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NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down Playoff Chances for Every Team

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NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down Playoff Chances for Every Team
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With only six weeks left in the NFL season, every single game has great significance as teams continue to jockey for positioning in the playoff hunt.

While the playoff picture is already somewhat carved out, there is no doubt nothing is settled yet. Teams could end up in a drastically different spot when the season is all said and done.

But for now, we can only focus on where teams stand going into Week 12, so let's take a look at the playoff chances for each team as we prepare for the stretch run of the season.

 

1. Denver Broncos (9-1)

The Denver Broncos earned the distinction as the first team to knock off the formerly undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. In the process, they have taken over the No. 1 spot from their division rival. Another meeting with the Chiefs comes up in a few weeks, this time in Kansas City, but first Peyton Manning and company will have to travel to Gillette Stadium to take on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

With the win, Denver moved into the top spot in the AFC playoff picture and holds a two-game lead over fellow division leaders Indianapolis and New England. Still, a meeting with the Chiefs in Week 13 that results in a loss could drop the Broncos all the way down to the No. 5 seed in the blink of an eye.

 

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1)

The Chiefs' loss has been the Seattle Seahawks' gain as this dominant squad's win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 earned Seattle the right to move up one place in the rankings this week. Even though beating the Vikings isn't exactly a difficult challenge at the moment, it was still done in a convincing fashion.

Seattle's victory helped maintain its lead in the NFC, although a win for the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football and a bye week in Week 12 for head coach Pete Carroll's team means the Seahawks own just a one-game lead for the right to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

 

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)

You can't take too much away from the Chiefs losing to one of the best teams in the NFL at the moment. The encouraging sign was that the Chiefs were extremely competitive and could have won had the offense played better.

Don't count KC out in the AFC West or as a top candidate to take the No. 1 seed in the conference just yet as the Chiefs are tied in record with the Broncos for both spots, and wins in their next two games—one against Denver—could move them back atop the standings in both instances.

 

4. New Orleans Saints (9-2)

Thursday Night Football presented a tough challenge from the now 2-9 Atlanta Falcons for the Saints, but Drew Brees and company did just enough in the first half to top their division rival and hold on to the No. 4 spot in the power rankings with a road victory.

Despite the fact that it wasn't exactly flashy or all that impressive, a win is a win for New Orleans, and it helped the team gain a bit of ground in the NFC with the Seahawks off this week. The Saints now sit just one game back of Seattle for the top spot in the NFC and have a slim one-game lead in the loss column in the NFC South over the surging Carolina Panthers.

 

5. Carolina Panthers (7-3)

This is the highest position the Panthers have enjoyed in the rankings this season, and it is well deserved after head coach Ron Rivera's team hosted and beat a talented Patriots squad in Week 11 to maintain its spot in the playoff hunt.

With the win, Carolina gained a one-game advantage over the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 5 spot in the NFC playoff picture, and the Panthers are just one game back in the loss column behind the Saints in the division.

 

6. Indianapolis Colts (7-3)

An ugly loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 10 was quickly erased by the Colts after coming back to beat the Tennessee Titans in the second half of that game, which effectively ended the Titans' hopes of competing for the AFC South division this season.

As mentioned above, the Colts now have a stranglehold on their division with the win and sit just two games back of the Broncos for the No. 1 seed going into Week 12. The Colts also own the tiebreaker between the two with the head-to-head advantage in their favor.

 

7. New England Patriots (7-3)

A loss to one of the hottest teams in the NFL on the road, the Panthers, isn't a cause for concern for the Patriots, and it didn't do much to drop them in the rankings this week. In fact, a controversial no-call at the end of the game could have had the result swing the other way had it gone in New England's favor.

New England has a comfortable two-game lead in the AFC East with just six to play, but in reality the Pats are looking at the entire AFC playoff picture. They are two games back of the top-seeded Broncos as they play host to the team they are chasing on Sunday Night Football in Week 12.

 

8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

Cincinnati is the definition of an up-and-down team after it beat up on the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 following two consecutive losses to teams like the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. It might have been a sloppy win, but the Bengals will take it, and it moves them back within the top 10 in the rankings going into Week 12.

The Bengals' two-game lead in the loss column gives them a huge leg up in the AFC north with just five to play and a bye week coming. As far as the top seed in the AFC is concerned, the Bengals are behind the Broncos by three games in the loss column and just one game in the loss column for the No. 2 and No. 3 seed.

 

9. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

After blowing a late lead to the Saints in New Orleans, the San Francisco 49ers suffered a heart-breaking defeat that was aided by some bad penalties down the stretch that gave New Orleans extra lives to sneak out of there with a win.

San Fran's loss was particularly devastating considering it failed to keep pace with the No. 5 seed, the Panthers, and now cling to the last playoff spot with a one-game deficit to make up in order to move up in the playoff picture. What's worse is that the Niners have two teams behind them with the exact same record, and their lead for the last playoff position is anything but safe as the division is all but out of reach.

