NFL Playoff Picture: What If the Season Ended Today?
If the NFL season ended after Week 14, which teams would make it into the playoffs?
With three weeks left in the 2012 season, there are still a few spots up for grabs, and the final push will certainly be fun to watch.
But for the most part, we now know which teams will make it into the postseason tournament.
Here is your updated look at how the playoff picture would look should the season end today.
On the Bubble
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There are currently five teams—two from the AFC and three from the NFC—with legitimate playoff hopes, but which are currently on the outside looking in.
- Washington Redskins (7-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
- New York Jets (6-7)
AFC No. 6 Seed
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The Steelers were blasted by the visiting San Diego Chargers on Sunday, but since the Cincinnati Bengals also lost, the Steelers hung onto this spot.
The Steelers host Cincinnati in Week 16 to take on their divisional rivals—a battle that may well determine which teams makes it into the playoffs.
If the Steelers beat the Bengals and win one of their remaining two, they are assured a playoff berth.
AFC No. 5 Seed
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Andrew Luck and the Colts are almost assured a spot in the playoffs.
With a record of 9-4, it'll take a total collapse from this team to miss out.
The Colts have won seven of their last eight games, and this team keeps figuring out ways to overcome mistakes. Luck's six game-winning drives have blown even the most experienced analysts away, as rookies aren't supposed to be able to consistently come back like this.
AFC No. 4 Seed
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The Ravens are trending down the past four weeks.
After the team thrashed the Oakland Raiders, it narrowly defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers and then lost two straight games to the Steelers and most recently, the Washington Redskins.
Now, at 9-4, it's time to pick things back up for the stretch run or risk getting tossed out in the first round.
AFC No. 3 Seed
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New England Patriots
The Patriots host the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, and with a victory they will go up over the Denver Broncos for the No. 2 seed.
For now, at 9-3, the Pats are assured a spot in the playoffs.
Winners of six straight games, this team continues to fight through adversity and find ways to win without some of its top players.
AFC No. 2 Seed
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The Broncos have won eight straight games and enter the final three weeks with a record of 10-3.
Peyton Manning has the offense running like a well-oiled machine, and Von Miller leads a ferocious defense that has blossomed into one of the league's most feared units.
As long as this team stays healthy, it will be a tough one to beat come January.
AFC No. 1 Seed
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We'll learn a lot about this team on Monday Night Football when the Texans face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Boston.
To this point, there isn't a more complete team in the NFL, and the Texans 11-1 record is the best in the league.
The Texans can run the ball, stop the run, pass the ball and get after the quarterback. The only suspect aspect of the team is its secondary, and it'll be interesting to see how well it holds up against New England's Tom Brady on MNF.
NFC No. 6 Seed
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The Bears, at 8-5, are in danger of missing out on the postseason, having lost four out of their last five games.
With the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings breathing down their neck, this team needs to turn things around.
NFC No. 5 Seed
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The Seahawks have been surging since Week 9, winning four out of their last five games to forge a record of 8-5 heading into Week 15.
Russell Wilson has played with superb control during the second half of the season, and his defense and potent rushing attack—led by Marshawn Lynch—has done the rest.
The biggest test is yet to come, however, as Brandon Browner is already serving his four-game suspension for PEDs and Richard Sherman's appeal is next week. Without these two cornerbacks, the Seahawks will have trouble competing with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.
NFC No. 4 Seed
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New York Giants
After getting beaten by the surging Washington Redskins in Week 13, the Giants came back with a vengeance, beating the New Orleans Saints 52-27 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Giants (8-5) always have a chance to win a Super Bowl, provided Eli Manning is healthy, as well as his receivers, and as long as his defense plays up to its potential, the Giants will be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason.
NFC No. 3 Seed
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Green Bay Packers
I have to tip my hat to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for compiling a record of 9-4, despite the team's many injuries. It's tough enough to win in the NFL with a healthy team, and the Packers have been without some of their stalwarts on both sides of the ball all year long.
The Packers' suspect offensive line could well lead to an early exit in the playoffs, though. Against teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks—teams with explosive pass-rushers—the Packers will struggle to protect Rodgers.
NFC No. 2 Seed
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San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers, at 9-3-1, aren't without their flaws, but when this team is firing on all cylinders, there isn't another team that can match it.
Aldon Smith has come on strong for San Francisco—he is only 3.5 sacks away from breaking Michael Strahan's all-time record for most sacks in a single season.
And given the added dimension Colin Kaepernick adds to the team's offense, the 49ers will be a difficult team to beat in January.
NFC No. 1 Seed
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The Falcons have only lost two games this season, but there's something about this team that gives many analysts pause.
Perhaps it's a lack of killer instinct, or perhaps it's that the Falcons aren't a good running team. Whatever it is, the Falcons will likely enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the dome-field advantage will work in their favor.
Still, I won't be convinced that this team is for real until the Falcons win a game in the playoffs—something that hasn't happened since Matt Ryan joined the team back in 2008.