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NFL Playoff Picture, Week 10: Showdowns in NFC could shake up the standings

The Cowboys-Saints game is one of several matchups this weekend that could shake things up in the NFC. The Cowboys-Saints game is one of several matchups this weekend that could shake things up in the NFC. (Brandon Wade/AP)

Here’s how the AFC and NFC playoff pictures sit as Week 10 begins:

AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0): AFC West leader

2. New England Patriots (7-2): AFC East leader

3. Indianapolis Colts (6-2): AFC South leader

4. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3): AFC North leader

5. Denver Broncos (7-1): Wild card

6. New York Jets (5-4): Wild card

In the Hunt: Tennessee Titans (4-4), Miami Dolphins (3-4), San Diego Chargers (4-4), Cleveland Browns (4-5)

Danger Zone: Oakland Raiders (3-5), Baltimore Ravens (3-5), Buffalo Bills (3-6), Houston Texans (2-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)

Wait ‘Til Next Year: Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8)

Some movement in the top six because of last week's results: New England hopped Cincinnati for that all-important No. 2 seed, which comes with a bye and home-field advantage in the divisional round. Indianapolis also moved in front of the Bengals, who lost in Miami. And the Jets are now part of the mix, thanks to their win over New Orleans and the Chargers' OT loss in Washington.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bills, Texans and Steelers are creeping awfully close to joining Jacksonville with a "Wait 'Til Next Year" designation. The Raiders and Ravens are not far behind, though they're within 1.5 games of that second wild-card spot.

MORE COVERAGE: Midseason grades | Midseason Report | MMQB’s All-Pro team, awards

The two most important AFC-only matchups this week: Cincinnati at Baltimore and Denver at San Diego. Both the Ravens and Chargers desperately need wins to stay relevant in the playoff discussion, and the Broncos would like avoid slipping further behind Kansas City in the AFC West. The loser in the Buffalo-Pittsburgh game, meanwhile, probably can start full-scale planning for 2014.

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NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks (8-1): NFC West leader

2. New Orleans Saints (6-2): NFC South leader

3. Detroit Lions (5-3): NFC North leader

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-4): NFC East leader

5. San Francisco 49ers (6-2): Wild card

6. Carolina Panthers (5-3): Wild card

In the Hunt: Chicago Bears (5-3), Green Bay Packers (5-3), Arizona Cardinals (4-4)

Danger Zone: Philadelphia Eagles (4-5), Washington Redskins (3-5), New York Giants (2-6)

Wait ‘Til Next Year: St. Louis Rams (3-6), Atlanta Falcons (2-6), Minnesota Vikings (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8)

Vastly important weekend in the NFC, starting with Washington's latest attempt to crank into another gear Thursday night at Minnesota. The current two through six seeds all play teams above .500 from within the conference: Dallas at New Orleans, Carolina at San Francisco and Detroit at Chicago. Plenty of eyes will be on Green Bay as well, where the Packers sans Aaron Rodgers try to slow down the 4-5 Eagles.

The Seahawks cannot fall out of first in the NFC, and the Cowboys cannot slip from first in the East (even with a loss in New Orleans). Other than that, drastic changes might be on tap in this conference this weekend.

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