 

10. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)

It may have been against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Arizona Cardinals went on the road and took care of business with a dazzling offensive display from quarterback Carson Palmer and the ever-improving Cardinals offense.

It was thought that a tough division would almost certainly cancel the Cardinals out of the playoffs this season, but now the Cards actually stand tied in second place in the NFC West and more importantly are tied for the final playoff spot, although the team in front of them, the Niners, owns the tiebreaker.

 

11. Chicago Bears (6-4)

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mother Nature did her best to stop the Chicago Bears' game when they hosted the Baltimore Ravens last week, and she actually helped the Bears after they fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. Out of the delay, the Bears stormed back (no pun intended) and eventually took the contest in overtime.

A Bears win and a Detroit Lions loss pushed Chicago back into a tie for the lead in the NFC North, and if the same happens in Week 12, Chicago could move into the No. 3 spot in the playoff race. If it doesn't turn out like that, Chicago is still in position for a wild-card spot as only tiebreakers separate it from the No. 6 seed.

 

12. Detroit Lions (6-4)

The Lions undoubtedly played down to their competition in Week 11 after succumbing to the sometimes potent, big-play offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The loss kept alive a 58-year curse that has prevented Detroit from winning in Pittsburgh for nearly six decades now.

Detroit still owns a share of the lead in the NFC North and at the moment owns the tiebreaker in that respect. Not to mention, that same advantage in the tiebreaker also gives the Lions the No. 3 seed, and the Bears will have to earn a better record overall to overcome that.

 

13. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

It wasn't pretty, but the Philadelphia Eagles were able to hold off the Washington Redskins in the second half after grabbing a 17-0 lead in the first half and escaped Philly with a much-needed win despite a single score in the final two quarters.

Philly's win enabled it to grab sole possession of first place in the wacky and wild NFC East with a one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys. A bye week in Week 12 will allow both the Cowboys and Giants to inch closer to the division leader and current No. 4 seed, the Eagles.

 

14. Green Bay Packers (5-5)

The Green Bay Packers had their chances to secure a road win over the New York Giants in Week 11; however, they just couldn't get into the end zone enough to make that happen with a backup quarterback at the helm.

Despite three straight losses and not having superstar Aaron Rodgers behind center, the Packers are still in contention in the NFC North as they sit just one game back in the division with Rodgers inching closer to his much-anticipated return.

 

15. Miami Dolphins (5-5)

Distractions didn't stop the Miami Dolphins from winning at home against a talented San Diego Chargers squad in a game in which their defense was the story after surrendering just 16 points to such a potent offense.

At one point, it seemed like the Dolphins were going into a tail spin right out of playoff contention. The win over San Diego not only kept them just two games out of the division lead, but it also allowed the Dolphins to gain ground on the final playoff spot for which they are tied for with the New York Jets.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

The Cowboys needed a break in Week 11 after getting smacked down by the Saints in Week 10, but the break allowed the Eagles to pull ahead by one game in the NFC East race. Now Dallas finds New York breathing down its neck for second with a huge game between the two coming up in Week 12.

As far as the wild card is concerned, Dallas needs to jump three squads in order to secure the final playoff position, and it's looking like winning the division is its best chance at being a postseason team in 2013.

 

17. New York Jets (5-5)

It still amazes this writer how inconsistent the Jets are this season. They have yet to string together two wins in a row, and it's almost a lock that a win one week like the one against the Saints in Week 9 will result in a loss the following game like in Week 11's blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills.

New York has had plenty of opportunities to gain ground and compete for the AFC East crown, but last week's loss prevented the Jets from closing the two-game gap between them and first place. Still, New York can control its own destiny from here on out with the No. 6 seed barely in its grasp.

 

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6)

A win over the Lions not only gives the Steelers a ton of momentum moving forward after beating such a talented group, but it also shows that Pittsburgh can compete for a playoff spot and has the capability to at least play spoiler down the stretch of the season.

Pittsburgh still has plenty of work to do in the AFC North with a two-game deficit in the loss column to make up. Although jumping four teams to get to the No. 6 seed won't be easy, the Steelers' best chance at making the playoffs remains the back door that is the AFC Wild Card.

 

19. New York Giants (4-6)

The Giants continue to climb back into relevance with their fourth straight win, this time over a Rodgers-less Packers squad that looked good but couldn't get into the end zone with Scott Tolzien as the QB.

If the G-Men can win this week against the Cowboys, they will move into second place in the NFC East, which was unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Not only that, but the Giants would only be one game behind the Eagles should they emerge victorious at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

 

20. San Diego Chargers (4-6)

San Diego's loss to Miami in Week 11 further dashed its playoff hopes this season as Philip Rivers and company could only muster up 16 points in a losing effort that made the team look undeserving of a playoff spot in 2013.

The loss not only pushed the Chargers further back in the hunt for the No. 6 seed with a bunch of teams to jump to get there, but it also led to them and the Oakland Raiders being tied for last place in the out-of-reach AFC West.

