UPDATE: The Broncos clinched a spot with Monday's win over the Bengals. The most recent playoff picture can be found here.
When we last checked the NFL playoff standings, the Atlanta Falcons were still technically alive in the NFC wild card race. The Minnesota Vikings made sure that didn't last long, eliminating the Falcons and punching their postseason ticket with a primetime beatdown of the New York Giants.
Next week's Sunday Night Football finale feature the Vikings taking on the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title. Both teams are in the playoffs, but the game could determine seeding. The winner clinches the No. 3 seed, while the loser gets either No. 5 or 6 depending on scenarios.
The NFC playoff field is set, although seeding still needs to be determined. The Carolina Panthers finally got their first loss of the season, which means that the Arizona Cardinals could steal home field advantage with a win and Panthers loss next week. Washington wrapped up the NFC East and will likely be resting starters, with nowhere to go up or down. The Seahawks stumbled at home against the St. Louis Rams, which may cost them the No. 5 seed with the Cardinals Week 17 matchup looming.
In the AFC, things are a lot more chaotic even with the Kansas City Chiefs clinching a playoff spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers -- a team that controlled its own destiny and was one of the hottest teams in football -- were stunned by the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Meanwhile, the New York Jets pulled off an overtime win over the New England Patriots, so the two teams switch in the wild card standings.
With the Patriots losing, that sets up the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos as the most important Monday Night Football game of the year. Cincinnati can clinch a first-round bye with a win and would put itself in position to win the No. 1 seed next week. Despite being 10-4, the Broncos haven't even clinched a playoff spot yet, and could be overtaken in the division by the Chiefs if they lose this game. There is suddenly a lot of uncertainty in Denver after such a hot start to the season.
The Houston Texans moved one step closer to the AFC South crown, despite being down to their fourth quarterback of the season. Houston made quick work of the Tennessee Titans to move to 8-7, thus guaranteeing at least a .500 division champion in 2015. That didn't seem possible just a month ago, but the Texans did enough to avoid total embarrassment to the league.
The Indianapolis Colts are still alive in the division, but they'll need to win and have a laundry list of miracles happen to clinch. With their quarterback situation in a dire state, that doesn't seem likely, but we've seen stranger things happen in this NFL season.
Here are the updated standings, pending Monday night's game.
|y-New England Patriots||12||3||7-1||5-2||4-1|
|New York Jets||10||5||6-2||4-3||3-2|
|x-Kansas City Chiefs||10||5||5-2||5-3||4-1|
|San Diego Chargers||4||11||3-5||1-6||0-5|
|New York Giants||6||9||3-4||3-5||2-3|
|x-Green Bay Packers||10||5||5-2||5-3||3-2|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||6||9||3-5||3-4||3-2|
|New Orleans Saints||'6||9||4-4||2-5||2-3|
|St. Louis Rams||7||8||5-3||2-5||4-1|
|San Francisco 49ers||4||11||3-4||1-7||0-5|
x - clinched playoff berth
y - clinched division
z - clinched first-round bye
And here is the updated playoff picture through Sunday's games.
1. Patriots (12-3)
2. Bengals (11-3)
3. Broncos (10-4)
4. Texans (8-7)
5. Chiefs (10-5)
6. Jets (10-5)
In the hunt
1. Panthers (14-1)
2. Cardinals (13-2)
3. Packers (10-5)
4. Washington (8-7)
5. Vikings (10-5)
6. Seahawks (9-6)