With just four weeks left in the 2013 NFL regular season, only three teams have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason. The AFC's Houston Texans (2-10), the sole leader for the worst record in the NFL, are still alive in the AFC.
That's just the kind of wild season it has been and it foretells of the craziness to come.
After their 34-7 trouncing of the New Orleans Saints (9-3), the Seattle Seahawks (11-1) are in firm control of the NFC's race for the top seed.
With a two-game lead in the conference and a victory this season over the two teams with the NFC's second-best records, the rest of the conference better start looking for more effective earplugs than the ones sported by Drew Brees on Monday night.
As we turn the page on Week 12, have a look at the playoff picture, and then I'll try to add a little insight into some of the races more hotly contested than the first seed in the NFC.
|AFC Playoff Picture|
|NFC Playoff Picture|
|x denotes clinched postseason berth|
The Saints and Carolina Panthers have yet to play this season. The two will play this week in New Orleans and then the Panthers will host the Saints in Week 16. As things stand now, the Saints have the tiebreak by virtue of having a better record against common opponents.
There's no reason to get worked up about the tiebreakers yet. These two teams have the opportunity to let this race sort itself out on the field.
Thanks to a 17-3 win in Week 7, the Dallas Cowboys hold the edge over the Philadelphia Eagles for the top spot in the NFC East. That game was in Philadelphia.
If the Eagles have any shot of winning a head-to-head tiebreak with the Cowboys, they will have to win in Week 17 when the two meet in Dallas.
NFC Wild Card
The team that does not win the South, Panthers or Saints, is in a great position to make the postseason. At 9-3, both teams have a two-game cushion in the race for the wild card. Both have also beaten the 49ers—the team in line to grab the second wild-card berth.
The Eagles or Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals lurk at 7-5.
When it comes to the final NFC wild-cot spot, the key stat to look for, in terms of potential tiebreakers, is conference record. Both the Eagles and Cowboys are 6-2 in conference play. The Seahawks and Saints are the only other NFC teams with two conference losses or less.
There really is only one hotly contested playoff position in the AFC.
The races for the division crowns in this conference are a real dud this year. The West is the only division with a game or less separating the top teams, but with the Denver Broncos having already swept the season series with the Kansas City Chiefs, their lead is essentially two games.
Still, that is more compelling than the race for the top wild-card seed. The Chiefs will likely clinch a playoff berth this week.
Of course, there is one playoff position that is up for grabs.
AFC Wild Card
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Miami Dolphins in Miami in Week 5. This gives them a permanent hold in a head-to-head tiebreak over Miami.
Miami doesn't need to get to worked up about that, however. With four teams just a game back and the entire conference still in the playoff hunt, there is a good chance that we will have to go to a tiebreak for the final playoff position that involves more than two teams.
Conference record will be key in that event.
In that regard, the Dolphins have a slight edge over the Ravens—Miami is 5-3 and Baltimore is 6-4. There isn't another team in the AFC with six or fewer wins that has a conference record above .500.
Regular seasons are at their best when there are multiple postseason races being hotly contested in the final weeks. With the jumbled mess of this season, we are ready for an exciting and hectic end.
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