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NFL Playoff Picture Week 14

The Panthers and Saints will meet in a crucial NFC matchup Sunday night. The Panthers and Saints will meet in a crucial NFC matchup Sunday night. (Dave Martin/AP)

Here’s how the AFC and NFC playoff pictures look as Week 14 begins:

AFC

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)

The playoff scenarios for Week 14 in the AFC look like this:

Denver can clinch a playoff spot with: a win or tie, a Miami loss or tie, or a Baltimore loss or tie.

• Kansas City can clinch a playoff spot with: a win and a Miami or Baltimore loss/tie; or a tie and a Miami or Baltimore loss.

• New England can clinch the AFC East with: a win and a Miami loss or tie; or a tie and a Miami loss.

• New England can clinch a playoff spot with: a win and a Baltimore loss or tie; or a tie and a Baltimore loss.

• Indianapolis can clinch the AFC South with: a win, or a Tennessee loss, or ties by both teams.

Arguably the two most important AFC games of Week 14 both involve North teams: Indianapolis at Cincinnati and Miami at Pittsburgh. The winner of the Colts-Bengals game would have a stranglehold on the No. 3 seed and would have the best chance of knocking New England from the two-spot.

If the Bengals lose that one, they could start feeling the heat from Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Steelers' key game pits them against Miami, with both teams scrapping to stay in the wild-card picture.

Denver would have to lose at some point over the season's final four weeks to open the door on the No. 1 seed. If the Broncos simply win out, they'll claim home-field throughout the conference playoffs.

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NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1): NFC West leader

2. New Orleans Saints (9-3): 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), Chicago Bears (6-6)

Danger Zone: Green Bay Packers (5-6-1), New York Giants (5-7), St. Louis Rams (5-7)

The playoff scenarios for Week 14 in the NFC look like this:

• Seattle can clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye with: a win or tie

• New Orleans can clinch a playoff spot with: a win and losses by Arizona, Dallas and Philadelphia; or a win, losses by Dallas, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and an Arizona tie.

• Carolina can clinch a playoff spot with: a win and losses by Arizona, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.

Monstrous week in the NFC, culminating with Sunday night's Carolina-New Orleans showdown and then Monday's Dallas-Chicago game. That Cowboys-Bears game is but one of two important East-North crossovers -- Detroit at Philadelphia being the other. A Lions' win there would give them a 2-0 mark against the Cowboys and Eagles, thus putting them in the driver's seat for the No. 3 seed.

The loser of the Saints-Panthers game would be a game out in the division and could be just a game up in the wild-card race. Both Philadelphia and Arizona are lurking with five losses right now.
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