gave themselves a cushion at No. 6 with a win over the Rams
. (Jed Jacobsohn/SI)
Here’s how the AFC and NFC playoff pictures look after Sunday's afternoon action:
1. Denver Broncos (10-2): AFC West leader
2. New England Patriots (9-3): AFC East leader
3. Indianapolis Colts (8-4): AFC South leader
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4): AFC North leader
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3): Wild card
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-6): Wild card
In the Hunt: Miami Dolphins (6-6), Tennessee Titans (5-7), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7), San Diego Chargers (5-7), New York Jets (5-7)
Danger Zone: Oakland Raiders (4-8), Cleveland Browns (4-8), Buffalo Bills (4-8)
New England, Indianapolis and Cincinnati all sidestepped upsets, while Denver completed its two-game sweep of Kansas City. Because of all that action, the top six in the AFC did not change from where it started Sunday.
The "danger zone" teams in this conference basically are in win-out mode -- and even then, 8-8 might not get the job done. The situation is less dire, but only slightly, for Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Diego and New York, all of which can max out at nine victories.
Baltimore, at 6-6 and with a win over Miami, controls its destiny. If the defending champs finish with four more wins, no one can bump them from the playoffs.
One more quick note: Because of Denver's losses to both New England and Indianapolis, the Broncos would drop below either of those teams in head-to-head tiebreakers. That's particularly important considering the slim gap between Denver and New England.
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1): NFC West leader
2. New Orleans Saints (9-2): NFC South leader
3. Detroit Lions (7-5): NFC North leader
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5): NFC East leader
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3) Wild card
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-4) Wild card
In the Hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (7-5), Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
Danger Zone: Chicago Bears (6-6), Green Bay Packers (5-6-1), New York Giants (5-7)
The Saints and Seahawks will duke it out for the top spot on Monday, but the rest of the field is starting to shape up a bit. The Bears' disheartening overtime loss in Minnesota might be a killer. Chicago's now two games back of the wild card and, because of a sweep by the Lions, essentially two out in the division as well.
The 49ers' win over St. Louis coupled with Arizona's loss to Philadelphia gave San Francisco a one-game cushion for the No. 6 seed. Carolina, now 9-3 after smoking Tampa Bay, has itself in terrific position with two games against the South-leading Saints coming over the season's final four weeks.
Detroit holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on Dallas, and Dallas holds the same tiebreaker on Philadelphia -- hence the Lions and Cowboys in the No. 3 and 4 slots, respectively.