With one game remaining on the NFL's Week 12 schedule (San Francisco-Washington on Monday), here's how the playoff picture currently sets up:
1. Denver Broncos (9-2): AFC West leader
2. New England Patriots (8-3): AFC East leader
3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): AFC North leader
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-4): AFC South leader
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2): Wild card
6. Tennessee Titans (5-6): Wild card
The situation has been headed this way for some time, but we now have a sub-.500 team in the AFC playoff picture. Tennessee jumped in by virtue of its victory at Oakland, with five teams tied at a matching 5-6 record. The Titans also are back in the AFC South race, just two games back of Indianapolis with a game against the Colts next week. Those same Colts fell from No. 2 to No. 4 because of a brutal loss at Arizona.
In addition to Tennessee-Indianapolis, next week's slate also features a Thanksgiving night Pittsburgh-Baltimore clash and a Miami-Jets showdown in New York.
Denver can clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday night in New England and another next week at Kansas City.
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1): NFC West leader
2. New Orleans Saints (9-2): NFC South leader
3. Detroit Lions (6-5): NFC North leader
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-5): NFC East leader
5. Carolina Panthers (8-3): Wild card
6. Arizona Cardinals (7-4): Wild card
The Cardinals temporarily hold a wild-card spot, though San Francisco could leapfrog them by winning Monday night. Still, Arizona controls its own destiny (it has a game with San Francisco in Week 17) and is one of the few non-division leaders actually playing well.
And even the first-place teams in the NFC North -- Detroit and Chicago -- have slipped back to the pack. Or, rather, the Pack. The Lions missed a glorious shot to reclaim sole possession of first place Sunday, committing five turnovers in a loss to lowly Tampa Bay. The Bears, meanwhile, were taken behind the woodshed by St. Louis, meaning that Green Bay actually gained a half-game in the standings despite tying Minnesota.
Dallas' dramatic win in New York both dealt a huge blow to the Giants' attempt to crawl back into the playoff race and pushed the 'Boys back into first in the NFC East. Detroit hosts Green Bay on Thanksgiving. Week 13 also brings a Cardinals-Eagles matchup in Philadelphia and a visit by the resurgent Rams to San Francisco. The coming week of games ends with the huge Saints-Seahawks battle Monday.