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NFL Playoff Picture: Week 13

Mark Menard
November 27, 2018 - 1:53 pm

AFC North


4) Cleveland helped in-state rival 3) Cincinnati continue their freefall down the rankings with their first road win in three years. 1) Pittsburgh got stunned on the road by Denver. 2) Baltimore doubled up Oakland.


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

The Steelers’ upset in the Mile High City narrowed the gap once again in the North, where Baltimore closed in to within 1.5 games of Pittsburgh. Cincinnati failed to gain any ground, remaining 2.5 games back but Cleveland kept their playoff hopes alive by besting the Bengals. They now sit 3 games out of first.


Pittsburgh hosts the LA Chargers. Baltimore travels to Atlanta. Cincinnati hosts Denver. Cleveland travels to Houston.


AFC West


2) Los Angeles blew out Arizona. 3) Denver is suddenly hot after shocking Pittsburgh. 4) Oakland got dropped by Baltimore. 1) Kansas City sat out on their bye week.


#1 Kansas City (9-2), #2 Los Angeles (8-3), #3 Denver (5-6), #4 Oakland (2-9)

The Chiefs’ bye-week discrepancy has finally disappeared, and all those half-games in the West standings along with it. The West is a three-team race with the Raiders already knocked out. The Chargers continue to hang just behind KC, just 1 game back. The Broncos closed their gap to 4 games, but with just five games left, they may find themselves locked out soon.


Kansas City comes off the bye week and steps back into divisional play with a trip to Oakland. Los Angeles travels to Pittsburgh. Denver travels to Cincinnati.


AFC East


1) New England got Gronk back and got a divisional win over 4) New York. 2) Miami fell on the road at Indianapolis. 3) Buffalo won by a field goal over Jacksonville.


#1 New England (8-3), #2 Miami (5-6), #3 Buffalo (4-7), #4) New York (3-8)

As the only team in the East with a winning record, the Patriots obviously have a commanding lead in the division. The Dolphins continue to slip in the standings, now sitting 3 games back of the lead. Buffalo’s win kept them 4 games behind the Pats, but the Jets now find themselves on the outside looking in until next year.

The Jets sit 5 games back with five to play and now have a loss to the division-leading Patriots. Even if they were to win five straight, including the rematch with New England to even the season series, they’ve already clinched a worse divisional record. At 0-4, the best the Jets can do in the East is 2-4. The Patriots, currently sitting at 3-0, can do no worse than 3-3. That eliminates New York from the East race.


Miami hosts Buffalo in divisional action. New England hosts Minnesota. New York travels to Tennessee.


 AFC South


1) Houston knocked off 3) Tennessee on Monday night in divisional action. 2) Indianapolis slipped past Miami. 4) Jacksonville lost a seventh straight, falling on the road at Buffalo.


#1 Houston (8-3), #2 Indianapolis (6-5), #3 Tennessee (5-6), #4 Jacksonville (3-8)

The Texans' historic streak reached new and previously unseen heights, as they became the first NFL team to reach 8-3 after starting 0-3. Their eight-game winning streak is the second longest in the NFL right now behind only the Saints.

Indy remains 2 games back after stretching their own win-streak to five games. Tennessee slips to 3 games back, and Jacksonville sits 5 games back with five to play. Divisional elimination is peering over the Jags' shoulders.


Houston hosts Cleveland. Jacksonville hosts Indianapolis in divisional action. Tennessee hosts the NY Jets.




#1 Kansas City (9-2), #2 New England (8-3), #3 Houston (8-3), #4 Pittsburgh (7-3-1)

The biggest change here is the Steelers taking a major step back after getting upset in Denver. They fall from the #2 spot, which comes with a first-round bye, all the way to the back of the division-leader line. That allows the Patriots to jump back up to #2, winning a tiebreaker over the Texans thanks to their head-to-head win all the way back in Week 1. The Pats also of course have a win over KC in their back pocket and are set to play Pittsburgh in Week 15, so they could potentially pull off a clean sweep of the other division champions and slide up into the #1 seed if the Chiefs falter down the stretch.

Currently, New England and Houston both sit 1 game back of conference-leading Kansas City, with Pittsburgh trailing by 1.5 games.




