We're back for an afternoon of football, and we've already got a little more clarity in the 2013 NFL playoff picture. Normally we just break down the NFC playoff picture, but as we head into the afternoon games, I figured I'd update you on the entire NFL playoff picture.
The playoff picture cleared up more in the AFC. The Cincinnati Bengals clinched a playoff spot thanks to their dominant win over the Minnesota Vikings, and the Miami Dolphins ugly loss to the Buffalo Bills. They can clinch the AFC North if the Ravens lose to the Patriots this afternoon.
The New England clinched the AFC East thanks to that Dolphins loss. The Patriots were unable to clinch a first round bye because the Bengals and Colts both won. The Bengals have the head-to-head edge over the Patriots, and the Colts can still surpass them in conference record. Meanwhile, the Dolphins can be eliminated if the Ravens beat the Patriots.
The Denver Broncos clinched the NFC West and a first round bye thanks to their win and the Chiefs loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos can clinch home field through the AFC bracket if the Patriots lose to the Ravens. As it currently stands, the Chiefs would actually head to Indianapolis for a wild card game. That's just a little bit more interesting after today's game.
Here is how the AFC playoff picture looks heading into the afternoon:
1. Denver Broncos (12-3)
2. New England Patriots (10-4)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)
4. Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
In the hunt:
7. Miami Dolphins (8-7)
8. San Diego Chargers (7-7)
Over in the NFC, we don't have much clarity, but the questions are focusing in just a little bit. The big game was Saints vs. Panthers. The Saints looked ready to pull out a huge road win, but the Panthers rolled down the field and Cam Newton made a couple huge passes for the win. The Panthers clinch a playoff berth, and are in position to claim the division and a first round bye next week.
The Dallas Cowboys won a wild one in Washington, as Tony Romo threw a game-winning touchdown with 1:08 left in the game. The Cowboys were trailing 23-17 and facing 4th and goal on their 12. He scrambled around and eventually found DeMarco Murray for the touchdown. The win is huge because the Cowboys now have a chance to win the NFC East next week when they host the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here is the playoff picture heading into the afternoon.
In the hunt:
7. Arizona Cardinals (9-5)
8. Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
9. Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)
10. Detroit Lions (7-7)
The afternoon brings up us some big games, with sizable playoff implications. The Seattle Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals, which has direct bearing on the 49ers. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, the 49ers clinch a playoff spot. If the Cardinals somehow shocked the Seahawks at Century Link Field, the 49ers do not clinch a playoff spot, but would be in position to move to within a game of Seattle.
The other big game on the afternoon schedule is Patriots vs. Ravens. The Patriots still have a shot at home field throughout the playoffs next week if they can win this week. The Ravens can actually clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss by the Chargers (following Dolphins loss earlier today). The Ravens are coming off a wild finish in their win over the Detroit Lions. We'll see if they can build on it.
We'll be back with a Sunday Night Football thread later this afternoon.