Here’s how the playoff field is shaping up after twelve weeks of play.
In the AFC, Houston and Baltimore would own the top two spots and first round byes. Houston’s schedule is tough but not impossible down the stretch, as they face the Titans and Patriots on the road, then return home for games against the Colts and Vikings before finishing the regular season in Indianapolis. Baltimore is at home against the wounded Steelers, then at Washington before returning home to face the Broncos and Giants, then closing in Cincinnati. The Ravens are likely to lose at least one of these games, but own the tie-breaker over the Patriots. Houston already destroyed Baltimore in Week 7 to own the tie breaker between those two teams. It seems unlikely that Houston will lose the first seed unless they fall to New England and lose at least one more time. Denver seems destined for a first round home game, as the Broncos have lost to both Houston and New England.
AFC Wildcard Round
Pittsburgh (#6) @ New England (#3)
Indianapolis (#5) @ Denver (#4)
AFC Divisional Round
Lowest Previous Seed @ Houston (#1)
Highest Previous Seed @ Baltimore (#2)
The Bengals and Dolphins are both alive in the playoff race. San Diego, Tennessee, New York (Jets), and Buffalo all have to run the table to have any realistic chance to make the post season, while Cleveland, Oakland, and Jacksonville have little hope. Kansas City has been mathematically eliminated.
The Falcons are breezing along to what seems to be a pretty clear path to a first round bye, and possible number one seeding. The Falcons still have the Saints at home, then visit Carolina before hosting the Giants. They close with a visit to Detroit and then a home contest against the Buccaneers, It is very foreseeable that the Falcons could drop two contests over this stretch, and put the number one seed at risk, but the first round bye is a near certainty barring a late collapse. The 49ers still have a good shot at the top seed, but they face a tough stretch as well with three divisional games, along with a Week 15 Sunday night match-up against the Patriots. The 49ers travel to St. Louis before hosting Miami, then on to Foxboro before a game in Seattle, finally wrapping up at home against the Cardinals. The Bears are a very vulnerable #3, both in seeding rank and whether or not they will win the division, thus leaving the door open for a resurgence from the New York Giants.
NFC Wildcard Round
Seattle (#6) @ Chicago (#3)
Green Bay (#5) @ New York Giants (#4)
NFC Divisional Round
Lowest Previous Seed @ Atlanta (#1)
Highest Previous Seed @ San Francisco (#2)
The Bucs and the Vikings are still very much alive in the race, with Washington, Dallas, and New Orleans close behind. The Rams’ tie hurts them, as they would otherwise be in contention with the previous batch of teams. The Lions, Cardinals Eagles, and Panthers are looking all but done.