With the New England Patriots entering their bye week, now seems like a good time to take an early look at NFL playoff races.
Here’s what the postseason would look like if the season ended today:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1; AFC West leader)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1; AFC North leader)
3. New England Patriots (7-3; AFC East leader)
4. Houston Texans (6-3; AFC South leader)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-2; first wild card)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4; second wild card)
In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (5-4), Miami Dolphins (5-5), Baltimore Ravens (4-5), Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Long shots: Cleveland Browns (3-6-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6), Denver Broncos (3-6), Buffalo Bills (3-7), New York Jets (3-7), Oakland Raiders (1-8)
1. Los Angeles Rams (9-1; NFC West leader)
2. New Orleans Saints (8-1; NFC South leader)
3. Chicago Bears (6-3; NFC North leader)
4. Washington Redskins (6-3; NFC East leader)
5. Carolina Panthers (6-3; first wild card)
6. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1; second wild card)
In the hunt: Green Bay Packers (4-4-1), Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Seattle Seahawks (4-5), Dallas Cowboys (4-5), Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
Long shots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6), Detroit Lions (3-6), Arizona Cardinals (2-7), New York Giants (2-7), San Francisco 49ers (2-8)
— The Patriots haven’t played on wild-card weekend since 2009, but that’s where they’re currently slotted following Sunday’s 34-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs and Steelers own the top two seeds in the AFC entering Week 11 and would earn first-round byes if the current standings hold.
Here’s New England’s remaining schedule: at the Jets, vs. Minnesota, at Miami, at Pittsburgh, vs. Buffalo and vs. the Jets. That Steelers matchup could wind up determining which team receives a free pass to the divisional round.
— Don’t sleep on the Chargers. They’ve won six in a row, and their only losses have been to the Chiefs and Rams.
— The Bengals’ hold on a playoff spot is tenuous. After starting 4-1, they’ve dropped three of their last four, including a 51-14 shellacking at home against the Saints on Sunday that prompted Marvis Lewis to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
— The Titans and Colts both look like teams on the rise. They’ll square off this Sunday in Indy.
— The Bears, who haven’t won the NFC North since 2010, will face the Packers once and the Vikings twice over the final seven weeks of the season. Ditto for the Redskins, who have one game remaining against the Cowboys and two against the Eagles.
— Game of the Year alert: Chiefs vs. Rams, Monday night, Mexico City.