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NFL playoff picture sees significant changes among teams in the hunt after Week 10

Do the Titans, Colts, and Falcons really have a chance to make the playoffs? They do and here’s why.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Week 10 in the NFL didn’t cause the playoff picture to change much when it comes to who’s in and who’s out. But this week’s NFL outcomes did prompt a shift in the teams in the playoff hunt.

Additionally, the Steelers’ win over the Panthers and the Patriots’ loss to the Titans means there’s been a shakeup in the current AFC seeds. Here’s a look at the updated NFL playoff picture following Week 10.

AFC playoff picture

What stayed the same: The Chiefs remain the AFC’s top team thanks in large part to Patrick Mahomes throwing touchdowns at a rate that’s unheard of in Kansas City. Mahomes has more touchdowns through Week 10 (31) than any Chiefs quarterback has thrown in an entire season. The No. 4-6 seeds remained as-is this week while the Texans were on a bye, the Chargers beat the Raiders, and the Bengals lost to the Saints.

What changed: The Steelers moved into the No. 2 seed after their dominant performance over the Panthers that has many wondering if they’re actually the AFC’s best team. The Chiefs beat the Steelers earlier in the year when Pittsburgh was going through a funk. The Patriots’ loss to the Titans has people questioning what went wrong for New England on Sunday. It also has them positioned in the No. 3 seed heading into Week 11.

The hunt: The Titans’ big win has them as the first team out and the Dolphins are close behind, despite a loss to the Packers. Miami really needs to win one of those Wild Card seeds with the Patriots unlikely to lose control of the AFC East. The Ravens and Colts are next in the standings; Baltimore was on a bye this week while Indianapolis beat Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ loss means they’re pretty much out of the playoff picture. But no team has been eliminated just yet. Not even the 1-8 Raiders.

The biggest surprise: What’s really interesting here is how alive the Colts are, despite starting the season with a 1-5 record. Since 1995, two percent of teams that start the season with that record make the playoffs. Maybe the Colts will become part of that two percent, but they still have a tough road that includes games against the Titans (twice), Dolphins, and Texans. All of those games will have playoff implications.

If the season ended today, these would be the AFC playoff seeds:

1. Chiefs (record: 9-1), (conference record: 7-1)

2. Steelers (6-2-1), (3-2-1)

3. Patriots (7-3), (5-2)

4. Texans (6-3), (5-2)

5. Chargers (7-2), (5-1)

6. Bengals (5-4), (3-2)

In the hunt...

Titans (5-4), (3-4)
Dolphins (5-5), (4-3)
Ravens (4-5), (4-3)
Colts (4-5), (3-4)
Browns (3-6-1), (2-4-1)
Jaguars (3-6), (2-4)
Broncos (3-6), (1-5)
Bills (3-7), (2-5)
Jets (3-7), (2-5)
Raiders (1-8), (1-5)

AFC notes: Cincinnati wins a tie break over Tennessee, Baltimore wins a tie break over Indianapolis, and Jacksonville wins a tie break over Denver based on best win percentage in conference games. Buffalo wins a tie break over the New York Jets based on head-to-head win percentage.

NFC playoff picture

What stayed the same: All six of the NFC playoff teams remained the same from last week to this week, as did their seeds. The Rams, Saints, Bears, and Washington all won and retained their spots from one to four, respectively. The Panthers lost and the Vikings were on a bye, but they hold down the Wild Card seeds.

What changed: The Vikings’ hold of the No. 6 seed weakened during their bye as the Packers are close behind following their win over the Dolphins.

The hunt: The Packers are the new first team out, making their Week 12 game with the Vikings a very big one. The Falcons, who started the season 1-4 before winning three of their last four, are on the outside looking in. It’s possible Atlanta really does make it to the postseason as they’re just the second team out. Making the Falcons’ situation even funnier (or sadder, depending on who you ask), Atlanta lost to the Browns on Sunday. The Seahawks are in a similar situation to the Falcons after putting up a tough fight but falling short against the Rams. Next up for Seattle are the Packers and Panthers, two games that will have playoff implications. The Seahawks are the next in line after the Falcons.

As is the case in the AFC, no team has been eliminated from the playoff race, but the Lions’ loss to the Bears may have did them in. The same is true of the Buccaneers following their loss to Washington.

The biggest surprise: Prior to Sunday, the Cowboys seemed to have no chance at making the playoffs. On Sunday, Dallas beat the Eagles in Philadelphia and shook up not only the NFC East but the NFC playoff picture. The Cowboys are now alive once again and face a division-leading Washington team in just two weeks. A second game against the Eagles also remains on their schedule in December. Much will change in the NFC East in the next few weeks, but if you’re looking for one thing that seems fairly certain, it’s that the Giants won’t win the division.

If the season ended today, these would be the NFC playoff seeds:

1. Rams (9-1), (6-1)

2. Saints (8-1), (5-1)

3. Bears (6-3), (4-1)

4. ​Washington (6-3), (6-2)

5. Panthers (6-3), (4-2)

6. Vikings (5-3-1), (4-2-1)

In the hunt...

Packers (4-4-1), (2-3-1)
Falcons (4-5), (4-2)
Seahawks (4-5), (3-3)
Cowboys (4-5), (3-3)
Eagles (4-5), (2-4)
Buccaneers (3-6), (2-4)
Lions (3-6), (1-5)
Cardinals (2-7), (1-5)
49ers (2-7), (1-5)
Giants (1-7), (0-6)

NFC notes: Chicago wins a tie break over Washington and Tampa Bay wins a tie break over Detroit based on best win percentage in conference games. Atlanta wins a tie break over Dallas and Seattle based on best win percentage in conference games. Seattle wins a tie break over Dallas based on head-to-head win percentage. Dallas wins a tie break over Philadelphia based on head-to-head win percentage. Arizona wins a tie break over San Francisco based on head-to-head win percentage.