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NFL Playoff Picture: Week 12

Mark Menard
November 20, 2018 - 2:12 pm

AFC North


2) Baltimore got what could prove to be a crucial divisional win over 3) Cincinnati to even up the season series at 1-1. 1) Pittsburgh reeled off 20 straight points to rally past Jacksonville. 4) Cleveland sat out on their bye week.


#1 Pittsburgh (7-2-1), #2 Baltimore (5-5), #3 Cincinnati (5-5), #4 Cleveland (3-6-1)

The AFC North could have become much tighter if the Steelers hadn’t solved the Jaguar defense late. Instead, Pittsburgh gained some separation thanks to the Ravens’ win over the Bengals. Now both of those teams sit 2.5 games back with just six to play. Cincinnati’s run as division leader seems like a distant memory as they continue to trend in the wrong direction.

Cleveland now sits a full 4 games back and is closing in on elimination from the divisional race.


Cincinnati hosts Cleveland in a desperation divisional game. Pittsburgh travels to Denver. Baltimore hosts Oakland.


AFC West


1) Kansas City's five turnovers, including picks on their last two drives, cost them in a loss to the Rams. 3) Denver stunned 2) Los Angeles on a last-second field goal. 4) Oakland got just their second win of the season, beating Arizona


#1 Kansas City (9-2), #2 Los Angeles (7-3), #3 Denver (4-6), #4 Oakland (2-8)

The top two teams in the West both picked up losses while the bottom two earned victories. Of course, the Raiders can't capitalize because they've already been bounced from the divisional race, and the Broncos need to make up a lot more ground to be relevant.

The Chargers still trail the Chiefs by 1.5 games with Denver 4.5 games back with six to play.


Los Angeles hosts Arizona. Denver hosts Pittsburgh. Oakland travels to Baltimore. Kansas City sits out on their bye week.


AFC East


Nothing to see here as the entire division sat home on their respective bye weeks.


#1 New England (7-3), #2 Miami (5-5), #3 Buffalo (3-7), #4) New York (3-7)

Obviously, no change from last week with the Patriots in front, Miami 2 games back, and Buffalo and New York tied at 4 games back. The Bills have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets after their Week 10 win with a rematch upcoming.


New York hosts New England in divisional play. Miami travels to Indianapolis. Buffalo hosts Jacksonville in a battle of two 2017 playoff teams who will be watching the postseason from home this year.


AFC South


2) Indianapolis blew out 3) Tennessee for a divisional win. 1) Houston outlasted Washington. 4) Jacksonville led nearly the whole game but still lost to Pittsburgh.


#1 Houston (7-3), #2 Indianapolis (5-5), #3 Tennessee (5-5), #4 Jacksonville (3-7)

Houston made history this week, reeling off a seventh straight win after starting 0-3. Only the 1925 Giants had done that before the Texans. They also increased their cushion atop the South to 2 games thanks to the Colts’ win over the mercurial Titans. Indy has now won four in a row to rally back to .500 after a 1-5 start, and the head-to-head win over Tennessee on Sunday gives them the tiebreaker that pushes them into second place in the South. The two teams won’t face again until the season finale.

The Jaguars sit 4 games back after losing seven of their last eight games and just can’t seem to find the answer to turn their season around.


Houston hosts Tennessee on Monday night in divisional action. Indianapolis hosts Miami. Jacksonville travels to Buffalo.




#1 Kansas City (9-2), #2 Pittsburgh (7-2-1), #3 New England (7-3), #4 Houston (7-3)

The race at the top of the AFC grew much tighter this week with KC's loss. The Steelers now trail the Chiefs by just 1 game. Interestingly, they're dead even in the loss column but trail by two games in the win column thanks to the tie on their record and the bye week discrepancy, which will finally be erased this week as Kansas City sits idle. The Patriots get the edge for the 3-seed thanks to a head-to-head win over Houston way back in Week 1, but both sit just 1.5 games out of the lead in the AFC.