#1 Los Angeles (8-3), #2 Baltimore (6-5), #3 Indianapolis (6-5)

The Chargers overcame the loss of star rusher Melvin Gordon to notch an easy win over the bottom-feeding Cardinals, then got lucky that Gordon's injury turned out to be just a sprain. They'll need him down the stretch and into the playoffs. For now, they maintain a decent lead over the rest of the AFC wild card contenders, even if they can't seem to catch up to the Chiefs in their division.

Only two other teams sit above .500 in the AFC. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker over the Colts due to conference record: 6-3 for Baltimore compared to 5-4 for Indianapolis, so for now the Ravens are in, and the Colts are out.



#4 Miami (5-6), #5 Cincinnati (5-6), #6 Denver (5-6), #7 Tennessee (5-6), #8 Cleveland (4-6-1)

#9 Buffalo (4-7), #10 Jacksonville (3-8), #11 New York (3-8), #12 Oakland (2-9)

Four teams sit within a game of .500, meaning they could easily make their presences felt in the wild-card race down the stretch. It's a simple conference-record tiebreakers separating them with the Fins at 4-4, the freefalling Bengals at 3-4, the surging Broncos at 3-5, and the mercurial Titans at 3-6.

The only other tie is broken up by the Jaguars' head-to-head win over the Jets.


NFC North


1) Chicago opened up the Thanksgiving slate with a divisional road win over 4) Detroit. 2) Minnesota may have put the final nail in 3) Green Bay’s playoff hopes with a Sunday night win.


#1 Chicago (8-3), #2 Minnesota (6-4-1), #3 Green Bay (4-6-1), #4 Detroit (4-7)

There’s still five weeks left, but if Chicago wins the North, the stretch they just completed will have been a key component. They got three divisional wins in the last 12 days, which included beating Minnesota on Sunday night, then hitting the road for an 11:30am start time four days later and notching a Thanksgiving win in Detroit. That’s impressive.

Minnesota still trails the Bears by 1.5 games, but there’s a bit more separation between the top two and bottom two in the North. Green Bay now sits 3.5 games back with Detroit 4 games out of first with five to play.


Chicago travels to the NY Giants. Minnesota travels to New England. Green Bay hosts Arizona. Detroit hosts the LA Rams.


NFC West


2) Seattle got a crucial victory for their postseason hopes, beating Carolina on the road. 3) Arizona lost at the LA Chargers. 4) San Francisco lost at Tampa Bay. 1) Los Angeles sat out on their bye week.


#1 Los Angeles (10-1), #2 Seattle (6-5), #3 Arizona (2-9), #4 San Francisco (2-9)

While they haven’t yet clinched their second straight West crown, it would take one of the most historic collapses in NFL history for the Rams to let the division title slip away. The championship, and the automatic playoff berth that comes with it, will belong to Los Angeles with either one more Ram victory or one more Seahawk loss since the tiebreaker belongs to the Rams after completing the season sweep of Seattle.

Officially, Seattle trails Los Angeles by 4 games with five to play. Arizona sits in third due to their head-to-head season sweep of San Francisco, putting the Niners in last place, but both teams are long gone from the division race at 8 games back.


Los Angeles travels to Detroit. Seattle hosts San Francisco in divisional action. Arizona travels to Green Bay.


LOS ANGELES will clinch the West title with either a win at Detroit OR a Seattle loss to San Francisco.


NFC East


1) Dallas took over first-place with a Thanksgiving win over 2) Washington. 3) Philadelphia got a much-needed win, outlasting 4) New York.


#1 Dallas (6-5), #2) Washington (6-5), #3 Philadelphia (5-6), #4 New York (3-8)

What a difference a month makes. Washington’s defeat at the hands of Dallas was their third loss in their last four games, and with quarterback Alex Smith done for the year, it could get worse. Meanwhile, the Cowboys seized the opportunity, celebrating Thanksgiving by moving into the lead in the East. Since Dallas and Washington sit tied atop the division and have split the season series with a win apiece, it comes down to divisional record. That’s where the Cowboys have the edge with a 3-1 mark compared to Washington’s 2-1 East record.

