prior to its controversial loss to Carolina on Monday night. The Patriots drop to the No. 3 slot based on conference record. Indianapolis has a slight advantage with a 5-2 conference record compared to New England's 4-2 record.

The Colts' comeback victory against Tennessee put Indianapolis in great position in the division race. The Colts have a three-game lead with six games to play. Like the Colts, Cincinnati won a key division game to give it some breathing room. The Bengals have a 2.5-game lead in the AFC North and will now rest up with a bye week.

Wild card leaders

No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs 9-1

No. 6 New York Jets 5-5

The Chiefs have a comfortable lead for the top wild card slot and the loser of the AFC West battle will almost assuredly be the No. 5 seed in the AFC. The Jets were blown out by Buffalo on Sunday, but still remain in the No. 6 spot. The Jets currently hold a tiebreaker over Miami based on division record, putting them in the mix despite a minus-85 point differential, the second-worst in the NFL.

Still in contention

Miami 5-5, Oakland 4-6, Tennessee 4-6, Pittsburgh 4-6, Baltimore 4-6, Cleveland 4-6, San Diego 4-6, Buffalo 4-7

With the Jets losing, most of the AFC remains in contention for the final wild card spot. Houston at 2-8 and Jacksonville at 1-9 are the only teams out of the race. Miami will face the Jets twice over the final six games, including a matchup in two weeks in New York.

All of the teams in this tier have a major flaw or two. The winner of the second playoff spot could be the one team that is able to overcome whatever flaw they have and string together a couple of wins. The three AFC North teams will go head-to-head multiple times, creating quasi-elimination games each week. The Titans have one of the easier schedules remaining with games against Houston and Jacksonville remaining.

Buffalo would hold the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft if the season ended today, but the Bills are far from out of the playoffs. The Bills are 4-7, but their next three games come against the 2-8 Falcons, 2-8 Buccaneers and 1-9 Jaguars. If Buffalo wins all three, the Bills would be 7-7 heading into a Week 16 matchup at home against Miami. The Bills finish the season at New England, but the Patriots could possibly be resting starters depending on the standings. It's not that far fetched for the Bills to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs.

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