The Patriots blew out the surging Miami Dolphins on Thursday, and when the Oakland Raiders beat the New York Jets on Sunday, it gave New England a three-game lead in the AFC East. The Bengals did their dirty work themselves, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers to give themselves a three-game lead in the AFC North.
According to Five Thirty Eight, both teams now have over a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs, and have virtually clinched their divisions. Nate Silver's website gives New England a 98 percent chance of winning the East, while the Bengals are at 97 percent in the North.
Peyton Manning gives Denver a boost in battle of the unbeatens
With the Denver Broncos' comfortable win over the Green Bay Packers, they now lead the AFC West by 2.5 games over the surprising Raiders. Denver is also at a 97 percent chance to win the division, and have a 64 percent chance of getting a first-round bye, as opposed to New England's 77 percent and Cincinnati's 58 percent.
The Packers, though, are now only a game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings, and the teams still play each other twice in their final nine games. The Packers still have an 81 percent chance to take the division, but the Vikings will feel they have a shot.
Tampa Bay boosts Carolina in the NFC South
Another big winner in Week 8 was the Carolina Panthers, who saw their chances to win the NFC South jump from 66 percent to 82 percent. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 23-20 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons gave the Panthers a one-game lead, and with the win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night, they expanded it to a 1.5-game lead. The Falcons are still projected to finish 10-6 and have a 63 percent chance of making the playoffs, but they will need Matt Ryan to break out of his slump.
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SB Nation presents: Julio Jones, Kwon Alexander run each other down on separate plays
The other divisions
Things are ugly in the NFC East, where the New York Giants lost a 52-49 shootout to the New Orleans Saints, and the Dallas Cowboys fell 13-12 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants still have a half-game lead over Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles, who both had byes, but Five Thirty Eight now has the Eagles with a 42 percent chance of winning the division, the Giants at 33 percent, Dallas at 17 percent and Washington at just 9 percent.
It isn't any better in the AFC South, where the Colts are now in a first-place tie with Houston at 3-5. At this point, even the 2-5 Jaguars are only a half-game out of the race. The Colts are still given a 54 percent chance of winning the division, but Houston improved to 30 percent with their 20-6 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Arizona Cardinals beat the Cleveland Browns to improve to 6-2 and take a 1.5-game lead over the St. Louis Rams and two games over the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals are only at 51 percent to win the division, though, as Five Thirty Eight still gives the Seahawks a 36 percent shot.
|New England||7||0||0||249||133||3-0||Won 7|
|N.Y. Jets||4||3||0||172||139||1-1||Lost 2|
|Kansas City||3||5||0||195||182||0-1||Won 2|
|San Diego||2||6||0||191||227||0-1||Lost 4|
|N.Y. Giants||4||4||0||215||208||2-2||Lost 1|
|Green Bay||6||1||0||174||130||1-0||Lost 1|
|New Orleans||4||4||0||213||234||1-2||Won 3|
|Tampa Bay||3||4||0||163||199||2-1||Won 1|
|St. Louis||4||3||0||135||125||3-0||Won 2|
|San Francisco||2||6||0||109||207||0-3||Lost 2|