NFL Playoff Picture Week 13: AFC, NFC Wild-Card Scenarios and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 4, 2021

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) enters the field prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Jeff Dean/Associated Press

Clarity has been hard to come by in the AFC and NFC wild-card races.

Cases could be made for 27 of the 32 NFL teams to qualify for the postseason thanks to the addition of the extra wild-card berth.

There are eight AFC teams with six or seven victories and six sides that are two games or fewer behind the Los Angeles Chargers in the No. 7 spot. There is similar congestion in the NFC standings, but the teams in that conference are closer to the .500 mark.

The 5-6 Washington Football Team occupies the No. 7 seed going into Sunday's Week 13 games. Six NFC teams have five wins, and an additional two come into Sunday with four victories.

Separation will be gained later in December, but for now the wild-card races look like messes on paper.


AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore: 8-3

2. New England: 8-4

3. Tennessee: 8-4

4. Kansas City: 7-4


Wild-Card Race

5. Cincinnati: 7-4

6. Buffalo: 7-4

7. Los Angeles Chargers: 6-5

8. Las Vegas: 6-5

9. Denver: 6-5

10. Indianapolis: 6-6

11. Pittsburgh: 5-5-1

12. Cleveland: 6-6

13. Miami: 5-7


The two Week 13 prime-time games could go a long way toward determining which sides will be competing for divisional titles or wild-card berths.

The Denver Broncos visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, while the Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots on Monday. If Kansas City and New England win, Denver and Buffalo will be stuck chasing wild-card spots from unfavorable positions.

The Cincinnati Bengals can gain a similar level of separation if they beat the Los Angeles Chargers at home Sunday afternoon. The Chargers have not won consecutive games since October and need to find more consistency to feel more comfortable about their wild-card prospects.

Los Angeles has at least two likely wins left on its schedule against the New York Giants and Houston Texans, but every other contest appears to be tough.

The Las Vegas Raiders could be the top beneficiary of the head-to-head AFC matchups. They welcome the Washington Football Team to Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. Derek Carr and Co. can control their own fate since Denver, Los Angeles, the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns are still left on their schedule. If the Raiders earn a winning record in those games, they will land in the postseason.

Indianapolis should re-enter the wild-card fray with a win over the Texans combined with some losses suffered by the teams above it. The Colts would love for the Broncos, Bills, Chargers and Raiders to all lose so it can move up from the No. 10 spot.

Frank Reich's team gets New England and Las Vegas at home and plays the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18. That is as favorable of a schedule that a team can get this time of year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins all need long winning streaks and teams above them to lose to get back into the mix for the No. 7 seed.



1. Baltimore

2. New England

3. Kansas City

4. Tennessee

5. Cincinnati

6. Indianapolis

7. Buffalo


NFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Arizona: 9-2

2. Green Bay: 9-3

3. Tampa Bay: 8-3

4. Dallas: 8-4


Wild-Card Race

5. Los Angeles Rams: 7-4

6. San Francisco: 6-5

7. Washington: 5-6

8. Minnesota: 5-6

9. Atlanta: 5-6

10. Philadelphia: 5-7

11. Carolina: 5-7

12. New Orleans: 5-7

13. New York Giants: 4-7

14. Chicago: 4-7


The Los Angeles Rams must feel the most confident of any NFC wild-card contender.

Despite their recent struggles, the Rams are a game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers and two games ahead of the rest of the pack. Sean McVay's team can wash away its troubles by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars at home Sunday.

After that, the Rams need two more wins to feel safe. They face the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in the next two weeks. The Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers round out Los Angeles' regular-season slate.

The Rams do not want their wild-card fortunes to come down to the Minnesota and San Francisco games because they are the teams directly beneath it in the standings.

San Francisco gained an edge over Minnesota in Week 12, and the 49ers would finish ahead of the Vikings if they finished with the same record due to their head-to-head tiebreaker.

The 49ers and Vikings are both expected to win Sunday against the Seahawks and Detroit Lions, respectively. If that happens, the pressure will be on the Washington Football Team to win in Las Vegas and for the Philadelphia Eagles to defeat the New York Jets.

Washington and Philadelphia play heavy divisional schedules before the regular season is out. That means San Francisco and Minnesota should become huge fans of the Dallas Cowboys, who play Washington in Weeks 14 and 16 and close the campaign against the Eagles in Week 18.

The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are both on losing runs and would drop more ground Sunday if the 49ers and Vikings win. The Panthers are on a bye, and the Saints lost Thursday to the Cowboys.

As long as the 49ers and Vikings take care of business Sunday, they should be viewed as the favorites to join the Rams as NFC wild-card teams.



1. Arizona

2. Green Bay

3. Tampa Bay 

4. Dallas

5. Los Angeles Rams

6. San Francisco

7. Minnesota