NFL Playoff Picture, Week 13: How Thanksgiving's results impacted the races

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Roethlisberger has the offense clicking again, but it may be too late for the Steelers. (Kellen Micah/Icon SMI)

Conflicting rumors continue to swirl about the future of Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers. (Kellen Micah/Icon SMI)

Here’s how the AFC and NFC playoff pictures look after Thursday's Thanksgiving Day action:


1. Denver Broncos (9-2): AFC West leader

2. New England Patriots (8-3): AFC East leader

2. Indianapolis Colts (7-4): AFC South leader

4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): AFC North leader

5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2): Wild card

6. Baltimore Ravens (6-6): Wild card

In the Hunt: Tennessee Titans (5-6), San Diego Chargers (5-6), New York Jets (5-6), Miami Dolphins (5-6)

Danger Zone: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7), Cleveland Browns (4-7), Buffalo Bills (4-7)

The Ravens' win over the Steelers held major implications for both teams -- Baltimore jumped up to the 6-spot (at least temporarily), while Pittsburgh fell behind a quintet of teams in the race for the AFC's second wild card. Working in Baltimore's favor as well: a 6-4 record within the conference, which is better than any of the current wild-card contenders.

Denver's and Kansas City's positions post-Week 13 hinge on their matchup Sunday. The victorious team there would claim the AFC West lead and the conference's top seed with four weeks left in the regular season. The losing squad will stick in that No. 5 slot.

None of the other teams in the top four (New England, Indianapolis, Cincinnati) can cede the division lead this week, though both the Colts and Bengals could leapfrog the Patriots should Bill Belichick's squad somehow lose in Houston.

The Dolphins' visit to New York to take on the Jets will carry the same weight as Thursday's Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. The team on the short end there will be down to its last gasp in the playoff race.


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 (8-3) Wild card

6. San Francisco 49ers (7-4) Wild card

In the Hunt: Arizona Cardinals (7-4), Philadelphia Eagles (6-5), Chicago Bears (6-5)

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

The NFL's two traditional Thanksgiving Day hosts -- Detroit and Dallas -- each scored wins Thursday, meaning both will stay in first place for at least another week. The Lions now have a 1.5-game edge on the Packers in the NFC North and what amounts to a 1.5-game lead on Chicago, thanks to a season sweep of the Bears. Green Bay, now at 5-6-1, probably needs to finish with four consecutive wins to have any hope of reaching the playoffs.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, won their lone game to date with Philadelphia and boast a 4-0 divisional record, so they are safe for now.

The conference's top seed will be up for grabs on the line Monday, when the Seahawks host the Saints. A win by Seattle would all but lock the NFC playoff road through the 12th Man's home. New Orleans has twice as much at stake in that one, with 8-3 Carolina breathing down its neck in the division.