AFC, NFC still wide open

December 7, 2021
RB Damien Harris (37) scored the Patriots' only TD in Monday night's win.


Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 13’s games complete.


1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2), NFC West leaders: They got QB Kyler Murray back and maintained a slim hold on the league’s best record … though their Week 8 loss to Packers could prove problematic. Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Lions, vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

2. Green Bay Packers (9-3), NFC North leaders: QB Aaron Rodgers and Co. got some needed down time ahead of what appears a manageable lineup of games as Pack tries to repeat as NFC’s No. 1 seed. Remaining schedule: vs. Bears, at Ravens, vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3), NFC South leaders: They pulled even with idle Green Bay for the conference’s second-best record, though an inferior mark in NFC games (6-3) keeps the Bucs stuck as third seed for now. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Saints, at Panthers, at Jets, vs. Panthers

4. Dallas Cowboys (8-4), NFC East leaders: Not only did they regain momentum while maintaining a two-game divisional lead and earning needed rest for a roster wracked by injuries and COVID-19, their NFC-best conference record (6-1) should be a nice asset as tiebreakers are determined. Remaining schedule: at Washington, at Giants, vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles

5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4), wild card No. 1: They took advantage of a mini-bye in 37-7 rout of Jacksonville Jaguars, LA’s first win since Halloween. Massive game next week in Arizona desert. Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

6. Washington Football Team (6-6), wild card No. 2: They keep climbing the board after notching a win at Las Vegas, the WFT’s fourth in a row. Divisional opponents rest of the way. Remaining schedule: vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-6), wild card No. 3: Stumble at Seattle leaves them in precarious position, the Niners’ 5-5 conference record significantly worse than Washington’s (5-2). Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Falcons, at Titans, vs. Texans, at Rams

8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), out of playoff field: No Jalen Hurts, no problem. Philly has won four of six and briefly held a wild-card spot after beating the New York Jets on Sunday. They can make hay after a week off, all of the Eagles’ remaining games against NFC East adversaries. Remaining schedule: bye, vs. Washington, vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

9. Minnesota Vikings (5-7), out of playoff field: They deservedly fall further back of final wild-card spot upon becoming first team to lose to the Detroit Lions in 2021. Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bears, vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

10. Carolina Panthers (5-7), out of playoff field: They didn’t play Sunday but did fire second-year offensive coordinator Joe Brady … which kinda tells you how things are going. Remaining schedule: vs. Falcons, at Bills, vs. Buccaneers, at Saints, at Buccaneers

11. Atlanta Falcons (5-7), out of playoff field: They’ve been outscored by 116 points this season. But they’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to and won their first matchup against the Saints, hence Atlanta’s continued playoff viability. Remaining schedule: at Panthers, at 49ers, vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints

12. New Orleans Saints (5-7): out of playoff field: Who knew QB Jameis Winston was so valuable? The Saints are 0-5 without him and just about cooked. Remaining schedule: at Jets, at Buccaneers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons


1. New England Patriots (9-4), AFC East leaders: Well, well, well. Baltimore’s loss Sunday vaulted Pats into their familiar catbird seat, and New England strengthened its position by beating the Bills on Monday night. Now Bill Belichick’s crew gets a week of rest before mounting final push for home-field advantage. Remaining schedule: bye, at Colts, vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

2. Tennessee Titans (8-4), AFC South leaders: Titans better also be mindful of what’s behind them as surging Colts close on division lead. Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, at Steelers, vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Texans

3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4), AFC North leaders: They gambled and lost – perhaps in very damaging fashion – Sunday at Pittsburgh. For now, the defeat drops the Ravens from first in the conference to third with no risk of losing further ground until Week 14. Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Packers, at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), AFC West leaders: Winners of five in a row, they have little margin for error with Bolts just one game off division lead. Remaining schedule: vs. Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5), wild card No. 1: Winning in Cincinnati could convey a key head-to-head tiebreaker in condensing AFC field. Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, vs. Chiefs, at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5), wild card No. 2: Bad loss to Bolts prevented them from recapturing AFC North lead. Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, at Broncos, vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns

7. Buffalo Bills (7-5), wild card No. 3: Monday’s loss to New England pushed them to brink of playoff bracket thanks to a 5-5 record in conference games. Now Buffalo must attempt to get back on track while heading to Tampa on a short work week. Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1), out of playoff field: QB Ben Roethlisberger’s face conveyed importance of Sunday’s win over Baltimore. Shocking tie to Lions will spare Pittsburgh from obsessing over tiebreaker scenarios. Remaining schedule: at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

9. Indianapolis Colts (7-6),out of playoff field: They’re as hot as anybody after winning six of eight. Getting swept by Tennessee could make it hard to get to top of division, but Colts can smell a wild card – though some chaos in front of them during their off week would help. Remaining schedule: bye, vs. Patriots, at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

10. Las Vegas Raiders (6-6), out of playoff field: They’ve lost four of five and are watching more teams get between them and AFC’s final berth. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, at Browns, vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

11. Cleveland Browns (6-6), out of playoff field: Coming out of bye week, time for Baker Mayfield and Co. to turn up the heat against a tough gauntlet of opponents. Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, vs. Raiders, at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

12. Denver Broncos (6-6), out of playoff field: Sunday night’s 13-point loss at Kansas City blunted their momentum and dropped them eighth place in the conference to this spot. Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, vs. Bengals, at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs

13. Miami Dolphins (6-7), out of playoff field: Amazing return to relevance, their fifth straight win leaving them only 1½ games out of seventh seed. Remaining schedule: bye, vs. Jets, at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.


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