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NFL Playoff Projections, Week 13

After watching the Broncos, our projected No. 2 seed in the AFC, lose by three touchdowns at home to the Raiders, we took the advice of more than a few readers and laid off the Maker's Mark while typing this follow-up to last week's inaugural Playoff Projections column.

The extra whiskey might come in handy, though, for fans of the Cowboys and Patriots looking to drown their sorrows. Although both preseason Super Bowl favorites are coming off impressive wins Sunday and appear to be hitting their stride, each would still be on the outside of the playoffs looking in if the postseason started today.

But in projecting the final five weeks of the season, we foresee Dallas and New England making their way into the mix and providing some unlucky division winners with a tough draw in the Wild-Card round.

Who else do we like for the postseason? Below, we lay out the playoff picture two ways: 1) As though the season ended today; and 2) As though the season will play out the way we predict it will. We will continue to do this weekly until the playoff field is set.

(We use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please email us.)

Tennessee Titans (10-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Detroit (W); vs. Cleveland (W); at Houston (L); vs. Pittsburgh (W); at Indianapolis (L)Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seedExtra Point: The Titans can clinch the AFC South with a Thanksgiving win over the Lions coupled with a Colts loss at Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed (win tiebreaker with NY Jets on conference record)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at New England (L); vs. Dallas (L); at Baltimore (W); at Tennessee (L); vs. Cleveland (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 3 seed (win tiebreaker with Baltimore on head-to-head)Extra Point: A Week 15 win over the Ravens would give the Steelers the season sweep and the trump card in a tiebreaker scenario.

New York Jets (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Denver (W); at San Francisco (W); vs. Buffalo (L); at Seattle (W); vs. Miami (W)Final Projected Record: 12-4; No. 2 seedExtra Point: Eric Mangini's crew is red-hot. Winnable road games the rest of the way mean the Jets should continue to be heading into the postseason.

Denver Broncos (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at NY Jets (L); vs. Kansas City (W); at Carolina (L); vs. Buffalo (W); at San Diego (W)Final Projected Record: 9-7; No. 4 seedExtra Point: Somebody has to win the West, and it might as well be the Broncos ... but we aren't typing that with much conviction.

Indianapolis Colts (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 5 seed (wins tiebreaker with Baltimore and New England on head-to-head)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Cleveland (W), vs. Cincinnati (W), vs. Detroit (W), at Jacksonville (L), vs. Tennessee (W)Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 5 seed (wins tiebreaker with New England on head-to-head)Extra Point: Here's an interesting question for you bettors out there -- what would the line be for an 11-5 Colts team visiting a 9-7 or 8-8 Broncos team in the Wild-Card round? We're going with Colts -2.5.

Baltimore Ravens (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 6 (wins tiebreaker over New England on conference record)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Cincinnati (W); vs. Washington (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Dallas (L); vs. Jacksonville (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; outExtra Point: A potential 8-4 record in the AFC would be pivotal if they end up in a tiebreaker with the Patriots.

New England Patriots (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Pittsburgh (W); at Seattle (W); at Oakland (W); vs. Arizona (W); at Buffalo (L)Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 6 seedExtra Point: Seems like the Patriots are playing in big, playoff-implication games every week and that won't change Sunday against the Steelers. Deep breath games await, though, in Week 14 and 15.

Miami Dolphins (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at St. Louis (W), at Buffalo (L), vs. San Francisco (W), at Kansas City (W), at NY Jets (L)Final Projected Record: 9-7; outExtra Point: The Dolphins will need to win on the road against Buffalo or the Jets to have a chance.

Buffalo Bills (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. San Francisco (W), vs. Miami (W), at NY Jets (W), at Denver (L), vs. New England (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; outExtra Point: Win either of the back-to-back road games in Week 15 and 16 and the Bills might have a shot.