 

21. Tennessee Titans (4-6)

The Titans had a golden opportunity to pull to within one game of the AFC South lead as they took a lead into halftime against the Colts in Week 11. Sadly for Tennessee, it turned out not to be in the cards for this second-place team. Instead, Indy ended up taking the win by a narrow margin.

Losing to Indy pretty much canceled out any dreams of the Titans coming back in the division with a three-game deficit to make up. On the brighter side, the Titans are one game behind the Jets for the No. 6 seed and have just three teams to jump in order to make it happen.

 

22. St. Louis Rams (4-6)

Beating a top opponent like the Colts in Week 10 was no doubt an impressive win for the Rams. Unfortunately for St. Louis, it had to take Week 11 off for the bye and couldn't immediately build off the momentum of such a win.

Hopes of winning the NFC West are long gone for the Rams, but at least the wild card is still a possibility, albeit a slim one considering St. Louis is two games back for the final playoff spot and has six teams to jump before it can claim that place.

 

23. Cleveland Browns (4-6)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Browns couldn't get out of their own way in Week 11 as multiple turnovers helped hand the Bengals a win and also a two-game lead in the loss column in the AFC North.

Cleveland's chances at winning the division are slim as the Bengals continue to be the class of the division. At this point, it looks like wild card or bust for a Browns team that still has to pass six teams to stake claim to the No. 6 seed.

 

24. Baltimore Ravens (4-6)

If not for a weather delay versus the Bears, the Ravens may have been able to sustain the momentum of an early-game lead. Because of Mother Nature, we will never know if that would have been the case. Instead, the Ravens dropped the contest in overtime.

Baltimore's hopes for a playoff spot rest in the wild card with a two-game deficit in the loss column to make up in the division. In order to reach the spot the 5-5 Jets own, the Ravens have to leap-frog five other teams.

 

25. Buffalo Bills (4-7)

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith literally threw the Bills to victory in Week 11 and the Bills' 12th man, the weather, also played a huge role in the win.

Buffalo's chances at making the playoffs are bleak at best, but that doesn't mean the Bills are out of it just yet considering they sit two games back of the Jets for the final playoff spot. Although, owning the third-worst record in the AFC means they have eight teams to jump in order to complete a miracle run at the playoffs.

 

26. Oakland Raiders (4-6)

It isn't saying much to beat a struggling team like the Houston Texans this season, but the Raiders will take it since it moved them out of sole possession of last place in the AFC West.

Amazingly enough, the Raiders till have a good chance of making the playoffs in the wide open AFC as they sit just one game back in the loss column for the last playoff seed with just two teams to pass and six more games to do it in.

 

27. Washington Redskins (3-7)

Washington's woes in the 2013-14 campaign continued last week after Robert Griffin III and company were unable to exploit what is a suspect Philly defense to the tune of just 16 points, which were all scored in the final quarter.

With a three-game hole to make up in the wild-card chase, it's abundantly clear that the topsy-turvy NFC East is Washington's best chance of making the playoffs. Even with that being the case, things certainly aren't looking good in that regard as Philly's win gave it a two-game edge in the loss column over Washington.

 

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers flashed some offensive dominance in Week 11 after dropping 41 points on the Atlanta Falcons, which is a team that is almost as dysfunctional as the Bucs have been this season.

Two wins in a row means the Bucs are not mailing it in just yet, and they could play spoiler the rest of the way. With that being said, the playoffs are well out of reach for this team, and Tampa Bay would be better served losing as many games as possible to ensure a top pick in next year's draft.

 

29. Houston Texans (2-8)

Fans in Houston are still scratching their heads as to why head coach Gary Kubiak removed first-year signal-caller Case Keenum from the game in the third quarter for embattled former starter, Matt Schaub. Like normal, Schaub was unable to get his team into the end zone and as a result, the Texans lost their eighth straight contest, this time to the Raiders.

The only thing that is more finished than Schaub's career in Houston is the Texans' playoff chances. It's time to name Keenum the starter for good the rest of the season so the Texans can evaluate the talented QB to see if he's the future behind center as the NFL draft approaches.

 

30. Atlanta Falcons (2-9)

It was a valiant effort on Atlanta's part on Thursday Night Football versus New Orleans, but in the end the better team clearly won, and the Falcons' miserable season took its latest ugly turn.

At this point, the Falcons will be lucky to avoid going from first to worst in a single season as they are one game ahead of the worst record in football following a 2012 campaign that saw them finish with a share of the best record in football.

 

31. Minnesota Vikings (2-8)

It came as no surprise that the Vikings got thrashed by the Seahawks in Week 11. Minnesota continues to be an easy out for most teams in the league, and there is no end in sight for this troubled roster.

The Vikings are yet another team involved in the Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes. Minnesota remains one of the top candidates in desperate need of a quarterback, and it is in a good position to land one come May.

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)

Last and certainly least, the Jags round out the power rankings this week after another brutal loss, this time at the hands of the Cardinals.

Speaking of quarterback sweepstakes, there are few if any teams in the NFL who need one more than Jacksonville. On a positive note, the Jags are in a perfect position to secure one when the draft comes.

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