#1 Los Angeles (7-3), #2 Baltimore (5-5), #3 Cincinnati (5-5)

#4 Miami (5-5), #5 Indianapolis (5-5), #6 Tennessee (5-5)

The Chargers’ kicking woes once again cost them a game they should have won, but while the loss to Denver might hurt them in the race for the West crown, it was “no-harm, no-foul” in the wild card race as they maintained a 2-game lead over everyone else in the AFC.

Behind the Bolts though, the race really tightened up with a whopping five teams now sitting tied for the second wild-card spot at 5-5. Let’s dive into the tiebreakers.

Baltimore’s AFC record of 5-3 elevated them above the logjam of dead-evens to put them into that coveted #6 seed for the time-being. It also doesn’t hurt that they have the divisional tiebreaker over the North rival Bengals. And while Cincinnati is stuck behind the Ravens, they do sit just outside the top six at #7 thanks to head-to-head wins over both Miami and Indianapolis.

That leave the Fins and Colts, and it comes down to conference record again with Miami at 4-3 and Indy at 4-4. As for the Titans, they’re stuck behind the Colts due to AFC South divisional tiebreakers, and unfortunately for Tennessee, that puts them at the back of the 5-5 pack.



#7 Denver (4-6), #8 Cleveland (3-6-1), #9 Buffalo (3-7)

#10 Jacksonville (3-7), #11 New York (3-7), #12 Oakland (2-8)

Breaking up the only tie of teams below .500, the three 3-7 clubs are separated first by Buffalo’s AFC east tiebreaker over the Jets. From there, the Bills get the edge over the Jags by the slimmest of margins. It comes down to strength-of-victory. The Bills’ SOV number is 13-16-1 after beating the Vikings, Titans and Jets. The Jaguars meanwhile trail that SOV mark by just a half-game at 13-17 after beating the Giants, Patriots and Jets. New York sits at the back, essentially due to their 0-2 record against Buffalo and Jacksonville.


NFC North


1) Chicago got a statement divisional win over 2) Minnesota. 3) Green Bay lost to Seattle on Thursday night. 4) Detroit stunned Carolina.


#1 Chicago (7-3), #2 Minnesota (5-4-1), #3 Green Bay (4-5-1), #4 Detroit (4-6)

The Bears’ schedule as it pertains to divisional games is one of the oddest I’ve seen. After starting the season off with a loss to North rival Green Bay in Week 1, they didn’t have another divisional matchup scheduled until the back half of the season, when they suddenly come fast and furious at Chicago. They’re in the midst of a stretch of three North opponents in 12 days. So far, they’re 2-0 with wins over the Lions and Vikings the past two weeks. The win over Minnesota was especially significant, since the Vikings are the defending champs. It’s helped to open up some breathing room for Chicago at the top of the North.

Minnesota now sits 1.5 games back with Green Bay 2.5 games back and Detroit trailing by 3 games.


It’ll be all divisional play this week in the North as Detroit hosts first-place Chicago on Thanksgiving Day while Minnesota hosts Green Bay on Sunday night.


NFC West


1) Los Angeles put another feather in their antlers by knocking off AFC-leading Kansas City in a Monday night shootout. 2) Seattle took a big step forward as well with a Thursday night win over Green Bay. 3) Arizona fell to Oakland. 4) San Francisco sat out on their bye week.


#1 Los Angeles (10-1), #2 Seattle (5-5), #3 Arizona (2-8), #4 San Francisco (2-8)

The Rams missed out on the chance to clinch a second straight NFC West championship because of the Seahawks' win over the Pack. However, the next Rams win or Seahawks loss will put the division in the bag for L.A., meaning the Rams could wrap things up while kicking their feet up at home this week if the Seahawks fall.

Currently, Seattle trails the front-running Rams by 4.5 games with six to play. The Cards and Niners are already out. Arizona's season-sweep of San Fran though gives them the edge for third in the West, for what it's worth.


Seattle travels to Carolina. Arizona travels to face the Chargers. San Francisco travels to Tampa Bay. Los Angeles sits out on their bye week.


