NFL Playoff Picture: Updated Look at Playoff Races After Week 15

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IDecember 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after throwing a touchdown pass on December 16, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

For the most part, Week 15 is doing nothing but muddying up the playoff picture. 

Sure, the Packers clinched the NFC North, but the NFC East is jumbling and the race for the two wild-card spots in both conferences is tightening up. 

With nothing but primetime matchups left this week, here is a look at the current playoff picture. 


NFC East

Current Leader In Contention
Washington Redskins (8-6)  New York Giants (8-6) 
  Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

The New York Giants went into Atlanta and were embarrassed, 34-0, and they lost the division lead as a result. 

Meanwhile, the Redskins were forced to play without rookie phenom Robert Griffin III and still pulled out a 38-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

To make things even more jumbled, the Cowboys pulled out a thriller in overtime over the Steelers. 

Washington currently sits atop the division by virtue of splitting its season series with the Giants and a 3-1 record in the division. The Giants are just 2-3 in NFC East play. 

The Redskins have beaten the Cowboys once, and the two will meet again in Week 17. The Cowboys sit at 3-2 in the division. 

This all sets up for a wild finish, which could involve going deep into the list of tiebreakers, which you can view here


NFC West

Current Leader In Contention
San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Seattle Seahawks (9-5) 

The Seahawks are rolling! They put up at least 50 for the second-straight week as they crushed the Bills 50-17.

If the 49ers had lost to the Patriots on Sunday night, the Seahawks would have controlled their own fate in the division as they host the 49ers next week.

Now though, the 49ers have clinched a playoff berth and will clinch the NFC West, if they defeat Seattle next week.

The Rams were eliminated from the NFC West race as they were hit with a crushing 36-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. 



NFC South

Division Winner
Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

The Falcons bounced back from an ugly loss against the Panthers by thrashing the New York Giants, 34-0. 

One more win, and the Falcons will clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed. 


NFC North

Division Winner
Green Bay Packers (10-4) 

The Green Bay Packers went into Chicago and took down the reeling Bears, 21-13, to clinch their second-straight division crown. 

The Packers could still wind up tied with either the Bears or Vikings, but they hold the tiebreaker in all scenarios. They can thank their 5-0 division record for that. 


NFC Wild Card

Current Leaders In Contention
Seattle Seahawks (9-5) Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
Minnesota Vikings (8-6) Chicago Bears (8-6)

New York Giants (8-6)

The final position for the NFC's postseason is a convoluted mess. As I understand this, the Vikings win the tiebreaker in this scenario because they have the best winning percentage in the NFC of these teams except for the Giants, but the Giants do not qualify for that tie break because they are ranked lower in the NFC East than the Cowboys. 

Anyway, the last two weeks should make this a little less complicated. 


AFC East

Division Winner
New England Patriots (10-4)

New England will host the 49ers on Sunday night. They have put the division race to bed, but they need a win to stay right behind Houston in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. 

After losing, despite nearly coming back, on Sunday night, the Patriots remain in the thick of the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. Currently, the Patriots are in line for a first-round bye.



AFC West

Division Winner
Denver Broncos (11-3)

The Denver Broncos rolled the Baltimore Ravens, 34-17. It was another impressive win for the Broncos, who have now won nine straight. 

The win keeps them right in the thick of the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. 


AFC North

Current Leader In Contention
Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) 
Ravens clinched playoff spot Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

For the fifth-straight season, the Baltimore Ravens will be in the playoffs. That is the longest active streak in the NFL.

However, all is not well with the Ravens.

Baltimore's switch in offensive coordinators is not making immediate improvements. The Ravens dropped their third straight, yet they still find themselves them in first place, and they have clinched a spot in the postseason. 

The Bengals closed the gap in the division with a 34-14 win over the Eagles on Thursday night. The Bengals play the Steelers and Ravens to close out the season, but they are fighting uphill as they have just a 1-3 division record. 

Pittsburgh is 2-2 in the division, but it isn't going to matter if they don't start playing better. 


AFC South

Division Winner
Houston Texans (12-2)

The Texans rebounded splendidly after last week's loss to the Patriots by taking down the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17. 

With the win, Houston clinched the South and remains a game up in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. 


AFC Wild Card

Current Leader In Contention
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)
Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) New York Jets (6-8)
The race for the AFC's two wild-card spots is essentially down to three teams. The Colts lost on Sunday, but they remain in the driver's seat.
The Steelers and Bengals face off next week, which means that if the Colts pick up just one more win, they lock up a playoff spot.The Colts will be in a position to do just that when they travel to take on the Chiefs in Week 16. The Jets were eliminated with Monday night's loss to the Titans.


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