NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Analyzing Most Intriguing Scenarios Post-Week 15

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 03:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants stands on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 3, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

As it always tends to do in the NFL, the 2012 playoff picture is as convoluted as it could possibly be, and there are dozens of possible ways the final postseason matchups could shake out.

With two weeks left in the season, the playoff races in the AFC and NFC are heating up.

There are many ways teams could sneak into the postseason, but each of the following divisions harbor the most intriguing scenarios in the NFL.

 

AFC North Battle

There are few divisions in football with the hard-hitting reputation of the AFC North, and it is a surprise to no one that this division’s battle for second place will also decide the second wild card winner.

As the Cincinnati Bengals prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in another chapter of the epic rivalry, this time a playoff berth will be on the line. Each team has a chance to control its own fate in Week 17, but the winner of this Week 16 battle will be in the driver’s seat.

Add in the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are starting to fall apart—losing three straight games—and the NFC North is anything but a lock with two weeks remaining.

 

The NFC East

While many experts called for the Philadelphia Eagles to walk away with the NFC East at the start of the season, the Washington Redskins are currently winning the division and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants are on the outside looking in.

With the Dallas Cowboys also within striking distance, the NFC East will come down to the final two weeks of the season. For those that complained about a divisional-matchup-heavy second-half schedule, this battle is the perfect example of what can happen.

There is still an outside chance for two NFC East teams to make the playoffs, but that would take one of the three contending squads having a catastrophic meltdown over the final two weeks.

Actually, sounds about right for this division.

 

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

DIVISION LEADERS
 No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South
 No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West
 No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East
 No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC South; Clinched Playoff Berth

 

WILD CARD LEADERS
 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

 

IN THE HUNT
 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
 New York Jets (6-7)
 Miami Dolphins (6-8)

 

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

DIVISION LEADERS
 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South
 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (9-4) Clinched NFC North
 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East

 

WILD CARD LEADERS
 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

 

IN THE HUNT
 Chicago Bears (8-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
 New York Giants (8-6)
 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)
 New Orleans Saints (6-8)

 

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