With nine weeks in the books, the NFL playoff landscape is beginning to take shape. The Seahawks and Chiefs won again on Sunday and continue to sit atop their respective conferences. However, there are plenty of teams chasing, with close races for the wild card spots in both the AFC and NFC.
No. 1 Seattle Seahawks 8-1 (NFC West leader)
No. 2 New Orleans Saints 6-2 (NFC South leader)
No. 3 Detroit Lions 5-3 (NFC North leader)
No. 4 Dallas Cowboys 5-4 (NFC East leader)
No. 5 San Francisco 49ers 6-2 (Wild card)
No. 6 Carolina Panthers 5-3 (Wild card)
Contenders: Green Bay 5-3, Chicago 5-3, Arizona 4-4
Seattle went down 21-0 to Tampa Bay, but the Seahawks rallied back to win 27-24 in overtime and improve to 8-1. The win keeps Seattle atop the NFC standings and also improves the Seahawks to 5-0 in NFC play. With conference record one of the top tiebreakers, Sunday's comeback could prove to be pivotal. Seattle increased its lead on the No. 1 seed with New Orleans losing to the New York Jets. The Saints fell to 6-2 and now trail the Seahawks by 1.5 games and have a one-game lead in the division. The Saints have a crucial stretch coming up with four of their next five games against Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle and Carolina.
Dallas has a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the NFC East with Washington at 3-5 and New York at 2-6 still not out of contention. Green Bay lost Aaron Rodgers on Monday and dropped out of the NFC North lead. The Packers, Lions and Bears are all tied for the division lead at 5-3. The Lions currently hold the tiebreaker over both, with Chicago ahead of Green bay based on Monday's win. With plenty of head-to-head matchups remaining, a lot can fluctuate over the next eight weeks.
The 49ers were off on a bye and remain the top wildcard team in the NFC. San Francisco has a one-game lead in the wild card race with an important game this week against Carolina. The winner of that game will hold top wild card position heading into Week 11. Carolina has won four straight games and controls their own destiny in the NFC South with two upcoming games against the Saints.
Eleven of 16 NFC teams currently have five losses or less. Arizona is 4-4, but third in the NFC West. With Seattle and San Francisco above them, the Cardinals are likely only contending for a potential wild card berth.
AFC Playoff picture
No. 1 Kansas City 9-0 (AFC West leader)
No. 2 New England 7-2 (AFC East leader)
No. 3 Indianapolis 6-2 (AFC South leader)
No. 4 Cincinnati 6-3 (AFC North leader)
No. 5 Denver 7-1 (Wild card)
No. 6 New York Jets 5-4 (Wild card)
Contenders: Tennessee 4-4, Miami 4-4, San Diego 4-4, Cleveland 4-5
It may not always be pretty, but the Chiefs continue to win and remain undefeated at 9-0. Kansas City needed two defensive touchdowns to knock off the Bills 23-13. Kansas City has a two-game lead over New England for the AFC No. 1 seed, but it's just a one game lead in the AFC West over Denver. Denver and Kansas City will play in Week 11 and again in Week 13, two games that will shake up the AFC playoff picture.
The Patriots blew out the Steelers to maintain their two-game lead over the Jets in the AFC East. New England is off on a bye this week before back-to-back games against Carolina and Denver. The Colts' late comeback against Houston not only keeps them two games in front in the AFC South, but also keeps them right in the race for the a top seed. The Colts are a half-game behind New England.
Cincinnati lost to Miami on Thursday, but still has a two-game lead in the AFC North. The Bengals are the only team in the division at or above .500 with the 4-5 Browns currently in second place. Cincinnati, however, will have to play the rest of the season without Geno Atkins.
Denver is currently comfortably atop the wild card race. At the same time the Broncos are in the thick of the AFC West race and could overtake the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a pair of wins against the Chiefs in the next few weeks. Denver's next six opponents are currently 4-4 or better.
New York pulled the upset against New Orleans and is now currently in sole possession of the second wild card spot. The Jets remain in the thick of the playoff race despite having a minus-62 point differential, the third-worst in the AFC. Tennessee, Miami and San Diego are all a half-game behind the Jets at 4-4. All three teams have been up-and-down this season. Miami and Tennessee each have losing streaks of at least three games. Six of San Diego's final eight games will come against teams currently in the playoff race.