Week 13 now here, and the NFL regular season is nearing its conclusion. With just five weeks left, there's little room for error going forward for playoff contenders looking to make it to the NFL's second season.
Amazingly, every division is not only still up for grabs, but only one team has more than a 2-game lead for first place in their division. That's the New England Patriots, who demolished the Detroit Lions last week to improve to 9-2. The second-place Miami Dolphins lost at Denver to fall to 6-5 and effectively out of the race for the AFC East.
However, every other division features at most a 2-game difference between the first and second-place teams. In fact, five division feature a 1-game or less difference between first and second place. Here is a look at all of the divisions and their playoff outlook.
The Indianapolis Colts are once again the class of the division after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars to improve to 7-4. That, combined with a Texans loss to the Bengals, left the Colts with a two-game lead in the division. The Texans fell to 5-6 and now appear long shots for the postseason. The Titans and Jaguars are out of the playoff picture and fighting for the top draft pick.
The Bengals maintained their slim lead in the AFC North with a win over Houston to improve to 7-3-1, just ahead of the 7-4 Browns and 7-4 Ravens while the 7-4 Pittsburgh Steelers were on their bye.The race for this division likely comes down to the final week.
The Denver Broncos had to rally at home to beat the Miami Dolphins, 39-36. They improved to 8-3 and maintain a slim lead over the 7-4 San Diego Chargers, who hung at home to beat the St. Louis Rams, and the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who lost at Oakland. The Chiefs can catch the Broncos when the two teams play at Kansas City in Week 13. The chargers also get a shot vs. the Broncos at home to take hold of the AFC West.
The Patriots inched one step closer to another AFC East crown after their 34-9 demolition of the Lions and improved their record to 9-2. The Dolphins lost at Denver to fall to 6-5 but are still tied for one of the two wild card spots. The 6-5 Buffalo Bills trounced the New York Jets Monday in a do-or-die game for their playoff hopes. They now face the 7-4 Browns in a critical game for both teams.
The Dallas Cowboys rallied to beat the New York Giants and remain tied at 8-3 atop the NFC East. The Cowboys and Eagles face off on Thanksgiving for first place in the NFC East. This division could also come down to the final week, which is bad news for Dallas, given how many times they've been eliminated from the playoffs in the final week of the regular season.
This is a division that has generally been dominated by the Packers, but that's not the case this year. Green Bay is still on top after they beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 8-3 and the Lions lost to New England to fall to 7-4. This will be a tight race going forward. The 5-6 Bears are still hanging on by a thread, but hey'll have to beat the Lions on Thanksgiving day to keep heir playoff hopes alive.
The Arizona Cardinals are still in first at 9-2, but their lead in the division was cut by a game with their loss to Seattle. The Seahawks improved to 7-4 with the win and were joined in a tie for second by the 49ers, who rallied late to get past Washington. The teams still have several division games to go, making the NFC West very much up for grabs.
The 4-7 New Orleans Saints lost the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football, but is still tied for first place the division after the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Cleveland Browns to fall to 4-7 as well. The 3-7-1 Carolina Panthers are still alive in this race. The 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are technically as well, though they're 0-4 in the division.