NFL playoff picture 2013: Saints and Bears get big wins to close Week 14

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

A pair of crucial NFC matchups brought a close to Week 14 and have reshuffled the conference's postseason seeding.

While the AFC has remained stagnant since the conclusion of Sunday's late afternoon games, major showdowns on Sunday and Monday night have refocused the playoff picture in the NFC.

The New Orleans Saints grabbed the NFC South lead back from the Carolina Panthers Sunday before the Chicago Bears celebrated Mike Ditka's jersey retirement with a win over the Dallas Cowboys that pulled them back into the NFC North race.

Here are the updated playoff seedings as they stand at the conclusion of Week 14.

AFC playoff standings

1. (X) Denver Broncos 11-2

2. New England Patriots 10-3

3. Cincinnati Bengals 9-4

4. (Y) Indianapolis Colts 8-5

5. Kansas City Chiefs 10-3

6. Baltimore Ravens 7-6

In the hunt: Miami Dolphins 7-6, San Diego Chargers 6-7, New York Jets 6-7, Tennessee Titans 5-8

(X) - clinched playoff berth (Y) - clinched division

After their thrilling comeback against the Browns, New England finds themselves on the verge of clinching the AFC East heading into Week 15 — either a win over the Dolphins or a Baltimore loss would hand them the division. They also find themselves just a game back from the Broncos for the No. 1 seed in the conference, and own the tie-breaker thanks to a Week 12 win over Denver.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are hoping for a New England slip-up that would allow them to sneak into the No. 2 spot and capture the first-round bye that comes with it. They beat the Patriots back in Week 6 and have the advantage in the case of a tie.

NFC playoff standings

1. (X) Seattle Seahawks 11-2

2. New Orleans Saints 10-3

3. Philadelphia Eagles 8-5

4. Detroit Lions 7-6

5. Carolina Panthers 9-4

6. San Francisco 49ers 9-4

In the hunt: Arizona Cardinals 8-5, Chicago Bears 7-6, Dallas Cowboys 7-6, Green Bay Packers 6-6-1

(X) - clinched playoff berth

The Saints were massive winners on Sunday night, holding the hard-charging Panthers at bay with a statement 31-13 victory to re-take control of the NFC South. Carolina had reeled off eight consecutive wins to pull even with New Orleans atop the division coming into the game, but once again find themselves relegated to second place. The good news is that they get another shot against the Saints in two weeks, this time at home. They can clinch a playoff spot with a win plus a Cardinals loss, a 49ers loss and a loss by either the Cowboys or Eagles.

New Orleans can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Rams this Sunday.

The Bears improved their standing with a 45-28 demolishing of the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. After the Lions' loss on Sunday, Chicago pulls even for the NFC North lead, but will need to finish a game ahead because of a pair of losses to Detroit earlier in the season. Sitting two games back from the wild card leaders with just three weeks to go, a division title is likely the Bears' only door to the postseason.

Likewise, Dallas will likely have to capture the NFC East to make the playoffs, a goal that took a hit on Monday night. Making matters worse, the Eagles won over the weekend and now hold a one-game lead. The Cowboys have beaten Philly once already, though, and will have a chance to do so again in Week 17.

The 49ers scored a crucial divisional win over the Seahawks, leaving the NFC West still in play. They can punch their playoff ticket this week with a win and losses by the Cardianls and either Cowboys or Eagles. The Seahawks travel to New York looking to bounce back. They can clinch the division with a win and 49ers loss. They can also wrap up home-field advantage with a win and losses by the 49ers and Saints.

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