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NFL playoff picture: Saints solidify their dominance, Ravens move into No. 6 seed

A division win for the Ravens, a second-consecutive loss for the Panthers, and a major injury for Washington will impact the NFL playoff picture as we enter the final weeks of the regular season.

Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

While two of the NFL’s best teams wait to play on Monday Night Football, Sunday’s NFL action included big wins for many contenders and a few deflating losses for teams in the hunt.

The Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, and 49ers were all on bye weeks, but of that group, only the Dolphins and Patriots are really alive in the playoff picture. Nothing changed for either of those teams while they rested up. Here’s a look at what did change in Week 11 and how it impacted the playoff picture heading into Week 12.

AFC playoff picture

What stayed the same: The Chiefs play the Rams tonight, but regardless of the outcome, Kansas City will stay on top in the AFC this week. The top five seeds remain unchanged from last week to this with the Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots, Texans and Chargers on top, in that order. The Chargers lost, but they still have a two game lead on the next-best team in the conference.

What changed: The Ravens’ win over the Bengals moved Baltimore into the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Cincinnati is now the first team out. The AFC North foes have the same record and both beat each other once this year, but Baltimore has the next tie breaker (division record), for now.

The hunt: The Dolphins were on a bye and fall right behind the Bengals in the conference standings. The Colts went from 1-5 to 5-5 after their fourth-straight win, the most recent being a blowout against the Titans. Tennessee is right behind Indianapolis and still alive in the playoff race, too.

What to watch for moving forward: The Chargers seem like a near-lock for the No. 5 seed, so everyone from Baltimore down in the standings may be fighting for a single playoff spot. With that said, Los Angeles’ schedule is difficult to close out the season. The Chargers face the 2-8 Cardinals next week before playing the Steelers, Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens, and then the Broncos (who Keenan Allen says suck) in Denver to finish the regular season.

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

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

2. Steelers (7-2-1), (4-2-1)

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

4. Texans (7-3), (5-2)

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

6. Ravens (5-5), (5-3)

In the hunt...

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

AFC tie breaker notes:

  • New England wins a tie break over Houston based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Baltimore wins a tie break over Indianapolis and Miami based on best win percentage in conference games. Baltimore wins tie break over Cincinnati based on best win percentage in division games. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Tennessee
  • Cincinnati wins a tie break over Indianapolis and Miami based on head-to-head sweep. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Tennessee.
  • Miami wins a tie break over Indianapolis based on best win percentage in conference games. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Tennessee.
  • Indianapolis wins a tie break over Tennessee based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Jacksonville wins a tie break over Buffalo based on best win percentage in common games. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate NY Jets.
  • Buffalo wins a tie break over the NY Jets based on head-to-head win percentage.

NFC playoff picture

What stayed the same: The same six teams are in the playoff picture this week as were there last week for the NFC. At 6-4, Washington may soon lose their spot atop the NFC East as Alex Smith has been lost for the year due to a broken tibia and fibia. The Bears’ win over the Vikings kept them as the No. 3 seed this week and will help their chances of winning the NFC North, too.

What changed: The Saints moved into the No. 1 seed, but that could be just for a few hours longer as a Rams win over the Chiefs tonight would put Los Angeles back into the No. 1 seed. The Panthers’ loss to the Lions didn’t move them out of the No. 5 seed thanks to the Vikings’ loss to the Bears. But the Seahawks and Cowboys are knocking on both the Panthers’ and Vikings’ doors. Seattle and Dallas won this week and as the first teams out, they are in good position to become increasingly big threats as the season continues.

The hunt: The Seahawks may have saved their season with a win over the Packers and though they remain on the outside looking in, Seattle is the first team out heading into Week 12. The Cowboys’ win over the Falcons had a similar effect and what’s even better for Dallas is that both Washington and Philadelphia lost. The Eagles are 4-6 after their loss to the Saints and look nothing like last year’s Super Bowl champion team.

What to watch for moving forward: Dallas and Washington square off on Thanksgiving with a lot on the line. The NFC East could quickly become the Cowboys’ to lose. There’s still a lot to be determined in the NFC and it’s a safe assumption that the playoff picture will not look like it does today when Week 17 rolls around. Next week’s Seahawks vs. Panthers game could have big implications. Plus, Seattle has two games against the 2-8 San Francisco 49ers in the next four weeks.

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

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

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

3. Bears (7-3), (5-1)

4. ​Washington (6-4), (6-2)

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

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

In the hunt...

Seahawks (5-5), (4-3)
Cowboys (5-5), (4-3)
Packers (4-5-1), (2-4-1)
Falcons (4-6), (4-3)
Lions (4-6), (2-5)
Eagles (4-6), (2-5)
Giants (3-7), (2-6)
Buccaneers (3-7), (2-5)
Cardinals (2-8), (2-5)
49ers (2-8), (1-6)

NFC tie breaker notes:

  • New Orleans wins a tie break over Los Angeles based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Seattle wins a tie break over Dallas based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Atlanta wins a tie break over Detroit and Philadelphia based on best win percentage in conference games.
  • Detroit wins a tie break over Philadelphia based on best win percentage in common games.
  • The NY Giants win a tie break over Tampa Bay based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Arizona wins a tie break over San Francisco based on head-to-head win percentage.