NFL playoff picture after Week 14: Chiefs, Colts rise as both conferences remain open

Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 14’s Sunday afternoon games complete:


1. New England Patriots (9-4), AFC East leaders: They weren’t in danger of losing home-field advantage during their off week. Now rested up for the stretch run, they next hit the road for a game in Indianapolis against another surging squad. Remaining schedule: at Colts, vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

2. Tennessee Titans (9-4), AFC South leaders: They’re very quietly chugging along, effectively owning a 2½-game lead in the division courtesy of their season sweep of the Colts, amid an NFL Network report that injured RB Derrick Henry is poised to return for postseason – if not sooner. Remaining schedule: at Steelers, vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Texans

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) celebrates after scoring on a touchdown run as teammate Joe Thuney (62) watches during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4), AFC West leaders: Winners of six in a row, it seems almost all of their early season questions are behind them … and the No. 1 seed could very well be in their future. Remaining schedule: at Chargers, vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

4. Baltimore Ravens (8-5), AFC North leaders: Just two weeks ago, they were the conference’s No. 1 seed. Who knows where they’ll be two weeks from now, especially if QB Lamar Jackson (ankle) has to miss time as the Ravens enter a brutal finishing stretch. Remaining schedule: vs. Packers, at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5), wild card No. 1: QB Justin Herbert continues to play like a potential MVP, and the Bolts gained a bit of breathing room on the other potential wild-card entries Sunday. Big game Thursday night, LA getting a chance to sweep Kansas City and assume first place in the AFC West. Remaining schedule: vs. Chiefs, at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

6. Indianapolis Colts (7-6), wild card No. 2: Pretty good bye week when you jump into projected playoff field without lifting a finger. They’re as hot as just about anybody after winning six of eight, and a 6-3 record in conference games serves them well in tiebreaker department. That will be put to the test with New England headed to town. Remaining schedule: vs. Patriots, at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

7. Buffalo Bills (7-6), wild card No. 3: Their clinging to the final playoff berth despite losing three of four. But if they win out – a reasonable possibility given their schedule –retaining the AFC East crown is still in play. Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers, at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets

8. Cleveland Browns (7-6), out of playoff field: Huge win over Baltimore on Sunday, but 4-5 record in conference play – currently the decisive tiebreaker – is hurting them. Remaining schedule: vs. Raiders, at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6), out of playoff field: Had they beaten the 49ers in overtime Sunday, the Bengals would’ve resided atop AFC North. Instead, Cincy finds itself on outside looking in. Now they must get right at Denver’s altitude. Remaining schedule: at Broncos, vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns

10. Denver Broncos (7-6), out of playoff field: They’ve won four of six, run the ball very effectively and play solid defense. Not the kind of team anyone wants to see in mid-January. Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1), out of playoff field: Thursday’s loss at Minnesota dropped them from eighth place. Now they’re set to face three first-place teams over the next four weeks. Remaining schedule: vs. Titans, at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

12. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7), out of playoff field: They’ve lost five of six – three of those defeats by at least 19 points – and are watching more teams climb over them. Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

13. Miami Dolphins (6-7), out of playoff field: They’ll return to action in Week 15 just a game out of the final playoff spot. Remaining schedule: vs. Jets, at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots


1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2), NFC West leaders: Beat the Rams on Monday, and Cards’ league-best record will officially convey a playoff spotRemaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Lions, vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3), NFC South leaders: They escaped Buffalo’s second-half charge Sunday and moved up to the second seed … but will give it back – due to their conference record (6-3) – if Green Bay beats Chicago. Remaining schedule: vs. Saints, at Panthers, at Jets, vs. Panthers

3. Green Bay Packers (9-3), NFC North leaders: They can’t wrap up a postseason berth this week but defeating the Bears will keep them in play for home field. Remaining schedule: vs. Bears, at Ravens, vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

4. Dallas Cowboys (9-4), NFC East leaders: Three-game division lead with four weeks to go. The Cowboys also get one more crack at all of their NFC East rivals after sweeping to a 3-0 record against them so far. Remaining schedule: at Giants, vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles

5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4), wild card No. 1: Big chance to apply pressure on Arizona for the divisional crown while also giving them more cushion in wild-card chase. Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

6. San Francisco 49ers (7-6), wild card No. 2: Massive win at overtime in Cincinnati greatly increased their chances of being the third NFC West team invited to the party – and only one game left in their divisional gauntlet. Remaining schedule: vs. Falcons, at Titans, vs. Texans, at Rams

7. Washington Football Team (6-7), wild card No. 3: The good news? Despite losing their four-game winning streak, they remain in the projected playoff field. The bad news? Four other teams share the WFT’s 6-7 record, so the margin for error is officially zero at this point. Washington’s 5-3 conference record currently distinguishes it from the pursuing pack. Remaining schedule: at Eagles, at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7), out of playoff field: They persevered to beat Steelers on Thursday night … and would currently be conference’s seventh seed if not for Week 13 loss at previously winless Detroit. But hope is alive. Remaining schedule: at Bears, vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), out of playoff field: QB Jalen Hurts is set to return for four-game sprint against NFC East competition. Three more wins should get Philly, which is behind Vikes due to record in common games, into the field. Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

10. Atlanta Falcons (6-7), out of playoff field: They’ve been outscored by 108 points this season. But they’ve largely beaten the teams they’re supposed to, including wins over the division rival Saints and Carolina Panthers, hence Atlanta’s continued playoff viability. Remaining schedule: at 49ers, vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints

11. New Orleans Saints (6-7), out of playoff field: The perfect remedy to end a five-game losing streak? The New York Jets. The Saints may technically be looking up at a lot of teams, but all that’s currently keeping of the final wild-card spot is the tiebreaker formula. Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.


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