The start of the NFL playoffs is just two months away and the picture in both the NFC and AFC is starting to come into focus. If you say with any great conviction that you know how the AFC and NFC fields will shake out, your nose is growing. Of the NFL’s 32 teams, 23 of them have a legitimate path to the postseason.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 12

The most impactful games of Week 11? Cowboys-Chiefs, Bengals-Raiders, Colts-Bills, and Saints-Eagles. All but one of Sunday’s 13 games will impact the NFL playoff race. The NFL legislates parity for just this kind of scenario.

Current AFC Playoff Picture

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

8. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
10. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Are the New England Patriots the AFC’s team to beat?

We should have seen this coming. Even in many of their best years, the New England Patriots started slowly, only to figure it out, turn it on, and leave the rest of the AFC in their wake as they stamped their mark on the NFL playoff picture. That blueprint seems to work as well with Mac Jones as it did for two decades with Tom Brady.

The Patriots have now won five straight and six of seven — including a 25-0 throttling of the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. Now comes the real test — showdowns with the Titans, Colts, and Bills twice between now and Boxing Day. New England should have plenty of time to prepare, however. They’re three days into a 37-day stretch that includes just three games.

Current NFC Playoff Picture

1. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
2. Arizona Cardinals (8-2)
3. Dallas Cowboys (7-2)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
6. New Orleans Saints (5-4)
7. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

8. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
9. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
10. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

Los Angeles Rams locked into fifth seed this week

It’s been a rough November for the Los Angeles Rams. They’ve been outscored 69-26 this month and watched as the Arizona Cardinals have built upon their division lead even without Kyler Murray in the lineup.

The Rams are off this week but are guaranteed to wake up Tuesday with the same positioning in the NFL playoff picture as they did when they went to bed Saturday: fifth in the NFC. That’s a tough break, considering that only five teams have a better record in the entire NFL. Unless the Cardinals go into a prolonged slump, the Rams look likely open the playoffs on the road.

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