Behind the top two, Philadelphia gained back some of the ground they had lost. The Eagles now sit just 1 game out of the lead, well within striking distance. The Giants sit 3 games back.


Dallas hosts New Orleans on Thursday night. Philadelphia hosts Washington in divisional action. New York hosts Chicago.


NFC South


1) New Orleans got a Thanksgiving night win over 3) Atlanta. 2) Carolina suffered their first home loss of the season, falling to Seattle. 4) Tampa Bay beat San Francisco.


#1 New Orleans (10-1), #2 Carolina (6-5), #3 Atlanta (4-7), #4 Tampa Bay (4-7)

New Orleans took a big step towards their second straight South title. Their win over the Falcons officially eliminated both Atlanta and Tampa Bay from the divisional race, cutting the chase for the crown in half. Additionally, with Carolina’s loss, the Saints have opened up a sizable enough lead that they can salt away the division before even tangling with the Panthers this season.

The Saints and Panthers are set to face off twice in the game’s final three seasons. With Carolina trailing by 4 games, the Saints can win the division simply by winning the next two games, before their first matchup of the season with their nearest division rival. While out of the divisional race, Atlanta does get the edge for third by way of their head-to-head win over the Bucs.


New Orleans travels to Dallas on Thursday night, though they won’t suffer the same disadvantage as most Thursday night road teams since they played last Thursday as well. Tampa Bay hosts Carolina in divisional action. Atlanta hosts Baltimore.

NEW ORLEANS can clinch the South title with a win (at Dallas) and a Carolina loss (at Tampa Bay).




#1 New Orleans (10-1), #2 Los Angeles (10-1), #3 Chicago (8-3), #4 Dallas (6-5)

It’s been three weeks since the Saints’ 45-35 win over the Rams, and they finally capitalize with a move into the NFC’s pole position with the Rams’ Week 12 bye week coupled with the Saints’ Thanksgiving night win erasing the half-game separating the two. Now that head-to-head tiebreaker vaults New Orleans to the top of the conference and pushes Los Angeles down to #2. With five weeks left, this race to the finish will be fun to watch.

Below the top two, Chicago now sits just 2 games out of the lead with a matchup with the Rams in the Windy City looming next week. And Dallas joins the division-leader race for the first time this season after riding a three-game winning streak straight into the lead in the East, though the Cowboys are a long-shot for a first-round bye, trailing both the Saints and Rams by 4 games with just five to play.


The Rams could have clinched a playoff spot each of the last two weeks, but Seattle thwarted those chances by winning two straight. Now the Saints can be the first team in the NFL to punch their postseason ticket.

NEW ORLEANS clinches a playoff berth with a win at Dallas on Thursday night.




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

In three short weeks, the entire world has changed for the Carolina Panthers. Three straight losses have dropped them from the head-and-shoulders front-runner in the wild-card race (and challenging the Saints for the South lead) to barely clinging to the back of the playoff train. And it’s the worst possible scenario for Carolina.

Not only has Minnesota been able to move into the lead in the wild-card chase by a half-game, but the Panthers have dropped into one of the worst three-way ties imaginable. They’ve lost to both Washington (Week 6) AND Seattle (Week 12), and NFL tiebreakers dictate that, in the event of a tie, no matter the amount of teams, if any team has lost to everyone else involved in the tie, they immediately get shipped to the back of the pack. That’s how the Panthers fell from the lead for the top wild-card spot to fourth in line for two spots in just one week.

Meanwhile, Washington must figure out life after Alex Smith if they want to stay in the playoff chase. They fall from the division-leader rankings into the wild-card chase and sit in the final available playoff spot thanks to their conference record of 6-3 giving them a slight edge over Seattle’s 5-3 NFC mark.



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

#9 Detroit (4-7), #10 New York (3-8), #11 Arizona (2-9), #12 San Francisco (2-9)

Atlanta’s 3-4 conference mark coupled with their divisional tiebreaker over the Bucs, keeps them in front of the three teams tied at 4-7. Likewise, Tampa at 3-5 in the NFC also gets the edge over the Lions and their 2-6 conference record. Arizona 2-0 sweep of the Niners keeps them out of dead last.

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