How wild is the NFC? Two games on Sunday had a massive impact on the standings, with the 49ers‘ win over the Saints causing New Orleans to tumble from the No. 1 spot, San Francisco to move from No. 5 to No. 1 and the Packers to jump up into the second spot, netting a bye for their efforts against the Redskins.
The other game between the Seahawks and Rams managed to give Los Angeles a lot of life in terms of the playoffs as they moved to 8-5. The Rams are a team just lurking on the outside, waiting for the Seahawks/Vikings/whoever to make a mistake and fall back. If that happens, the Rams are poised to pounce on a playoff spot.
Seattle, meanwhile, went from the No. 2 spot and a possible bye to the No. 5 team, barely ahead of the Vikings (and the lurking Rams). Seattle still has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings, so they’re in good shape, but you better believe they wanted to win the division and try to secure one of the two top seeds in the conference.
AFC: Who’s in
1. (x) Baltimore Ravens (11-2)
The Ravens didn’t win pretty against the Bills, but . Ultimately that’s all that matters, especially when this win clinched a playoff berth for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson bounced back from a rough first half to produce a couple of touchdown drives and held off the Bills late in this one to pick up a critical win that may more or less sew up homefield advantage for them throughout the playoffs.
2. New England Patriots (10-3)
The Patriots fell a full game behind the Ravens for the top seed in the AFC with their loss to Kansas City on Sunday and now have to contend with the Chiefs nipping on their heels for a bye. The Pats pulled out all the stops, using every trick play they’ve got, and still fell a little short to the Chiefs. Credit the defense for playing well, and for hosing the Patriots in every way possible. The Patriots haven’t clinched the AFC East yet and they still have to play the Bills. It’s a little interesting to say the least.
3. (y) Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
The Chiefs took care of business against New England in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon, putting up enough points where the Patriots were forced to chase them. With their win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West (again) under Andy Reid, guaranteeing them no worse than the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They have their eyes on much more, though, as they’re just one game back of the Patriots with the tiebreaker now. A bye isn’t out of question but they’re going to need some help from the Patriots.
4. Houston Texans (8-5)
Y-I-K-E-S. What the heck happened to Houston in this game? The Texans would be poised to try and grab the No. 2 seed if they hadn’t gotten pummeled at home by the Broncos. Instead they’re now in a fight for their lives to try and win the AFC North, with a matchup next week against the Titans on the road and first place on the line. The Colts are still lingering; a Texans win would have put them away, for sure. The Texans have the tiebreaker over the Titans based on division record.
5. Buffalo Bills (9-4)
The Bills fell to the Ravens on Sunday, but they put up a good effort in tough conditions against a really good football team. Buffalo also got the benefit of the Pats losing so they can keep their hopes alive for a division title run — imagine what could have been if they’d pulled off a win on Sunday. Instead they just have to keep grinding to stay ahead of the pack in what’s becoming an increasingly tough AFC wild card race. Could a 10- or 11-win team miss the playoffs here too?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
The Steelers tried to give away a possible road win with a disastrous fake punt that led to a Kyler Murray touchdown and got the Cardinals back in the game. Pittsburgh found a way to close out a game it typically gives away, so that’s huge and it gave them an enormous playoff push as they try to stabilize their wild card berth with the Titans coming on like gangbusters. Pittsburgh’s conference record (6-3) gives them a tiebreaker over the Titans (6-4).
AFC: Who’s out
7. Tennessee Titans (8-5): The Titans are the hottest team in football right now, putting up monster points with Ryan Tannehill under center. And they get to host the Texans next week with a chance to take the division lead. It’s wild. They lose the conference record tiebreaker to Pittsburgh.
8. Cleveland Browns (6-7): Oh, what could have been. The Browns just didn’t win enough close games to get this done.
9. Oakland Raiders (6-7): The playoff dream may have died at home to the Titans on Sunday.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-7): The playoff dream may have died on the road in Tampa Bay on Sunday.
11. Denver Broncos (5-8): How is this team still alive?
NFC: Who’s in
1. San Francisco 49ers (11-2)
The 49ers’ big victory over the Saints on Sunday gives them a huge advantage in terms of locking up the top seed and getting homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They still have the Rams and Falcons at home and a Week 17 game at Seattle, so it’s far from settled, but if you’re Kyle Shanahan and you got out of the Baltimore-New Orleans stretch with a 1-1 record that just missed 2-0, you feel good about where you are. The 49ers now have head-to-head tiebreakers over the Packers and Saints.
2. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
The Packers snuck by a frisky Redskins team on Sunday afternoon, but didn’t look great doing it. The Packers are a great example of how wild the NFC is, because they have a tiebreaker over the Saints, but not the 49ers, and jumped up when the Saints lost. Green Bay’s hard to figure out, man. They don’t feel like the second best team in the NFC, do they?
3. (y) New Orleans Saints (10-3)
The Saints fell from the top spot with their wild loss to the 49ers on Sunday and now are just the No. 3 seed, because their conference record (8-3) is worse than that of the Packers (7-2). New Orleans has already clinched no worse than the three seed, though, because they locked up the division title already and they’re a full four games ahead of the Cowboys with three weeks to play.
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
The Cowboys are probably embarrassed by their record, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what your record is if you win the division. And that’s the only path for the Cowboys to make the playoffs at this point. If they beat the Eagles in Week 16 they’re probably in, although they shouldn’t lose any more games. The Rams will be lurking next week.
5. Seattle Seahawks (10-3)
The Seahawks lost to the Rams on Sunday night and as a result they took a tumble down the standings. Seattle’s still in great shape to make the playoffs, but they’ve got to catch the 49ers if they want to win the division. Additionally, the Rams are right behind them and the Vikings can now leapfrog them potentially.
6. Minnesota Vikings (9-4)
The Vikings didn’t seal up any playoff berth, but they took a nice step forward Lions. They’ve got two of their final three games at home, which could bode well for their chances to steal the division from the Packers.of the
NFC: Who’s out
7. Los Angeles Rams (8-5): The Rams put together another dominant offensive performance and are starting to look like the Rams team we knew from the past.
8. Chicago Bears (7-6): The Bears are somehow still alive! It’s amazing. They need a lot to break their way, but Mitchell Trubisky’s playing well and Matt Nagy should be keeping people off his back with this performance down the stretch.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7): The Eagles are under .500 and right on the Cowboys’ heels for the NFC East race. They only have one path to the playoffs, and their division has been so dismal this year that the Eagles actually rank behind the eliminated Bucs in the NFC despite still being alive.
(x) clinched playoff berth
(y) clinched division title
(z) clinched first-round bye
(*) clinched home-field advantage