The 2013 NFL season is humming right along with just about three weeks left for the playoff picture to reveal itself completely.
The postseason has been getting much clearer over the past few weeks, but plenty of possible outcomes are still on the table.
|NFL Standings as of Week 15|
|1.||y- Denver Broncos||West||11||3||0|
|2.||New England Patriots||East||10||3||0|
|4.||z- Indianapolis Colts||South||8||5||0|
|5.||Kansas City Chiefs||West||10||3||0|
|8.||San Diego Chargers||West||7||7||0|
|9.||New York Jets||East||6||7||0|
|1.||y- Seattle Seahawks||West||11||2||0|
|2.||New Orleans Saints||South||10||3||0|
|6.||San Francisco 49ers||West||9||4||0|
|10.||Green Bay Packers||North||6||6||1|
|NFL.com: x - clinched playoff; y - clinched Wild Card; z - clinched division; * - clinched division and home-field advantage|
NFC Playoff Scenario
The most likely playoff teams to come out of the NFC are the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles from the NFC East, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints from the NFC South, the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks from the NFC West, and either the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers or Green Bay Packers from the NFC North.
The Cowboys have a slight edge in the NFC East, as their schedule is a tad easier than the Eagles'. Both teams have the same record, and these last remaining games are of crucial importance.
The Panthers and Saints are both near locks to make the playoffs this year, with New Orleans much more likely to win the NFC South and have some home-field advantage this winter. However, if the Panthers win the Week 16 matchup between these two rivals, things could get interesting at the top of the division.
Two teams will also emerge from the NFC West, with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks standing atop the division. San Francisco could still nab the divisional crown by winning out and having Seattle lose twice.
The Niners could also swoop in for an improbable top seed if they win out, while the Saints and Seahawks lose twice and the Panthers falter at least once.
Only one team is coming out of the NFC North, but three are still in the running. At 7-6, the Lions and Bears have a slight edge over the 6-6-1 Packers.
The Lions control their own destiny and just need to win out to make the playoffs, as they hold tiebreakers over Chicago. The other two will need to win out and hope that Detroit stumbles at some point over the next three weeks.
It’s an interesting time for NFC teams, even with the Wild Card spots all but decided.
Division Winners: Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions
Wild Card: San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers
AFC Playoff Scenario
A handful of teams are still in the running for the last remaining playoff spots in the AFC, but a few teams are already guaranteed to be playing at least one extra game this winter.
The Denver Broncos clinched a playoff berth before they even lost to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football.
At 11-3, they have a slight edge in the race for home-field advantage over AFC West rival Kansas City, whom Denver holds a tiebreaker over due to a sweep this year.
That loss did harm the Broncos’ shot at nabbing the top seed in the conference, however, as the New England Patriots are right on their tail. The 10-3 Pats could gain ground with a win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 15 and have a tiebreaker advantage on Denver due to a straight-up overtime victory.
New England will also secure the AFC East with a single win. It is a near certainty that the Pats will lock it up sooner than later, as it would take three straight losses to close the year and Miami winning out for any sort of surprise result in the division.
The Indianapolis Colts are the AFC South winners this year, but their recent struggles will likely see them get no better than the No. 4 seed. The Cincinnati Bengals are destined for the No. 3 seed, but they could pull off a surprise streak to surge up to the No. 2 if the Pats or Broncos falter.
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t out of the AFC North picture yet, but they would need to beat Cincy and win out while hoping the Bengals also lose another game before the end of the 2013 season.
Baltimore will have a lot of competition for the final Wild Card spot, assuming Kansas City takes the No. 5 seed. The Chargers kept their dreams alive with a win over the Broncos, while the Dolphins are right in the thick of things as well.
Whichever of these teams is able to finish the year with a winning streak will likely advance.
Division Winners: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts
Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens