Both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers had the chance to clinch a spot in the postseason last week, but neither managed to officially secure a spot. Both teams had an even better chance at locking down a spot in the playoffs in Week 13.
For the undefeated Panthers, the easiest way to secure the NFC South on Sunday was just to win. By defeating the New Orleans Saints, Carolina would have pushed the Atlanta Falcons out of reach and clinch the division crown, but even if the Panthers aren't able to win, a Falcons loss would also conclude the NFC South race.
That's exactly what happened, and the Panthers became the first team to clinch as the Falcons lost, 23-19, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Update: The Patriots and Bengals both failed to clinch due to various reasons, and you can find an updated look at the playoff picture here.
A loss for the Patriots in Week 12 meant less progress was made for New England's clinching scenario. Still, a win against the Philadelphia Eagles coupled with a loss for the New York Jets against the New York Giants would be enough to end the AFC East race. If both the Patriots and Jets win, a spot in the postseason could still be clinched for New England if either the Kansas City Chiefs or Pittsburgh Steelers lose. Unfortunately, the Patriots lost on Sunday.
The only other team that can clinch a spot on Sunday is the Cincinnati Bengals, although it's a lengthy scenario that will likely require another week to come to fruition. If the Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns, they would also need the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Jets to lose. If the Jets win, the Bengals could still clinch a spot if the Colts, Texans and Chiefs, all lost and the Denver Broncos win. The Jets and Chiefs both won, so the Bengals did not clinch.
While those three teams have a chance at clinching, the real story of Week 13 is the jockeying for position in the tight wild card races. Four teams were tied at 6-5 for two spots in the AFC with another two teams just behind at 5-6.
Matchups between the Chiefs and Raiders, Colts and Steelers, and Texans and Bills will help to sort out top contenders in the tight race, and also have an impact on the AFC South race. After a terrible start to the year for the division, both the Texans and Colts are on winning streaks and have remained even at the top of the division for more than a month.
The Texans' streak came to an end though, when they fell to the Bills, 30-21.
The only other division with a tie at the top is the NFC East, which is the only division with four losing records. Washington and New York both had the opportunity to reach 6-6 in Week 13, but the Giants fell to the Jets.
The NFC has a tight wild card race of its own, with the Falcons and Seattle Seahawks tied for the second spot behind the Green Bay Packers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears also in the hunt. Seattle dominated its game, and the Buccaneers took down the Falcons. Chicago lost in overtime to the 49ers.
|No.||Team||Super Bowl win|
|1||Carolina Panthers||23.9 percent|
|2||New England Patriots||17.2 percent|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals||16.5 percent|
|4||Arizona Cardinals||12.6 percent|
|5||Denver Broncos||10.3 percent|
Here are the current standings after Sunday's early slate of games:
1. New England Patriots (10-1)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
3. Denver Broncos (9-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
5. New York Jets (7-5)
6. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
In The Hunt
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Houston Texans (6-6)
Oakland Raiders (5-6)
Miami Dolphins (5-7)
1. Carolina Panthers (11-0)
2. Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
3. Green Bay Packers (8-4)
4. Washington (5-6)
5. Minnesota Vikings (8-4)
6. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
In The Hunt
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)
Atlanta Falcons (6-6)
New York Giants (5-7)
Chicago Bears (5-7)
* * *
SB Nation presents: Marcus Mariota scampers for 87-yard touchdown run