In the AFC, the conference’s wild card slots appear to be relatively safe bets. The Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos entered the week with healthy leads over the rest of a conference where only six teams are playing better than .500 football.
With the Oakland Raiders on a bye, the Chiefs’ last-minute win over the Panthers gave them first place in the AFC West. The Broncos, at 7-3, still hold a wild card spot, as do the 7-2 Raiders, who are tied with the Chiefs but lose out on a tiebreaker.
Both the Raiders and Chiefs have the same record as the New England Patriots, who hold on to the No. 1 spot in the AFC for now.
While the competitive AFC West beats each other up, the real intrigue will boil down to the automatic spots awarded by two of the conference’s weakest divisions. The Baltimore Ravens currently hold the top spot in the North with a 5-4 record, but Pittsburgh (4-4) and Cincinnati (3-4-1) will make this a fight through Week 17.
The picture looks a bit clearer in the South, but might just be a mirage. Houston leads the division at 6-3, but has a minus-27 point differential halfway through the season. Indianapolis might be ready for a surge, and 5-5 Tennessee also remains a threat to the Texans’ second straight playoff bid.
Things are a bit more chaotic in the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys won their eighth game in a row and are firmly on top of the conference with the best record in the NFL. Washington currently holds the second wild card spot at 5-3-1, but seven teams are no more than 1.5 games away from catching them.
The conference’s two wild card slots are currently held by NFC East teams, but their presence on the happy side of the standings may be volatile. The East is the only division in the league where no teams have a losing record.
The Detroit Lions, who are on a bye, vaulted into the No. 1 spot in the NFC North after the Minnesota Vikings dropped their fourth straight game.
Here’s a look at this week’s results and who helped, or hurt, their playoff standing.
All times listed are Eastern and all games are on Sunday unless listed otherwise.
Ravens 28, Browns 7 (Thursday)
The Ravens hold on to their lead in the division for another week. The Browns are one loss closer to the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
Titans 47, Packers 25
The Titans pull to .500 and keep pace behind Houston, while the Packers trail the Lions and Vikings by a game in the NFC North.
Broncos 25, Saints 23
The Broncos begin the climb back up the AFC West standings after losing to Oakland in Week 9. With the Raiders off, the Broncos pull within half a game of the division’s top spot and solidify their grip on a wild card spot with a victory. The Saints are tied with the Bucs in the NFC South, 1.5 games back of the Falcons.
Rams 9, Jets 6
Jeff Fisher takes another step toward avoiding the “7-9 bullsh*t” he hates so much with the Rams now at 4-5. They’re still 1.5 games back from a wild card bid, though. The Jets are pretty much out of it at this point.
Eagles 24, Falcons 15
The Eagles improve to 5-4 and stay afloat in the NFC East, but trail Washington in the wild card standings. The Falcons still have a 1.5-game lead in the NFC South.
Buccaneers 36, Bears 10
The Bucs move to 4-5, one game out of the wild card spot and the chance to extend Jameis Winston’s second season as a professional. The Bears are playing for draft order at this point.
Washington 26, Vikings 20
Washington remains in the wild card spot, but the team would flip places in the wild card standings with the Giants should New York lose Monday night. The Vikings fall out of the playoff standings for this week.
Chiefs 20, Panthers 17
The Chiefs move into the top spot in the AFC West by virtue of their 7-2 record and a head-to-head victory over the Raiders in Week 6. The Panthers fall further back in the wild card race, perhaps killing any playoff hopes they had left.
Texans 24, Jaguars 21
The Texans strengthen their grip atop the AFC South at 6-3 and make a push toward ousting 7-2 Oakland out of the conference’s second position and the first-round bye that comes with it. The Jaguars are in the same boat as the Browns and Bears — playing for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Dolphins 31, Chargers 24
The Dolphins rebounded from a 1-4 start and now sit at 5-4, though they’re still 1.5 games from a wild card bid and two games (and a tiebreaker) from catching the Patriots in the East. At 4-6, the Chargers are well behind the rest of the AFC West.
Cardinals 23, 49ers 20
The Cardinals improve to .500 and get stuck in the thick of a wide-open NFC playoff race. The 49ers are just a game behind the Browns in the race for the No. 1 pick.
Cowboys 35, Steelers 30
The Cowboys’ march toward the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC continues with their eighth straight win. The Steelers fall behind the Ravens in the AFC North, but it’s still far from over for them.
Seahawks 31, New England Patriots 24
The Seahawks hold a two-game advantage in the NFC West and maintain the inside track on the conference’s second postseason bye, behind the Cowboys. The Patriots still hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but only because their conference record is currently better than the Chiefs’.
Giants 21, Bengals 20
At 6-3, the Giants still have some work to do to catch the Cowboys, but they have a pretty solid hold on a wild card spot. The Bengals fall further behind the Ravens in the AFC North.
Here’s what the standings look like in Week 10:
- Patriots (7-2, AFC East)
- Chiefs (7-2, AFC West)
- Texans (6-3, AFC South)
- Ravens (5-4, AFC North)
- Raiders (7-2, Wild Card)
- Broncos (7-3, Wild Card)
- Cowboys (8-1, NFC East)
- Seahawks (6-2-1, NFC West)
- Falcons (6-4, NFC South)
- Lions (5-4, NFC North)
- Giants (6-3, Wild Card)
- Washington (5-3-1, Wild Card)