NFC East


1) Washington suffered a costly loss to Houston. 2) Dallas nipped Atlanta. 3) Philadelphia got blasted in New Orleans. 4) New York slipped past Tampa Bay.


#1 Washington (6-4), #2 Dallas (5-5), #3 Philadelphia (4-6), #4 New York (3-7)

Washington’s outlook is drastically different now than it was last week, and not just because their loss to the Texans tightened up the East. Quarterback Alex Smith’s gruesome broken leg ended his season, and now Colt McCoy will be piloting the DC offense. He’ll have to have the half-season of his life to keep his team on track for the crown, especially with a short week ahead before a matchup with their closest division rival.

Dallas now trails by just 1 game and could move in front as soon as Thursday. Philadelphia is trending backwards but still trails by 2 games. New York has suddenly won two straight games to keep their faint hopes alive. They sit 3 games out of the East lead.


Much like the North, the East features a pair of divisional showdowns. Dallas hosts Washington in a battle for first place on Thanksgiving Day. Philadelphia hosts New York in a game that might eliminate the loser.


NFC South


1) New Orleans dismantled Philadelphia. 2) Carolina came up short in Detroit. 3) Atlanta likewise fell short against Dallas. 4) Tampa Bay fell to the Giants.


#1 New Orleans (9-1), #2 Carolina (6-4), #3 Atlanta (4-6), #4 Tampa Bay (3-7)

For the second straight week, the Saints made out like bandits, winning while the rest of their division took L’s. Now New Orleans sits in position to turn this into a two team race since a Week 12 win would eliminate both the Falcons and Bucs. More importantly, they stretched their lead by another game over the second-place Panthers.

Carolina has slipped to 3 games back after two straight losses. Atlanta trails by 5 games with Tampa Bay sitting 6 games out of first.


New Orleans hosts Atlanta in divisional action in the primetime slot on Thanksgiving. Carolina hosts Seattle. Tampa Bay hosts San Francisco.




#1 Los Angeles (10-1), #2 New Orleans (9-1), #3 Chicago (7-3), #4 Washington (6-4)

Not much changed at the top of the NFC this week with the top three teams all winning, but a shift could be coming. With the Rams finally headed to their bye week, a Saints win in Week 12 would signal a changing of the guard at the top of the conference, as the Rams' half-game edge on the Black and Gold would disappear. Meanwhile, Washington could be in serious danger with a short week to prepare their second-string QB for a showdown that could spell the end of their reign atop the East

As it stands now, New Orleans still trails Los Angeles by 0.5 games. Chicago sits 2.5 games back with Washington 3.5 games back.




#1 Carolina (6-4), #2 Minnesota (5-4-1), #3 Seattle (5-5), #4 Dallas (5-5)

The door opened a bit further this week in the NFC wild card chase as both front-runners lost. Carolina still sits at the top of the pile, but the Panthers only hold a one-game lead over the teams on the outside looking in. It’s even more precarious for the Vikings, with just a half-game separating them from postseason participation and watching from home.

The Seahawks and Cowboys both vaulted their stock with big wins over other wild-card contenders, and both now trail Minnesota for the #6 seed by half a game (due to the tie on the Vikings’ record). Seattle gets the nod for #7 over Dallas after beating the Cowboys back in Week 3.



#5 Green Bay (4-5-1), #6 Atlanta (4-6), #7 Detroit (4-6), #8 Philadelphia (4-6)

#9 New York (3-7), #10 Tampa Bay (3-7), #11 Arizona (2-8), #12 San Francisco (2-8)

The Falcons lead the 4-6 bunch thanks to a 3-3 NFC record, compared to 2-5 for both Detroit and Philly. From there, the Lions get the edge on the Eagles due to strength-of-victory with an SOV mark of 22-17-1 compared to 15-25 for the world champs.

Then it’s just simple head-to-head tiebreakers at the bottom with the Giants having beaten Tampa this past Sunday and Arizona holding a 2-0 season sweep of the Niners.

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