NFL Playoff Picture: Reeling Cowboys, Chiefs Fall Out Of Current Field

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One week can make a world of difference in the NFL.

If Week 13 was any indication, we’re in for a thrilling stretch run, as the playoff picture is far from set with four weeks to play in the regular season. We saw how fragile a playoff spot can be. Teams that were in the field last week — the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, for example — suddenly find themselves on the outside looking in.

Meanwhile, things are far from set atop both conferences. Week 13’s must-see matchup between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers might end up being a turning point when it comes to home-field advantage. Should the Patriots falter at least once down the stretch and the Denver Broncos win out, Peyton Manning’s club will regain the No. 1 spot in the AFC.

In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals — Week 13 losers to the Atlanta Falcons — are in danger of not only losing the top spot to Green Bay but now must fight to hold their NFC West lead. They still have to play the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16, albeit at home.

Here’s what the playoff picture would look like if the postseason started today.

AFC

First-round byes
1. New England Patriots (9-3)
2. Denver Broncos (9-3)

Wild-card round matchups (Jan. 3-4)
No. 6 Miami Dolphins (7-5) at No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1)
No. 5 San Diego Chargers (8-4) at No. 4 Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

Notes: The Dolphins looked poised to suffer a potentially season-crushing loss Monday night to the New York Jets, but Miami bounced back to win and enter the playoff picture. The Buffalo Bills have to feel a lot better this week after moving to 7-5 with a win over another playoff contender in the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

NFC

First-round byes
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)

Wild-card round matchups (Jan. 3-4)
No. 6 Detroit Lions (8-4) at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles (9-3)
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (8-3) at No. 4 Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

Notes: The Lions are back in the mix, thanks in large part to the continued implosion of the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys’ slide continues, likely to no one’s surprise, given the fact that they’re the Cowboys. Dallas beat Seattle earlier this season but is out at the moment because three potential wild-card teams are tied at 8-4. Given the NFL’s tiebreaker scenarios, the Cowboys would be the odd men out.

Playoff scenarios via NFL.com

Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

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