February 26, 2024

AFC’s No. 1 seed is set to change hands next week


Here’s what the NFL playoff picture looks like as Week 12 of the 2023 season nears completion:

NFC Playoff Photo

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1), NFC East leaders: They own the best record in the league and matched their 10-1 start in 2022 by winning a thrilling overtime shootout against the Buffalo Bills. Detroit’s loss on Thanksgiving gave Philly a two-game lead over the three closest pursuers. If the Eagles win the highly anticipated NFC title game rematch with San Francisco in Week 13, they will be very difficult to unseat. Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-3), NFC West leaders: They clinched the division by beating Seattle on Thanksgiving night. The Niners’ superior record in NFC games also outranked them over the Lions. But if they really want to pursue home field advantage, a win in Philadelphia is all but necessary. Remaining schedule: at Eagles, vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

3. Detroit Lions (8-3), NFC North leaders: Starting to show some cracks, especially on defense, but they still have some margin for error in their quest for their first NFC North title. Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, at Cowboys, vs. Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons (5-6), NFC South leaders: They picked up a big win in their first meeting this season with the Saints on Sunday, moving to 3-0 in division play – which could be a huge tiebreaker down the road. It’s hard to expect too much from the Falcons, but a .500 finish over their last six games — which seems reasonable — could be enough to clinch this seed. Remaining schedulele: at Jets, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3), Wild Card No. 1: By crushing Washington on Turkey Day, they solidified their hold on this position — which will likely set up a matchup with a less-than-intimidating NFC South champion in the wild-card round. Still, it’s still time for Dallas to make the NFC East a legitimate race…assuming they can salvage a split with Philly and get a little help along the way. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-5), Wild Card No. 2: Taking care of business at home against Chicago on Monday night, the Vikes strengthen their wild-card hold and remain viable for the division as two more cracks in Detroit are on the way. Remaining schedule: vs. Bears, BYE, at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

7. Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Wild Card No. 3: Consecutive losses to NFC West foes, including Thursday night’s 31-13 home setback against San Francisco, have pushed them to the brink of the postseason, especially considering the upcoming schedule. An inferior record in conference play puts Seattle behind the Vikings and the Seahawks one game ahead of the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, all 5-6. And don’t forget, the Rams have a Seattle sweep on their hands. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, at 49ers, at Eagles, at Titans, at Steelers, at Cardinals

AFC play-off photo

1. Baltimore Ravens (9-3), AFC North leaders: After quite a bit of churn, they ended up where they started the week: first place in the overall standings. They won’t mind getting Week 13 off to rest for the long drive, but it will likely cost them in the standings — their trio of AFC losses more than the Chiefs, Jaguars or Dolphins. Remaining schedule: BYE, vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3), AFC West leaders: They remain well-positioned to play a sixth straight AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. None of the teams remaining on KC’s schedule currently have a winning record. Additionally, wins over Jacksonville and Miami earlier this season give KC a valuable tiebreaker if these clubs reach an impasse. Remaining schedule: at Packers, vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3), AFC South leaders: They earned an important break with Houston on Sunday and also gained some breathing room atop the division. The tiebreaker based on the strength of the win puts the Jags ahead of Miami if a tiebreaker needs to be called. Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, vs. Browns, vs. Ravens, vs. Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, vs. Titans

4. Miami Dolphins (8-3), AFC East leaders: They continue to feast on opponents who are average at best, suggesting they will be 11-3 on Christmas Eve. Their win in the NFL’s first Black Friday game temporarily moved them to the top of the conference standings, but on an inactive Sunday they had to give all that ground back. Remaining schedule: at Commanders, vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4), Wild Card No. 1: Losses to the Browns, who have a worse division record than Pittsburgh, and Texans move the Steelers up two spots on a day when their newly managed offense showed signs of life. They’re only one game ahead of Indianapolis, Houston and Denver, but there’s no reason Pittsburgh can’t move to 9-4. Remaining schedule: vs. Cardinals, vs. Patriots, at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

6. Cleveland Browns (7-4), Wild Card No. 2: A damaging loss to Denver not only cost them their positioning, but could also damage the playing status of several key players DE Myles Garrett, WR Amari Cooper and QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson in jeopardy in a touch matchup in Los Angeles. Remaining schedule: at Rams, vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

7. Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Wild Card No. 3: A Week 2 win at Houston and a better record in conference play than Denver puts Indy ahead of the Texans and Broncos, both of whom are also 6-5. The Bills also lie in wait for half a game in 10th place. Remaining schedule: at Titans, at Bengals, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans


Follow Nate Davis of USA TODAY Sports on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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