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Here’s what the NFL playoff picture looks like going into Week 12

Who’s in? Who’s out? Which teams are on the bubble?

NFL: NOV 14 Browns at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re into the final sprint when it comes to the NFL Playoffs, and things are getting really interesting. The Week 11 slate saw some of the best teams in the league inexplicably fall off a cliff, leaving the door open for some major jumps.

So, let’s take a look at where everything stands right now. This is who’s in, who’s out if the playoffs started today — as well as a projection for where things stand.

AFC Playoff Picture

No. 1: Tennessee Titans (8-3)

Remaining opponents: Texans, Patriots, Jaguars, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins
Projected finish: 12-5

I had a lot of faith in this team a week ago, but that look to the Texans stings. Still, this is a weak slate and I see the Titans only dropping two more down the stretch.

No. 2: Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

Remaining opponents: Browns (twice), Steelers (twice), Packers, Bengals, Rams
Projected finish: 12-5

The Ravens have been inconsistent, but weirdly less inconsistent than much of the rest of the AFC. For my money they’ll lose to the Packers and Rams, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if this teams drops four games and finds themselves fighting for a wild card.

No. 3: New England Patriots (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Titans, Bills (twice), Colts, Jaguars, Dolphins
Projected finish: 12-5

Bill Belichick has this team surging right now and I think winning the AFC East feels almost destined at this point.

No. 4: Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Broncos (twice), Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Bengals
Projected finish: 11-6

The door was left open far too long for the Chiefs. Now they’re back. Benefitting from late season collapses from much of the AFC, Kansas City now finds itself with a beneficial back-end schedule and all the chances to make a run.

No. 5: Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

Remaining opponents: Steelers, Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, Browns
Projected finish: 10-7

With a slate full of remaining trap games I’m really not confident in putting the Bengals up there, but there’s a ton of talent on this young team and they’re playing well. I think they can sneak in if they can show consistency.

No. 6: L.A. Chargers (6-4)

Remaining opponents: Broncos (twice), Bengals, Giants, Chiefs, Texans, Raiders
Projected finish: 10-7

The Chargers at once point looked like favorites to dominate the AFC, but recently they’ve been faltering along with the rest of the conference. I projected a mixed bag down the stretch that narrowly gets them under the wire.

No. 7: Buffalo Bills (6-4)

Remaining opponents: Saints, Patriots (twice), Buccaneers, Panthers, Falcons, Jets
Projected finish: 10-7

The Bills have become incredibly inconsistent and their plummet down the table reflects that. I can’t see the Bills beating the Patriots, or the buccaneers unless they get this back on track.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

As it stands there are five teams that have a realistic shot of making a run:

  • Steelers (5-4-1)
  • Colts (6-5)
  • Browns (6-5)
  • Broncos (5-5)
  • Raiders (5-5)

All within striking distance, the team I could see pushing their way in is the Colts. They’ve been largely ignored and playing well lately. Don’t write them off yet.

NFC Playoff Picture

No. 1: Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

Remaining opponents: Seahawks, Bears, Rams, Lions, Colts, Cowboys
Projected finish: 14-3

Despite the embarrassing loss to Carolina in Week 10, the Cardinals have a really beneficial schedule down the stretch that sees only the Rams and Cowboys as legitimate tests. I think they cruise to a 14-3 record and the No. 1 seed.

No. 2: Green Bay Packers (8-3)

Remaining opponents: Vikings, Rams, Bears, Ravens, Browns, Lions
Projected finish: 13-4

I’m willing to write off the loss to the Vikings as a blip on the radar, but there is definitely some holes in the armor and a really physical stretch to close the season. They’ll make the playoffs, but this might not be as obvious as it once looked.

No. 3: Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

Remaining opponents: Raiders, Saints, Washington (twice), Giants, Cardinals, Eagles
Projected finish: 13-4

I got dragged for thinking the Cowboys had a slate where they could go unbeaten, then they got embarrassed by the Chiefs. Lesson learned. It’s still a really easy close to the season, but those two bird games to close the year could be problems.

No. 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

Remaining opponents: Colts, Falcons, Bills, Saints, Panthers (twice), Jets
Projected finish: 12-5

The Bucs are in disarray right now, making this a real toss-up, but I think this team can pull it together. I do have a couple of losses baked in here, just because I don’t see them winning out. This is not quite as dominant as the team a year ago.

No. 5: Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Remaining opponents: Packers, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Vikings, Ravens, 49ers
Projected finish: 12-5

The Rams’ debacle on Monday Night Football in Week 10 showed a vulnerability this team had that a lot of people didn’t expect. I don’t know if they have enough gas to make it to the end — but Los Angeles has a good enough record to coast in.

No. 6: Minnesota Vikings (6-4)

Remaining opponents: 49ers, Lions, Steelers, Bears (twice), Rams, Packers
Projected finish: 11-6

The Vikings have decided to call competent games, making this a real chance they could win a lot more down the stretch. This is a really easy back end to the season, now we just see if they can take advantage.

No. 7: New Orleans Saints (5-5)

Remaining opponents: Bills, Cowboys, Jets, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Panthers, Falcons
Projected finish: 8-9

The Saints have been incredibly inconsistent and have a rough final stretch. I think they drop four more games and bump themselves out of the playoffs.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

In the NFC there are reasonably three teams that can make a run:

  • 49ers (5-5)
  • Eagles (5-6)
  • Panthers (5-6)

Of these three I’m projecting one team to make a jump and replace the Saints, and for my money that’s the Eagles. Philadelphia has become sneaky good, and their back end to the season features two games against the Giants, one against the Jets and two vs. Washington. All completely winnable. I can see them finishing 9-8 or 10-7 and getting in.