With two weeks left in the regular season the NFL playoffs are beginning to take shape. The NFC appears to have five of six teams set, while the AFC is more up in the air. Here is how the teams break down in terms of their current status:
1. Green Bay Packers – Despite earning their first loss of the season, the Packers are still in an excellent position. With one more victory or a loss by San Francisco the Packers will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s good, because no one in their right mind wants to go to Green Bay in January.
2. New Orleans Saints – This may only be temporary, as if San Francisco beats Pittsburgh on Monday night the 49ers will move back into the two seed based on the better conference record.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Because Green Bay already beat New Orleans this year the 49ers are the only team that can still take home field advantage from the Packers. Even then, they need Green bay to lose to Chicago and Detroit, plus San Francisco must beat Pittsburgh, Seattle, and St. Louis to end the season.
4. Dallas Cowboys – They are the least stable NFC team at 8-6. They hold a one game lead over New York, but since the Giants won in Dallas they can clinch the division if they beat Dallas at New York in week 17 should both teams tie.
5. Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta is all but in the playoffs. As long as they beat New Orleans or Tampa Bay in the last two weeks they are in.
6. Detroit Lions – Like Atlanta, Detroit is all but in the playoffs. both teams have a two game lead on the remaining wild card contenders with two to play. Detroit can clinch its first playoffs berth since 1999 with a home win over San Diego or a road win at Green Bay, who could be resting starters by then.
1. New England Patriots – New England’s win over Denver on Sunday moved them into the lead in the AFC, but if Pittsburgh wins tonight at San Francisco that will go tot he Steelers based on their head-to-head win.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tonight’s game in San Francisco is huge for Pittsburgh. With a win, they take over the No. 1 seed. With a loss, they fall all the way to the No. 5 because Baltimore owns the AFC North tiebreaker.
3. Houston Texans – Houston’s unexpected loss at Carolina was very costly. They fell out of the bye picture, but they will still be in the playoffs as the AFC South Champ.
4. Denver Broncos – Their winning streak is over, but Denver is still in control in the AFC West with a one game lead over Oakland and San Diego. Finishing against Buffalo and Kansas City is a major bonus.
5. Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore is in the playoffs, but they no longer control their path to a first round bye. They need a Pittsburgh loss to get back in first place.
6. New York Jets – The Jets are familiar with this spot, having reached the AFC championship game as a wild card in each of the last two seasons. Saturday’s battle of New York with the Giants could eliminate the loser. The Jets’ better record in common games gives them the tiebreaker over Cincinnati right now.