With Week 13 in the rearview mirror, the NFL playoff picture is starting to get locked in. Just four weeks remain in the regular season, and though there have been many surprises this season, we have a good idea of who will be making it as division representatives. The wild card is also shaping up nicely.
On Sunday, the Rams clinched the NFC West, while the 49ers and Raiders are officially out of contention.
Here’s a look at how Week 13 changed the NFL playoff picture.
NFC playoff picture
What stayed the same: The Rams moved to 11-1 on the season and became the first team to make the playoffs AND win their division. The Cowboys continued their surge of strong play, notching their fourth consecutive win. They’re in first place in the NFC East with a one-game lead over the Eagles, their opponent in Week 14.
The bad NFC teams just kept losing for the most part. The Packers, already struggling, lost their third consecutive game to fall to 4-7-1 and are now behind several teams in the wild card race. To make matters worse, the loss was to the Cardinals — aka the second-worst team in the NFC. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been fired as a result. The Panthers, trying to notch an important divisional win, fell short against the Buccaneers. Carolina has now lost four straight.
What changed: The Saints had held the No. 1 seed due to their identical record and head-to-head win over the Rams, but they lost it when they fell to the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. Technically, the Cardinals and Giants kept their playoff hopes alive with their Week 13 wins. — though at 3-9 and 4-8, respectively, there isn’t much optimism. The 49ers became the first NFC team to be eliminated from playoff contention after a loss to the Seahawks. The Vikings lost to the Patriots, falling to 6-5-1. That keeps them above the Panthers for the time being, but puts them behind the Seahawks. Washington drops out of the sixth seed after losing to the Eagles — and losing its second quarterback to a season-ending broken leg.
What to watch for moving forward: The Cowboys are the NFC East favorites, but the Eagles can pull into a tie if they beat Dallas next week. Washington, even with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, is still in the race at 6-6.
The Seahawks are now at seven wins and hold the first wild card spot, with the Vikings right behind them. The Vikings will play the Seahawks, so there is a ton on the line in those two games. The Saints can also clinch a playoff spot with a win or tie against the Buccaneers, or a Panthers loss or tie against the Browns.
If the season ended today, these would be the NFC playoff seeds:
- Rams (11-1), (conference record: 7-1)
- Saints (10-2), (7-2)
- Bears (8-4), (6-2)
- Cowboys (7-5), (6-3)
- Seahawks (7-5), (6-3)
- Vikings (6-5-1), (5-3-1)
In the hunt:
Panthers (6-6), (4-5)
Eagles (6-6), (4-5)
Washington (6-6), (6-4)
Buccaneers (5-7), (4-5)
San Francisco 49ers (2-10), (1-8)
NFC tiebreaker notes:
- The Seahawks and Cowboys share the same conference win percentage, and Seattle would own the head-to-head tiebreaker, but in this scenario, Dallas would be a division winner and thus is seeded higher.
- In the three-way race between the 6-6 teams, the Eagles’ head-to-head win eliminates Washington while the Panthers’ win over the Eagles gives them the higher seed.
AFC playoff picture
What stayed the same: The Chiefs continued rolling with a win, though they were unable to clinch a playoff spot this week. The Texans have now won nine consecutive games and are three games up on the Colts in the AFC South. The Ravens have three straight wins with Lamar Jackson as starting quarterback, while the Steelers have lost two games in a row. As it stands, Pittsburgh still leads the AFC North, but Baltimore is gaining ground. The Broncos continued their surprising surge and moved to 6-6 on the season, while the Bengals’ losing skid has reached four games.
What changed: The Colts, after winning five consecutive games to get themselves closer in the wild card race, lost to the Jaguars in a pitiful game that ended with a score of 6-0. The Jaguars also snapped a seven-game losing skid and, at 4-8, are still technically alive. The Raiders became the first team eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Chiefs.
What to watch for moving forward: The 6-6 Titans snapped a two-game losing skid and also have the weakest remaining strength of schedule, so they could be a team that does some real damage over the next few weeks. The Ravens and Chiefs probably won’t end up in their own head-to-head tiebreaker scenario, but they’re set to face each other next week. The Dolphins will be trying to stay alive at 6-6 with a home game against the 9-3 Patriots, who want to hurry up and lock down their division. The Colts vs. Texans is another crucial game. The Chargers have a lot of luck on their side — for once — and are just a game back of the Chiefs in the AFC West. They are also two games up on their closest wild card opponents.
If the season ended today, these would be the AFC playoff seeds:
- Chiefs (10-2), (8-1)
- Patriots (9-3), (6-2)
- Texans (9-3), (7-2)
- Steelers (7-4-1), (4-4-1)
- Chargers (9-3), (6-2)
- Ravens (7-5), (6-3)
In the hunt:
Dolphins (6-6), (5-4)
Colts (6-6), (5-5)
Broncos (6-6), (4-5)
Titans (6-6), (4-6)
Oakland Raiders (2-10), (1-7)
AFC tiebreaker notes:
- The Patriots win a tiebreak over the Texans due to a head-to-head win.
- The Dolphins, Colts, Broncos and Titans all have differing conference win percentages despite their identical season win/loss records.
- The Steelers would have the fourth seed as a division winner despite a worse record than — and a loss to — the Chargers.