AFC, NFC still wide open

December 7, 2021
RB Damien Harris (37) scored the Patriots' only TD in Monday night's win.
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Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 13’s games complete.

NFC

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

AFC

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

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



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