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NFL Playoff Projections, Week 13

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Saints dominated the Patriots the other night, wowed a national television audience and nearly blew the roof off the Superdome. New Orleans is everyone's darling, rightfully so, because it seemingly has it all -- a stud QB, a variety of weapons on offense and an opportunistic defense. But there's one thing the Saints ain't got ... yet.

That other undefeated team, the 11-0 Colts, is the only squad to have clinched a playoff berth after the first 12 weeks of the season. That means there are 11 more spots up for grabs over the final five weeks. The Saints, obviously, are on the verge, as are the 10-1 Vikings. Both can clinch this week if these scenarios play out.

As for the rest of the field, it's a little more complicated. Enter us. Beginning today, SI.com will publish weekly playoff projections. We will 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 use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us here. Without further ado...

AFC

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-0)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Tennessee (W); vs. Denver (L); at Jacksonville (W); vs. N.Y. Jets (W); at Buffalo (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 14-2; No. 1 seed

Extra Point: Perfection is unlikely, but the Colts will still be rewarded with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Detroit (W); at Minnesota (L); at San Diego (L); vs. Kansas City (W); at N.Y. Jets (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 4 seed

Extra Point: Don't worry about those road monsters in Weeks 14 and 15. The Bengals' path to the AFC North title is simple: Win the games they're supposed to, and it's a cinch. But lose one of the three against Detroit, KC or the Jets and Cincy's first-half feel-good story could have an unhappy ending.

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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Cleveland (W); at Dallas (W); vs. Cincinnati (W); at Tennessee (L); vs. Washington (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 3 seed

Extra Point: A shot at running the table, but that Christmas night game against a potentially desperate Titans will be tricky. Regardless, the Bolts will enter the playoffs with tons of confidence.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Miami (W); vs. Carolina (W); at Buffalo (W); vs. Jacksonville (W); at Houston (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2 seed (win tiebreaker with San Diego on conference record)

Extra Point: Pats defense has been exposed, but they don't face any more explosive offenses. That makes five straight wins to end the season a strong possibility.

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DENVER BRONCOS (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Kansas City (W); at Indianapolis (W); vs. Oakland (W); at Philadelphia (L); vs. Kansas City (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 5 seed

Extra Point: With three games left against K.C. (twice) and Oakland, Denver is a virtual lock to make the playoffs. Getting one win at Indy or at Philly will help the Broncos keep pressure on the Chargers.

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Houston (W); vs. Miami (W); vs. Indianapolis (L); at New England (L); at Cleveland (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out

Extra Point: In our view, the Jags have three winnable games remaining (Houston, Miami and Cleveland). But sweeping those won't be enough; they'll need to win vs. Indy or at New England to have a shot at the wild card.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Green Bay (L); vs. Detroit (W); vs. Chicago (W); at Pittsburgh (L); at Oakland (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out

Extra Point: Looking for the most meaningful game over the final five weeks? Look no further than Week 16, when the Ravens visit the Steelers. It will almost undoubtedly have wild-card implications, which will make a great rivalry game even better.

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Oakland (W); at Cleveland (W); vs. Green Bay (L); vs. Baltimore (W); at Miami (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 6 seed

Extra Point: Interestingly enough, an NFC wild-card hopeful could play a big role in determining the AFC wild card, as the Packers play both the Steelers and Ravens in the final five weeks.

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HOUSTON TEXANS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Jacksonville (L); vs. Seattle (W); at St. Louis (W); at Miami (L); vs. New England (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out

Extra Point: Is it possible for the Texans to win their next four to set up a huge home game against the Patriots in Week 17, with a possible wild-card berth on the line for Houston? Sure. But nothing the inconsistent Texans have done thus far makes us believe they can actually pull it off.

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MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. New England (L); at Jacksonville (L); at Tennessee (L); vs. Houston (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 6-10; out

Extra Point: The Dolphins have an extremely difficult road with all five games against teams with playoff aspirations of their own.

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NEW YORK JETS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Buffalo (L); at Tampa Bay (W); vs. Atlanta (W); at Indianapolis (L); vs. Cincinnati (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out

Extra Point: Wins this week and next would bring the Jets to 7-6 and give them some momentum heading into their final three games. But the combined record of the Jets' last three opponents is 26-7. Yikes.

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TENNESSEE TITANS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Indianapolis (L); vs. St. Louis (W); vs. Miami (W); vs. San Diego (W); at Seattle (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out

Extra Point: Speaking of momentum, should the Titans somehow get past the Colts this week ... look out. They'll have three straight home games before finishing at lowly Seattle.

NFC

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-0)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Washington (L); at Atlanta (W); vs. Dallas (W); vs. Tampa Bay (W); at Carolina (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 15-1; No. 1 seed

Extra Point: We're in the camp that Monday night meant a little too much to the Saints and they're in for a big letdown, if not Sunday in D.C. then next week in Atlanta. Despite the awesome start, the Saints have little room for error with the Vikings breathing down their necks for the top seed.

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Arizona (W); vs. Cincinnati (W); at Carolina (W); at Chicago (L); vs. N.Y. Giants (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 14-2; No. 2 seed

Extra Point: Food for thought: If the Vikings run the table and the Saints lose one of their final five, they'll both finish 15-1. In that instance, the Vikings would win the tiebreaker on conference record -- a perfect 12-0 for Minnesota vs. 11-1 for New Orleans.

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DALLAS COWBOYS (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at N.Y. Giants (L); vs. San Diego (L); at New Orleans (L); at Washington (W); vs. Philadelphia (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 6 seed

Extra Point: It's December, so you know the Cowboys will slump. But they've given themselves enough of a cushion that even sneaking out two wins (especially of the NFC variety) over their final five should be enough to make the postseason.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Minnesota (L); at San Francisco (L); at Detroit (W); vs. St. Louis (W); vs. Green Bay (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 4 seed.

Extra Point: The game to watch for the Cards is Week 14 at San Francisco. A loss there would mean a season sweep for the Niners and the advantage in any division tiebreaker.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Atlanta (W); at N.Y. Giants (W); vs. San Francisco (W); vs. Denver (W); at Dallas (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 3 seed

Extra Point: The NFC East is far from over, with all three contenders -- Cowboys, Eagles, Giants -- playing each other over the final five weeks.

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GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Baltimore (W); at Chicago (L); at Pittsburgh (W); vs. Seattle (W); at Arizona (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 5 seed (win tiebreaker with Dallas on head-to-head)

Extra Point: What a tough three-game stretch upcoming for the Packers. The key for them will be to avoid losses in the NFC, as a conference record tiebreaker will likely come into play for the NFC wild-card slots.

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NEW YORK GIANTS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Dallas (W); vs. Philadelphia (L); at Washington (W); vs. Carolina (W); at Minnesota (L)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out

Extra Point: One scenario for Giants fans to cling to -- win three of their next four, then hope the Vikings have nothing to play for in Week 17.

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ATLANTA FALCONS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Philadelphia (L); vs. New Orleans (L); at N.Y. Jets (L); vs. Buffalo (W); at Tampa Bay (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out

Extra Point: Three very winnable games to end the season gives the Falcons some hope, but it would definitely need a split of Philly and New Orleans to make it matter. Chris Redman, now's your chance.

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out

Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Seattle (W); vs. Arizona (W); at Philadelphia (L); vs. Detroit (W); at St. Louis (W)

Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out

Extra Point: The aforementioned Week 14 showdown with the Cards looms large, but perfection over their final five may be asking too much of Mike Singletary's young squad.

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