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NFL playoff picture 2015: Patriots, Bengals fail to clinch in Week 13

The Panthers clinched, but the Patriots and Bengals will need another week to get it done.

The Carolina Panthers became the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers have secured the NFC South and didn't even need to worry about the game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon.

Going into Sunday, the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals also had a chance to clinch playoff berths, though their scenarios were a lot more complicated.

The Patriots needed a win and a New York Jets loss, but New York put itself firmly in the wild card picture with a win over the New York Giants. The other way the Patriots could have clinched was a win coupled with either a Kansas City Chiefs or Pittsburgh Steelers loss. The Chiefs wound up winning their game, and the Steelers don't play until Sunday Night Football, but that doesn't matter because the Patriots failed to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, falling to 10-2 on the season.

New England was already considered a lock for the playoffs anyway, but that also means every game is important to seeding. The Bengals won their game and so did the Broncos. With the Patriots losing, they move to third seed in the AFC, with Cincinnati on top and Denver in second. Similarly, the 11-0 Panthers haven't locked up the No. 1 seed just yet so the game against the Saints had some importance. It was a very close game, with Newton leading the Panthers to a win in the final minutes. The Arizona Cardinals moved to 10-2 with a win over the St. Louis Rams and are firmly in control of the NFC West.

Cincinnati's clinching scenario was a lot more complicated than New England's. They could have clinched with a win coupled with Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans losses. But the Jets win shifted the scenario to require a Bengals win in addition to losses by the Colts, Texans and Chiefs plus a win by the Denver Broncos.

The Bengals did beat the Cleveland Browns, 37-3, the Texans did lose, the Broncos had no issue beating the San Diego Chargers, but the Chiefs won their game against the Oakland Raiders, meaning the Bengals didn't clinch in Week 13.

In the various wild card races, most of those were altered by the early slate of games. It's looked for awhile like the second place team in the NFC North will get one of the wild card spots, and that team shifted on Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

That game was even more important as it gave the Seahawks a better grip on the final wild card spot as well, as the only 7-win team in the NFC. The Buccaneers are now the next team in if somebody slips up, with the Falcons right behind them after Tampa Bay beat them on Sunday. The Giants and Chicago Bears fell to 5-7 and are now far on the outside looking in.

The big wild card game between the Chiefs and Raiders finished in favor of the Chiefs. They already had control of the final wild card spot, but now they moved up to the fifth seed, a spot above the Jets.

Here's a look at the playoff picture after the afternoon games on Sunday:

AFC

1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
2. Denver Broncos (10-2)
3. New England Patriots (10-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
6. New York Jets (7-5)

In The Hunt

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Houston Texans (6-6)
Oakland Raiders (5-7)
Miami Dolphins (5-7)

NFC

1. Carolina Panthers (12-0)
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)
Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

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