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2015 NFL playoff picture: Panthers, Patriots don't clinch in Week 12, wild card races heat up

Nobody clinched on Sunday, but the wild card races are heating up around the NFL with the playoffs looming.

Heading into Sunday, both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, the NFL's undefeated teams, had a chance at being the first teams to clinch a spot in the postseason. New England's clinching scenarios required winning their Sunday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos, coupled with either a New York Jets or Kansas City Chiefs loss, and also losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jets, Chiefs and Bengals all won, so the Patriots couldn't clinch even if they had beaten the Broncos. That game obviously still had significant playoff implications, however. They're two of the best teams in the AFC, and the Broncos were able to weaken that Pats' grasp on the No. 1 seed with a thrilling 30-24 win in overtime.

The Panthers could have clinched under three scenarios, two of which needed the Seahawks to lose. They did not lose, even though the other teams they needed to lose in those scenarios -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons -- both lost. In the other scenario, they needed the Buccaneers, Vikings and Cardinals to lose. Both Arizona and Minnesota won their games.

Other early games that had a significant impact on the playoff picture include the NFC East matchup between the New York Giants and Washington, and the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons. Eli Manning threw three interceptions and Washington won to improve to 5-6 on the season, tied with the Giants after splitting the season series.

Minnesota handed the Falcons their fourth consecutive loss, putting themselves on top over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. It also further opens up the NFC wild card race as the Falcons are in a nosedive. The Seahawks managed to take down the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, which helped their chances at the Wild Card. The Buccaneers and Bears are still in it after wins as well.

The Arizona Cardinals also further built on their lead in the NFC West with a win over the rival San Francisco 49ers.

In the AFC, the Wild Card race is wide open. The Chiefs, Jets and Houston Texans all improved to 6-5 on the season and all are second place in their respective divisions. The Buffalo Bills lost their game and fell to 5-6, but are still in the hunt along with the Oakland Raiders. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who have been playing great lately, couldn't get past the Chargers and fell to 4-7 on the year.

On Monday Night Football, the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns will play a game that has no playoff implications as the two have a combined 5-15 record.

The current standings for both conferences is below.


1. New England Patriots (10-1)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2)
3. Denver Broncos (9-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
6. Houston Texans (6-5)

In The Hunt

New York Jets (6-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Oakland Raiders (5-6)
Buffalo Bills (5-6)


1. Carolina Panthers (11-0)
2. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
3. Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
4. Washington (5-6)
5. Green Bay Packers (7-4)
6. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

In The Hunt

Atlanta Falcons (6-5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
New York Giants (5-6)
Chicago Bears (5-6)

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SB Nation presents: The Raiders' last-second lateral play goes very wrong