NFL Playoff Picture: Ravens slide into wild card position, Steelers sit atop AFC
Also, we can say goodbye to a trio of teams in the Browns, 49ers and Giants
Sunday afternoon brought some clarity to the NFC playoff picture, with both the Panthers and Falcons winning and putting themselves in an excellent position to try and lock up the NFC wild cards and/or compete with the Saints for the division title.
But because they stepped up their game, it pushed a pair of teams far enough back that the playoffs are no longer attainable. Specifically, the Giants and 49ers, both of whom were bounced from the playoffs during the early portion of the games on Sunday.
The Giants were beat down by the Redskins on Thanksgiving and were effectively done, but they are mathematically eliminated now. The 49ers have one win -- over the Giants no less! -- and were not going to make the postseason anyway. Now, they definitely will not.
And the other team eliminated, well, you can probably guess if I told you it's an AFC team. Or maybe you would have already assumed that the Browns were mathematically eliminated before this week. Not true. They before this week. Now they are done.
It's fascinating to think about these three teams and the long haul. The 49ers are firmly locked in with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan as GM and head coach. They have Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback (can we, uh, see what he looks like, Kyle?). There is some hope with that franchise.
The Browns have ... um, a lot of a draft picks! They have talent on defense, too. But they need to solve that pesky quarterback problem. That's first up for this offseason, although it's possible that Jimmy Haslam gets sick of Hue Jackson or gets sick of Sashi Brown and decides to blow things up again this offseason. Anything is on the table.
The Giants should look carefully at the Browns and realize just how dangerous things can get if they don't tread carefully. It feels likely New York will get rid of Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese this offseason, but there's still a lot to be decided. Eli Manning's future is up in the air, too; the Giants have any number of different paths open to them moving forward.
Here's how the rest of the NFL playoff picture looks, as well as a snapshot of some games that could impact what it looks like after Week 12 and beyond.
AFC: Who's in
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
The Steelers don't always make it easy, but they managed to beat the Packers at home Sunday night and stay in a dogfight with the Patriots for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Their head-to-head matchup will probably determine who plays host to the AFC Championship Game.
2. New England Patriots (9-2)
The Patriots destroyed the Dolphins on Sunday and even managed to cover a massive 16.5-point spread. They are tracking for a bye.
3. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
There is no real reason why the Titans should have won or covered against the Colts. And they're not even the worst playoff team in the field. Pretty incredible that Tennessee is now the division leader after Jacksonville lost.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
The Chiefs are kind of collapsing and losing control over a division that was completely locked up five games into the season. They have only a one-game lead somehow.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
The Jaguars showed exactly why we can't trust them Sunday, losing to Arizona thanks to a back-breaking interception from Blake Bortles with little time on the clock and overtime on the way. They lost the Blaine Gabbert Revenge Game. What a world.
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
The Ravens beat the Texans at home Monday night and leapfrogged the Bills with a tiebreaker to remain firmly in the playoff race.
AFC: Who's out
7. Buffalo Bills (6-5): Tyrod Taylor returned to the starting lineup for the Bills and helped Buffalo upend the Chiefs in Kansas City. Buffalo is a playoff contender with Tyrod under center. With Nathan Peterman? Not so much.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6): An easy victory against the Browns has the Bengals positioned to make a playoff run despite not ever really looking like a great football team. Joe Mixon finally had that breakout game!
11. New York Jets (4-7): The Jets played pretty hard against Carolina but ultimately made too many mistakes and ended up losing.
12. Miami Dolphins (4-7): They got destroyed by the Patriots in Foxborough and couldn't even manage to cover the 16½-point spread.
13. Houston Texans (4-7): The Texans tried to hang tough with Baltimore but ultimately came up short and probably saw their longshot playoff hopes evaporate.
14. Indianapolis Colts (3-8): No one gags away a second-half lead quite like the Indianapolis Colts.
15. Denver Broncos (3-8): Paxton Lynch did not look very good and the Broncos continued to sink deeper.
AFC: Who's eliminated
16. Cleveland Browns (0-11): The Browns haven't won on a Sunday since December 2015.
NFC: Who's in
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)
The Eagles cruised to an easy victory against the Bears on Sunday. It was never remotely close.
2. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
Just another dominating win for a Minnesota team that we're sleeping on because Case Keenum is at quarterback. Maybe it's time to start buying into Keenum.
3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)
The Saints' defense might have gotten a little exposed, thanks to injury, in their loss to the Rams in Los Angeles. L.A.'s defense, however, looks legitimate, and the Rams now have the opportunity to make a push for a first-round bye.
4. New Orleans Saints (8-3)
With losses to the Rams and Vikings, the Saints might have a tough time landing a bye, but they still hold the division lead even after dropping the game to Los Angeles.
5. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
It wasn't pretty, and Greg Olsen suffered another foot injury, but Carolina got out of New York with a win over the Jets. Wins are wins when you're playing catch up in the NFC South.
6. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
Atlanta took care of business against the Buccaneers, but they definitely let Tampa hang around longer than they should have.
NFC: Who's out
7. Seattle Seahawks (7-4): Seattle easily handled San Francisco and kept its playoff hopes alive. They have a tough road coming, however.
8. Detroit Lions (6-5): Devastating home loss for Detroit to the Vikings, because the Lions fell down one spot in the NFC race and now find themselves needing help to climb back into both the division and NFC wild-card races.
9. Green Bay Packers (5-6): Green Bay played much better on Sunday night but they really needed to steal that game in order to stay afloat and hope Aaron Rodgers can come back.
10. Dallas Cowboys (5-6): The Cowboys were once again dismantled in the second half of a game, getting blown out by the Chargers on national television. Jerry Jones is likely stewing and the Cowboys' playoff hopes are in serious trouble.
11. Washington Redskins (5-6): The Redskins snuck out a 10-point victory against the Giants on Thanksgiving night despite a litany of injuries.
12. Arizona Cardinals (4-6): It sounds like Carson Palmer and David Johnson won't come back this season, but in good news, the Cardinals managed a big win against a potential playoff team with Blaine Gabbert under center on Sunday.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7): Never really a threat in Atlanta, the Buccaneers are fairly irrelevant at this point.
14. Chicago Bears (3-8): This is a bad football team and it got manhandled by the Eagles on Sunday early.
NFC: Who's eliminated
16. San Francisco 49ers (1-9): The 49ers didn't even have to play before they got eliminated.
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