The NFL postseason is becoming clearer each week, but it wasn't until Monday Night Football in Week 13 that a team mathematically secured their place in the playoffs.
With a 34-7 demolition of the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks officially staked their claim in the NFC playoffs, clinching a berth in the postseason. With a three-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers and four games left to play, the team hasn't quite clinched an NFC West crown, but they cannot be caught by the wild card contenders.
Week 14 is on the way and with it will come several opportunities for teams to join the Seahawks as mathematical certainties in the playoffs:
1. Denver Broncos (10-2)
2. New England Patriots (9-3)
3. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Another win against the Kansas City Chiefs will make the Denver Broncos a tough team to topple from the first seed in the AFC, where they hold a one-game lead. With four games remaining against teams that all have losing records, there's no reason the Broncos wouldn't be able to hold off the field for the top spot in the conference, although one slip up would afford the Patriots, who own a tiebreaker over Denver, a golden opportunity.
On the bubble
While the Chiefs have essentially secured the first wild card spot, the second one is still very much up for grabs. Even the 3-9 Jacksonville Jaguars are only three games behind the Baltimore Ravens, although the Miami Dolphins provide a much more immediate threat. Behind them are four teams just one-game behind the Ravens.
Big Week 14 games
The Bengals and Colts will both be tough to catch in their respective divisions, but the two teams will jockey for position in an important Week 14 matchup. The winner will take control of the No. 3 seed and be in the hunt to climb into the No. 2 spot that would result in a first round bye. Also important will be a Sunday game between the Dolphins and Steelers that will knock one of the teams even further from wild card contention.
NFC Playoff Picture
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1)*
2. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
3. Detroit Lions (7-5)
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3)
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
*Denotes a team has clinched a playoff berth
The Seahawks earned their ticket to the postseason and with a road victory over the 49ers on Sunday they would secure the NFC West and a first round bye as well.
On the bubble
The Eagles and Cardinals are each just a game behind the 49ers and two games behind the Panthers. With big games against the Seahawks and Saints upcoming for the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, there will likely be a window of opportunity for these teams, but they'll have to keep winning to have a chance.
Big Week 14 games
The Saints and the Panthers are each 9-3 and each in great position to go to the playoffs; however, the difference between the No. 2 seed and the No. 5 seed is a big one. The winner of the Sunday Night Football battle will be close to clinching a first round bye, while the loser will be in the middle of the wild card race, although a Week 16 rematch will offer a chance to get back to even.
Other important games in the conference include Week 14 matchups between the Eagles and Lions, Bears and Cowboys, and 49ers and Seahawks.
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