NFL Playoff Picture through Week 15
Here’s how the AFC and NFC playoff pictures look after Sunday's action (Baltimore plays at Detroit on Monday):
1. Denver Broncos (11-3): AFC West leader *
2. New England Patriots (10-4): AFC East leader
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5): AFC North leader
4. Indianapolis Colts (9-5): AFC South leader *
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3): Wild card *
6. Miami Dolphins (8-6): Wild card
(* = has clinched playoff berth)
The Broncos' Thursday night loss to San Diego might turn out to be rather moot, thanks to Miami's upset of New England. With the dramatic Dolphins' victory, Denver reclaimed control of its own destiny for the AFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.
Same goes for the Patriots' loss to Miami, at least in terms of how it affected the chase for first-round byes. Cincinnati could have pulled in front of New England for the No. 2 seed by beating Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Instead, the Bengals crumbled. (If you're wondering how the Steelers can sneak into the playoffs, by the way, here's that scenario.)
Miami, now 8-6, at least temporarily pulled in front of Baltimore for the final wild-card spot. The Ravens play in Detroit on Monday night and, amazingly, they can capture the AFC North simply by finishing the season 3-0, including a Week 17 win at Cincinnati.
Kansas City clinched a playoff spot with its win Sunday, becoming the third AFC team to lock down a bid.
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-2): NFC West leader *
2. New Orleans Saints (10-4): NFC South leader
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6): NFC East leader
4. Chicago Bears (8-6): NFC North leader
5. Carolina Panthers (10-4): Wild card
6. San Francisco 49ers (10-4): Wild card
There was movement in the NFC, too. Both of the NFC East leaders (Philadelphia and Dallas) lost, the latter in shocking fashion. As a result, the Eagles stayed on top of the division and could clinch the title next week with a win plus a Dallas loss or tie. Barring that set of circumstances, those two teams will play for the division crown in Week 17.
Chicago's also in the top six now, after knocking off Cleveland. A Detroit win Monday night would bump the Bears back out of the picture -- the Lions went 2-0 against Chicago this season. The NFC North race appears headed to Week 17 one way or another, though, due to Green Bay's miraculous comeback at Dallas. The Bears would need Detroit to lose both Monday and next Sunday to have a shot at wrapping the title earlier; the Lions could claim the crown in Week 16 but would need two wins plus losses by both Chicago and Green Bay.