NFL Playoff Picture Week 13: Latest AFC, NFC Standings and Bracket Scenarios

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 2, 2021

NFL Playoff Picture Week 13: Latest AFC, NFC Standings and Bracket Scenarios

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots opened the 2021 season by losing four of their first six games. So who could have predicted that they would be the No. 2 team in the AFC by the end of Week 12?

    No team in the NFL has been as hot as the Pats, who have reeled off six consecutive wins to ascend to the top of the AFC East standings. They are only a half-game back of the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they will have a chance to solidify their spot atop the division standings in Week 13, when they are set to go on the road for a Monday night matchup against the second-place Buffalo Bills.

    It's been an impressive turnaround for New England, which missed the playoffs in 2020, the first season of the post-Tom Brady era. The Patriots are relying on a dominant defense and a solid offense, led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones, in their effort to return to the postseason.

    Through 12 weeks of the 2021 NFL season, here's a look at the standings and playoff picture for both the AFC and NFC.

Current NFL Standings

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    AFC East

    New England Patriots (8-4)

    Buffalo Bills (7-4)

    Miami Dolphins (5-7)

    New York Jets (3-8)


    AFC North

    Baltimore Ravens (8-3)

    Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

    Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)

    Cleveland Browns (6-6)


    AFC South

    Tennessee Titans (8-4)

    Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

    Houston Texans (2-9)

    Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)


    AFC West

    Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

    Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

    Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

    Denver Broncos (6-5)


    NFC East

    Dallas Cowboys (7-4)

    Washington Football Team (5-6)

    Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

    New York Giants (4-7)


    NFC North

    Green Bay Packers (9-3)

    Minnesota Vikings (5-6)

    Chicago Bears (4-7)

    Detroit Lions (0-10-1)


    NFC South

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)

    Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

    New Orleans Saints (5-6)

    Carolina Panthers (5-7)


    NFC West

    Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

    Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

    San Francisco 49ers (6-5)

    Seattle Seahawks (3-8)

AFC Playoff Picture

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Baltimore Ravens (8-3)

    No. 2 New England Patriots (8-4) vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

    No. 3 Tennessee Titans (8-4) vs. No. 6 Buffalo Bills (7-4)

    No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) vs. No. 5 Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

    The Ravens have played one less game than both the Patriots and Tennessee Titans, so they control their own destiny in the battle for the No. 1 seed. However, if Baltimore is going to remain in the top spot, it will need to play better than it has in recent weeks.

    On Sunday, Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions, yet the Ravens still pulled out a 16-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The No. 1 seed is no gimme, however. They have got a challenging schedule down the stretch, with four games against AFC North rivals and matchups against the Packers and Los Angeles Rams, two of the top teams in the NFC.

    While the Patriots have been surging, the Titans have been trending in the opposite direction. Tennessee got off to an 8-2 start, but it has since lost back-to-back games to the Houston Texans and New England. It hasn't helped that the Titans offense is missing star running back Derrick Henry and top two wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.

    The Kansas City Chiefs are in first place in the AFC West, but all four teams in that division remain in the mix. The Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are all 6-5 and could make a strong push for the postseason.

    The Chargers would be the No. 7 seed, but the Raiders and Broncos have the same record, while the Indianapolis Colts and Browns are only a half-game back at 6-6.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) also aren't far behind, but they haven't won a game since Week 9. After tying the winless Lions in Week 10, they have dropped back-to-back games to the Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals. Pittsburgh will not be in the mix for much longer if it can't get on track soon.

NFC Playoff Picture

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

    No. 2 Green Bay Packers (9-3) vs. No. 7 Washington Football Team (5-6)

    No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) vs. No. 6 San Francisco 49ers (6-5)

    No. 4 Dallas Cowboys (7-4) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

    Even though the Arizona Cardinals have been missing some key players, including quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, they have managed to keep having success. Arizona has won two of its past three games, all of which Colt McCoy started at quarterback.

    Because the Cardinals have a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers and have played one less game, they control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. And four of their remaining six games are against teams that are .500 or worse.

    The Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have comfortable leads in their respective divisions, and it would be surprising to see either suffer a late-season collapse. There's a good chance they will be hosting games in the Wild Card Round unless one of them takes away the top seed from the Cardinals.

    Early in the season, it seemed the Dallas Cowboys were running away with the NFC East title, but they have lost two straight games (and three of four), and Washington has won three straight to narrow the gap.

    As for the wild-card berths, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are both in position to make the playoffs, which would give the NFC West three postseason teams. These teams will have to play each other a good bit down the stretch, though, so that could affect the playoff picture.

    Washington is one of four 5-6 teams in the NFC, along with the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers are both a half-game back at 5-7, while the New York Giants and Chicago Bears are each 4-7 and only one game back. The battle for the No. 7 seed in the NFC is fixing to be exciting over the remaining six weeks of the regular season.