San Diego Chargers (4-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Atlanta (W), vs. Oakland (W), at Kansas City (W), at Tampa Bay (L), vs. Denver (L)Final Projected Record: 7-9; outExtra Point: With the schizophrenic Broncos leading the West, the Chargers still have life. Every week from here on out is essentially a playoff game for San Diego, with a loss likely ending its slim hope.

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New York Giants (10-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 1 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Washington (L), vs. Philadelphia (W), at Dallas (L), vs. Carolina (W), at Minnesota (L)Final Projected Record: 12-4; No. 1 seedExtra Point: The defending champs can actually clinch the NFC East title with a win and a Cowboys loss on Thanksgiving to the Seahawks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 2 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. New Orleans (L), at Carolina (L), at Atlanta (L), vs. San Diego (W), vs. Oakland (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; OutExtra Point: We think their slow, sloppy starts will catch up to the Bucs eventually, likely in their crucial three-game swing through the NFC South.

Arizona Cardinals (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 3 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Philadelphia (W), vs. St. Louis (W), vs. Minnesota (W), at New England (L), vs. Seattle (W)Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 2 seedExtra Point: The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West a number of ways this weekend, the simplest being to just win.

Chicago Bears (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 4 seed (wins tiebreaker with Minnesota on head-to-head)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Minnesota (L), vs. Jacksonville (W), vs. New Orleans (W), vs. Green Bay (W), at Houston (L)Final Projected Record: 9-7; OutExtra Point: If they hold serve at home, the Bears could enter Week 17 controlling their own destiny.

Carolina Panthers (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 5 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Green Bay (L), vs. Tampa Bay (W), vs. Denver (W), at NY Giants (L), at New Orleans (L)Final Projected Record: 10-6; OutExtra Point: Three very difficult road games await, including a potential play-in game in Week 17 against the Saints.

Washington Redskins (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 6 seed (wins tiebreaker with Dallas on record against common opponent; wins tiebreaker with Atlanta on conference record)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. NY Giants (W), at Baltimore (L), at Cincinnati (W), vs. Philadelphia (W), at San Francisco (W)Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 5 seed (win tiebreaker with Dallas on division record)Extra Point: If the Redskins do indeed knock off the Giants this weekend, they'll be in very good shape the rest of the way.

Dallas Cowboys (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Seattle (W), at Pittsburgh (W), vs. NY Giants (W), vs. Baltimore (W), at Philadelphia (L)Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 6 seedExtra Point: Brutal final four, but the Cowboys should be a confident, reinvigorated bunch heading into that stretch.

Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at San Diego (L), at New Orleans (L), vs. Tampa Bay (W), at Minnesota (L), vs. St. Louis (W)Final Projected Record: 9-7; OutExtra Point: The Falcons' playoff hopes hinge on winning at least one of their final three road games.

Minnesota Vikings (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Chicago (W), at Detroit (W), at Arizona (L), vs. Atlanta (W), vs. NY Giants (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 3 seed (win tiebreaker with New Orleans on head-to-head)Extra Point: We still foresee the Giants having nothing to play for in the final week, meaning the Vikings could take advantage, ala the Titans against the Colts last season.New Orleans Saints (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Tampa Bay (W), vs. Atlanta (W), at Chicago (L), at Detroit (W), vs. Carolina (W)Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 4 seed (win tiebreaker with Tampa Bay and Carolina on win-loss percentage in games among clubs)Extra Point: Will need to pull off a road upset over the Bucs or Bears to have a shot at what some have said is impossible.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-5-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Arizona (L), at NY Giants (L), vs. Cleveland (W), at Washington (L), vs. Cowboys (W)Final Projected Record: 7-8-1; OutExtra Point: The Eagles would need to win out to even have a shot.

Green Bay Packers (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Carolina (W), vs. Houston (W), at Jacksonville (W), at Chicago (L), vs. Detroit (W)Final Projected Record: 9-7; outExtra Point: Who knows in the weird NFC North, but it's not looking good for the Packers.

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