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.