NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots, Steelers On Collision Course For AFC’s Top Spot

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Happy Thanksgiving, football fans.

With Week 12 of the NFL season kicking off Thursday, now seems like a good time to check in on the playoff races, which remain wide open in both conferences.

Here’s what the postseason field would look like if the season ended today:

AFC
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2; AFC North leader)
2. New England Patriots (8-2; AFC East leader)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3; AFC South leader)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4; AFC West leader)
5. Tennessee Titans (6-4; first wild card)
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-5; second wild card)

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (5-5), Miami Dolphins (4-6), New York Jets (4-6), Cincinnati Bengals (4-6), Houston Texans (4-6), Los Angeles Chargers (4-6), Oakland Raiders (4-6)
Long shots: Indianapolis Colts (3-7), Denver Broncos (3-7), Cleveland Browns (0-10)

NFC
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1; NFC East leader)
2. Minnesota Vikings (8-2; NFC North leader)
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2; NFC South leader)
4. Los Angeles Rams (7-3; NFC West leader)
5. Carolina Panthers (7-3; first wild card)
6. Atlanta Falcons (6-4; second wild card)

In the hunt: Detroit Lions (6-4), Seattle Seahawks (6-4), Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Long shots: Washington Redskins (4-6), Arizona Cardinals (4-6), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6), Chicago Bears (3-7), New York Giants (2-8), San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

Some observations:

— Shockingly, all 32 teams still are mathematically alive 11 weeks into the season. Yes, even the Browns.

— Several teams are on pace to end long playoff droughts this season. The Rams haven’t reached the postseason since 2004. The Jaguars haven’t since 2007. The Titans haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t advanced past the first round since 2003. Even the Eagles and Saints haven’t qualified since 2013, and they’re arguably two of the best teams in the NFC.

— Home-field advantage in the AFC could be decided when the Patriots visit Heinz Field in Week 15. Every other team New England and Pittsburgh play over the final six weeks currently sits at or below .500. The Patriots beat the Steelers twice last season, including once in the AFC Championship Game.

— The rest of the AFC East is right on the cusp of a wild-card spot, but that division has been a total dumpster fire of late (outside of the Patriots, of course). The Jets have lost four of five, the Dolphins are losers of three in a row, and the Bills have dropped three straight by an astounding 135 points during that span.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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