Patriots

Patriots

There was plenty of movement in the NFL playoff races in Week 12, setting up what should be a fantastic final stretch of the regular season.

If you're confused by the seeding and/or tiebreakers, don't worry. We've got you covered.

Let's take a look at the updated playoff picture in both conferences, beginning with the AFC.

AFC

1. New England Patriots, 10-1, AFC East leader: Bye week
The Patriots maintained their hold on the No. 1 seed with a 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. They entered the weekend with a 1-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens.

New England is now more than halfway through the toughest five-game stretch of its schedule, and the defending champs are 2-1 so far. The Patriots still have two difficult matchups remaining versus the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs over the next two weeks before ending the regular season with three very winnable games.

2. Baltimore Ravens, 9-2, AFC North leader: Bye week
The Ravens continued to roll on Monday night, taking down the Rams with ease, 45-6. The real test comes in Week 13 at home against the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers. Remember, Baltimore just needs to tie the Patriots to earn the top seed in the AFC because it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England.

3. Houston Texans (7-4, AFC South leader) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, second wild card)
The Texans and Chiefs both are 7-4, but Houston owns the No. 3 seed because it beat Kansas City earlier this season to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker. Houston beat the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night to retake the AFC South lead, but a Week 13 home game against the Patriots will be the Texans' toughest test of the season so far. New England has won nine of its last 10 games against Houston.

 

The Steelers, who beat the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, have won five of their last six games. They own the No. 6 seed because of two tiebreakers: a better conference win percentage than the Oakland Raiders and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts. Pittsburgh has three tough games remaining: Week 13 versus the Browns, Week 15 versus the Buffalo Bills and Week 17 at the Ravens.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, AFC West leader) vs 5. Buffalo Bills (8-3, first wild card)
The Chiefs have lost four of their last seven games, and they're in legitimate danger of not even making the playoffs. The next two games after their Week 12 bye are critical, beginning with a matchup at home versus the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. A win over the Raiders would give the Chiefs a two-game lead in the division and clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker with a season sweep of Oakland.

The Bills have taken advantage of a soft schedule to set themselves up nicely for a playoff berth. Buffalo's path is about to get a lot tougher, though, starting Sunday with a road game against the Dallas Cowboys. The following three games for the Bills are home to the Baltimore Ravens, at the Steelers and at the Patriots.

In the Hunt
7. Oakland Raiders, 6-5
8. Indianapolis Colts, 6-5
9. Tennessee Titans, 6-5
10. Cleveland Browns, 5-6

NFC

1. San Francisco 49ers, 10-1, NFC West leader: Bye week
The 49ers sent a statement to the rest of the league with a convincing 37-8 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. San Francisco's remaining schedule is brutal, though, with games at the Ravens, at the New Orleans Saints, home to the Atlanta Falcons, home to the Rams and at the Seattle Seahawks. A Week 17 showdown in Seattle could decide the NFC West after the Seahawks beat the 49ers in Week 10.

2. New Orleans Saints, 9-2, NFC South leader: Bye week
The Saints almost blew Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers but held on for a win that, combined with the Packers' loss to the 49ers, moves New Orleans up into the No. 2 seed. The Saints are in a good spot, and their only difficult game left is a Week 14 home matchup versus the 49ers.

3. Green Bay Packers (8-3, AFC North leader) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3, second wild card)
You rarely see an 8-3 team in the second wild card spot, but that's where the Vikings sit given the top-heavy nature of the NFC so far. The Vikings would be the road team in this hypothetical playoff matchup because the Packers beat them in Week 2 to gain the head-to-head tiebreaker. These teams will meet again in Week 16 at Minnesota.

 

The Packers have a soft remaining schedule with games against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Vikings and Detroit Lions. Those teams have a combined record of 20-34-1. The Vikings' schedule is a little more difficult, and it includes a pivotal Week 13 game at the Seahawks.

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-5, NFC East leader) vs. 5. Seattle Seahawks (9-2, first wild card)
The Seahawks would be road betting favorites if this matchup was part of Wild Card Weekend. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the leading candidate for league MVP, and he's the main reason why Seattle already is 6-0 on the road. The Seahawks control their own destiny in the NFC West title race, but they don't have an easy schedule to finish the regular season. Seattle still plays home to the Vikings, at the Rams and home to the 49ers in three of their last five games.

The Cowboys still lead the NFC East by one game over the Philadelphia Eagles despite Sunday's loss to the Patriots. A Week 16 showdown versus the Eagles could decide the division, especially if the Cowboys win because they currently lead the season series 1-0. Dallas' only path to the playoffs likely is through winning the division, and the Cowboys finish the regular season with three home games over the last five weeks.

In the Hunt
7. Los Angeles Rams, 6-4
8. Chicago Bears, 5-6
9. Philadelphia Eagles, 5-6
10. Carolina Panthers, 5-6

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