Thanksgiving has passed and December is on the way. That leaves only five more weeks after Week 12 for teams to hold on to or climb into a berth in the postseason. No team has clinched yet, and only the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers are out of contention, but time is running out.
For now, both the AFC and NFC are mostly controlled by two divisions: the AFC West and NFC East. There are just 12 spots in the postseason and each division currently owns three of them.
On Thanksgiving, the NFC East was sorted out some when the Dallas Cowboys defeated Washington, and the NFC North took a step closer to being decided when the Detroit Lions pulled off yet another comeback victory — this time over the Minnesota Vikings.
The big game of the week for the AFC West was a Sunday Night Football duel between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Both entered with 7-3 records, just behind the Oakland Raiders for the division lead. The Chiefs forced overtime with a last-second touchdown and two-point conversion, and won in incredible fashion after Cairo Santos doinked in a game-winning field goal. The Chiefs are still a wild card team, but the Broncos ended up getting bounced by the Miami Dolphins, this week at least.
Here’s a look at this week’s playoff standing after Week 12.
All times listed are Eastern and all games are on Sunday unless listed otherwise.
Lions 16, Vikings 13 (Thursday)
The Lions improved to 7-4 and have a one-game lead over the Vikings, but it can be treated more like a two-game lead now that Detroit locked up the tiebreaker with the division sweep. The NFC North is the Lions’ division to lose with five games to play.
Cowboys 31, Washington 26 (Thursday)
Dallas just keeps inching closer to locking up a first-round bye and can all but lock it up in Week 14 if the Cowboys can avenge a Week 1 loss to the New York Giants. For Washington, any hopes of running down the NFC East are done, but they’re still the current owners of the No. 6 seed, and will be regardless of the outcomes of the rest of the Week 12 games.
Steelers 28, Colts 7 (Thursday)
With the win, the Steelers grabbed control of the top spot in the AFC North temporarily, although the Baltimore Ravens took it right back with a win Sunday. It might be tough sledding for the Colts, though. At 5-6, the Colts desperately need to piece together some wins and can’t afford to lose a Week 14 game against the Houston Texans.
Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
The NFC South is still Atlanta’s to lose, and improving to 7-4 puts a little more distance between the Falcons and the rest of the field. It also keep Atlanta in the mix for a first-round bye.
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Baltimore is back in the driver’s seat in the AFC North and currently owns the tiebreaker over the Steelers. A Christmas game against Pittsburgh looms large, but getting a win over the Bengals narrows the division to a two-horse race.
Bills 28, Jaguars 21
It’s a crowded field trying to grab one of the AFC wild card berths, and the Bills are still in the mix at 6-5. It’s not enough to catch the Chiefs, Broncos, or Dolphins in Week 12, but Buffalo is still within striking distance.
Titans 27, Bears 21
Tennessee enters a Week 13 bye at 6-6 and is still alive in both the AFC South and AFC wild card races. Back-to-back games against AFC West opponents is tough, but the Titans are still in this, just a game back of the Texans.
Giants 27, Browns 13
New York is still only two games behind the Cowboys and has a chance for the season sweep in Week 14 to make things really interesting. But for now, the Giants have a death grip on the No. 5 seed with five games to play. The Browns, well, are still eliminated from the playoffs.
Chargers 21, Texans 13
It’ll be tough sledding to climb back into contention, but beating the Texans is a start. San Diego can’t afford to slip at all in December. The Texans still lead the AFC South, but the Titans are just a game back.
Dolphins 31, 49ers 24
Six in a row for Miami is enough to bump the Dolphins into one of the wild card spots. With the Broncos’ loss, the Dolphins grabbed the No. 6 seed this week due to their better overall conference record.
Saints 49, Rams 21
The Saints are going to have to go on a run just to have a chance, but New Orleans isn’t too far from being in contention for the NFC South — just two games back of the Falcons.
Buccaneers 14, Seahawks 5
It’s the biggest win of the year for the Buccaneers and sends the team over .500 for the first time since Week 1. The Falcons can still be caught in the NFC South and the NFC wild card is there for the taking. The Seahawks are still ahead in the NFC West, due to every other team losing Sunday, but the Cowboys are all that much closer to clinching the top seed in the conference.
Patriots 22, Jets 17
Even though the Raiders beat the Panthers, the Patriots move up to the No. 1 seed with the victory because it improves their conference record to 7-1, while Oakland stays at 6-1.
Raiders 35, Panthers 32
The Raiders won, but they drop to No. 2 in the AFC after the Patriots beat the Jets, thanks to the conference record tiebreaker. Oakland can get that right back with a win in Week 13, but what’s most important is that a win in Week 12 puts the Raiders a little closer to locking up the AFC West.
Chiefs 30, Broncos 27 (OT)
Kansas City moves to 8-3 and the win keeps the team comfortably in control of its own destiny. The Broncos fall to 7-4, tied with the Dolphins, who take over the sixth seed in the wild card race for the moment.
Packers 27, Eagles 13 (Monday)
Green Bay still has a ton of climbing to do, but isn’t quite out of it at 5-6. The Packers already won one game against the Lions and can earn the season sweep and tiebreaker in Week 17. Despite an identical 5-6 record, the Eagles have a much harder road ahead of them in a competitive NFC East.
Here’s what the standings look like after Monday Night Football:
- Patriots (9-2, AFC East)
- Raiders (9-2, AFC West)
- Ravens (6-5, AFC North)
- Texans (6-5, AFC South)
- Chiefs (8-3, Wild Card)
- Dolphins (7-4, Wild Card)
- Cowboys (10-1, NFC East)
- Seahawks (7-3-1, NFC West)
- Lions (7-4, NFC North)
- Falcons (7-4, NFC South)
- Giants (8-3, Wild Card)
- Washington (6-4-1, Wild Card)