NFL Playoff Picture: Breaking Down the Wild-Card Races Heading into Week 15

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 9: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball against Nick Roach #53 and Dom DeCicco #58 of the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter of the game on December 9, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With three games left on the NFL schedule, the wild-card races are heating up to a boil.

There are six teams in the NFC fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs, and there are five teams in the AFC vying for the No. 6 seed, as the Indianapolis Colts have pretty much wrapped up the No. 5 seed with their 9-4 record.

Let's take a look at how things stack up on both sides.


AFC Wild-Card Race

The 7-6 Pittsburgh Steelers have lost three of their last four games, putting them in danger of missing the playoffs in 2012. 

Behind the Steelers are the Cincinnati Bengals, a team with an identical record but which is a half-game back of Pittsburgh due the teams' head-to-head record. The 6-7 New York Jets are one-and-a-half games back of the Steelers for the same reason. 

The Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers haven't been mathematically eliminated at 5-8, but it would take a series of remarkable events for either of these two teams to get into the playoffs in 2012. 

The Steelers are in control of their own destiny. If they win out, they're in. Any losses, especially to the Bengals in Week 16, will complicate things in the AFC significantly. 

The Bengals can get in if they lose a game, as long as the beat the Steelers in Week 16 and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17.

The Jets need significant help to get in, and the Browns and Chargers practically need a miracle. 


NFC Wild-Card Race

The New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears are currently in the playoffs with 8-5 records. The Giants currently have the No. 4 seed as the NFC East divisional leader, but the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are following hard with records of 7-6.

The Bears have fallen of late, having lost four of their last five games. Of the teams currently occupying one of the wild-card spots, they seem the most likely to fall off.

The Seahawks have been surging in the second half, but a Week 16 showdown against the San Francisco 49ers looms on the horizon. They control their own destiny, though, and with victories over the Bears and Cowboys earlier in the year, it's not likely they'd miss the playoffs even if they do lose to the 49ers.

The Redskins need help to get in from the Bears and/or Giants, and so do the Cowboys. These two teams face off in Week 17 in a contest that could well decide which team gets into the playoffs. 

The Minnesota Vikings, at 7-6, also need help to get in, and their final three games won't be easy. With road tests at St. Louis and Houston and a final contest against the Green Bay Packers, it's highly unlikely the Vikings will get into the playoffs this season.

The St. Louis Rams, at 6-6-1, have not been mathematically eliminated, but the likelihood they get in is slim to none.


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