NFL Playoff Picture Week 13: AFC and NFC playoff race after Thanksgiving

The Buccaneers meet the Colts, and the Browns and Ravens face off in NFL prime time as the AFC and NFC playoff pictures come into focus.

Narratives, and the playoff picture, can change fast in the National Football League. For months, the NFC was the far superior conference, with four or five teams viewed as being better than anyone the AFC had to offer, except for maybe the Tennessee Titans when Derrick Henry is healthy. However, the Rams and Cowboys are now in mini-slumps, and the Patriots have now cracked the top three in DVOA behind only Tampa Bay and Arizona. Week 12 in the NFL will provide an even clearer picture of who’s for real in the AFC and NFC playoff race.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 13

A fifth of the week’s games were already in the books before sunrise Sunday, with three games on Thanksgiving. Titans-Patriots, Buccaneers-Colts, and Steelers-Bengals were the week’s most impactful 1 PM games.

The late window includes Chargers-Broncos, Rams-Packers, and Vikings-49ers — the Browns and Ravens finish out the day in prime time.

Current AFC Playoff Picture

1. Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
2. New England Patriots (8-4)
3. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
6. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

8. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
9. Denver Broncos (6-5)
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Buffalo Bills keep it tight in the AFC East race

The Bills at their best are as good as anyone. Their issue is consistency. But if Buffalo plays like it did on Thursday night — hammering the Saints 31-6 — Sean McDermott’s crew has a viable path to the 1 seed and the Super Bowl.

Josh Allen completed 23 of 28 passes for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns while Buffalo’s defense limited Trevor Siemian and the free-falling Saints to 190 yards. New Orleans has now lost four straight to drop out of the NFC playoff field.

Steelers struggle in Cincinnati as Bengals put themselves right in the mix

Like your Thanksgiving turkey, the Steelers are cooked. Their four-game winning streak midway through the season was a mirage. The team we saw Sunday, the one that trailed by 28 to the Bengals at the break and eventually lost 41-10, is the one we can expect the rest of the way.

Ben Roethlisberger looks shot, the offensive line is putrid, and the defense has been roasted in each of the last two weeks. The four-team AFC North race is now down to three.

Titans cannot overcome their injuries as Patriots move back atop the AFC East

The Titans are no longer the AFC’s top seed. And the way they’ve played the last few weeks, the playoffs are no guarantee. Ryan Tannehill has looked absolutely lost without Henry — even when the Titans run the ball well, as they did against the Patriots Sunday. New England has now won six straight, and Mac Jones is coming for Ja’Marr Chase in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Colts blow opportunity to close in on the Panthers as Brady continues to haunt them

At halftime, the Indianapolis Colts led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 10 points. However, they were outscored 24-7 in the second half to miss the opportunity to close in within one win of the Tennessee Titans.

The injury concerns for the Titans will mean the Colts likely have more chances to win the division, but they will rueing missing this chance when they had made the plays. Sitting two games behind, having lost both games to Tennessee this year, leaves Indianapolis needing to be close to perfect in their final five games this season.

Current NFC Playoff Picture

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
7. Washington Football Team (5-6)

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
9. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
10. New Orleans Saints (5-6)

Raiders stun slumping Cowboys

After losing 36-33 to the Raiders Thanksgiving evening, the Cowboys were actually as close in the standings to the Philadelphia Eagles as they were the conference’s No. 1 seed. The Cowboys entered Sunday with still a 65% chance to win the NFC East but just a 4% chance to capture the 1 seed per FiveThirtyEight. The Raiders, meanwhile, got their biggest win of the season and served notice that they’ll be in the AFC playoff race through the holidays.

The Eagles undo their recent good work

Just as the talk was starting that Jalen Hurts could be the future of the Eagles, it all unravels very quickly. Hurts turned the ball over 3 times while completing fewer than 50% of his passes. The running game continued to be effective, but the turnovers cost the Eagles in a big way in this game.

Philadelphia had a chance to close up within one win of the Cowboys, but instead, they slipped to 5-7. Their season is by no means over, but their chances of winning the division and hosting a playoff game just took a huge hit.

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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