NFL Playoff Picture, Week 13: Patriots slide out of AFC’s top two seeds

A closer look at the AFC and NFC playoff pictures through Sunday afternoon of Week 13.
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Here’s what the AFC and NFC playoff pictures look like through Week 13 (a primer on tiebreaking procedures can be found here):

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1. Cincinnati Bengals (10–2)

Conference: 8–1; Division: 4-0

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2. Denver Broncos (10–2)

Conference: 6–2; Division: 3–1

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3. New England Patriots (10–2)

Conference: 7–1; Division: 4–0

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4. Indianapolis Colts (6–5)

Conference: 4–3; Division: 3–0

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5. Kansas City Chiefs (7–5)

Conference: 6–2; Division: 3–1

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6. New York Jets (7–5)

Conference: 5–4; Division: 2–2

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. Pittsburgh Steelers (7–5)

Conference: 4–4; Division: 1–2

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. Buffalo Bills (6–6)

Conference: 6–5; Division: 3–2

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. Houston Texans (6–6)

Conference: 4–4; Division: 2–1

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. Oakland Raiders (5–7)

Conference: 5–4; Division: 1–2

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. Miami Dolphins (5–7)

Conference: 3–6; Division: 0–5

What a difference two weeks made. The Patriots appeared to be cruising toward the No. 1 seed, but back-to-back losses have them outside the top two—and the all-important byes. Their conference record has them land behind new top seed Cincinnati, while last week’s loss to Denver pushed the defending champs down another notch.

Week 13 Snaps: Seahawks coming together at familiar time for NFC foes

The Bengals visit the Broncos in Week 16. Before that, Cincinnati hosts Pittsburgh and visits San Francisco; Denver hosts Oakland and plays at Pittsburgh.

Kansas City took a huge step toward the postseason with a win at Oakland, at the same time all but eliminating the Raiders from contention. The Chiefs’ chances of catching Denver in the AFC West are fading, but there’s a huge difference between that fifth and sixth seed. The former will take on the AFC South champion, a much better draw than whichever of the Bengals, Broncos or Patriots misses a bye.

The No. 6 seed now belongs to the Jets after their come-from-behind win over the Giants. Houston’s loss to Buffalo opened the door for New York to step forward and also made the Texans’ road to a wild card much less friendly. They now have losses to Buffalo, Kansas City and Miami, plus a mediocre conference record.

The Dolphins rejoined the playoff picture, though their 3–6 AFC record and 0–5 AFC East record leave a lot to be desired.

FARRAR: Gabbert adds to unlikely resurgence | Injuries catching up to Pats

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1. Carolina Panthers (12–0)

Conference: 8–0; Division: 3–0

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2. Arizona Cardinals (10–2)

Conference: 7–1; Division: 4–1

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3. Green Bay Packers (8–4)

Conference: 6–3; Division: 3–2

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4. Washington Redskins (5–7)

Conference: 5–4; Division: 2–2

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5. Minnesota Vikings (8–4)

Conference: 5–3; Division: 3–1

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6. Seattle Seahawks (7–5)

Conference: 6–4; Division: 2–2

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. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6–6)

Conference: 5–3; Division: 3–1

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. Atlanta Falcons (6–6)

Conference: 4–5; Division: 0–3

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. Philadelphia Eagles (5–7)

Conference: 3–6; Division: 2–2

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. New York Giants (5–7)

Conference: 4–5; Division: 2–3

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. Chicago Bears (5–7)

Conference: 2–6; Division: 1–3

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. Dallas Cowboys (4–8)

Conference: 3–7; Division: 3–2

Newton’s MVP performance vs. Saints helps Panthers remain undefeated

The Falcons’ loss clinched the NFC South for the Panthers, who then rallied past New Orleans to stay undefeated. Only a stunning turn of events could push Carolina out of a first-round bye, and it could clinch the overall No. 1 seed by Week 15. 

There is a change in the No. 3 seed: Green Bay’s miraculous Thursday night win in Detroit coupled with Minnesota’s blowout home loss to Seattle flipped the NFC North standings. The Packers and Vikings meet again in Week 17, but Green Bay already has a leg up because of an earlier win over its rival.

Minnesota is still in decent shape for a wild card, holding a two-game lead over Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The Vikings just beat the Falcons a week ago. However, their wiggle room is starting to vanish a bit—Seattle just swiped the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event the Seahawks and Vikings wind up deadlocked.

Bills preserve playoff hopes with victory against Texans’ stout defense

Are the Buccaneers the new team to watch? They’re up to .500 after beating Atlanta and now play three straight sub-.500 teams before a Week 17 trip to Carolina.

Philadelphia pulled off the stunner of the weekend, winning in New England. That upset plus Washington's loss to Dallas created a three-way tie for first in the NFC East, with the Cowboys now lurking a mere game back. Washington still holds the top spot by virtue of its intra-conference record, but that is anyone's race. Keep in mind that Chip Kelly’s team finishes by hosting Washington in Week 16 and visiting the Giants on the season's final Sunday.