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NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots Getting Close To No. 1 Seed, Home-Field Advantage

After Week 15, the NFL playoff picture is a little clearer, but not by much, as only two more teams clinched spots in the postseason, leaving a wide array of playoff scenarios

The two teams who joined the New England Patriots with guaranteed spots in the playoffs were the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC. The Falcons routed the Seattle Seahawks to improve to 12-2, clinch their playoff berth and put themselves in great position for the NFC's No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost to the New York Jets at home, dropping their mark to 10-4, but a tiebreaker has them qualified for the playoffs. 

With just two weeks left, the Steelers are tied atop the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens -- but because of that tiebreaker (better division record), Pittsburgh would take the division if they end up even with Baltimore. 

The Patriots won to improve to 12-2, meaning all they need in Week 16 is a win at the Buffalo Bills or a loss by the Jets at the Chicago Bears to wrap up the AFC East and a first-round bye in the playoffs. With a two-game lead in the AFC overall, and their final games against the Bills and Miami Dolphins (combined record of 11-17), it's almost certain that the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Gillette Stadium. 


Who's In:

1. New England Patriots (11-2; clinched playoff berth)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4; clinched playoff berth)

Division Leaders:

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5; wins in the final two games, both at home, gives the Chiefs the AFC West)
4. Indianapolis Colts (8-6; beat the Jaguars to move into a tie for first place in the AFC South. If the Colts win out, they win the division)

Wild Card Leaders:

5. Baltimore Ravens (10-4; Ravens own tiebreaker against the Jets and have final two games against the 5-9 Browns and 3-11 Bengals)
6. New York Jets (10-4; Sunday's win in Pittsburgh went a long way to keep the Jets' playoffs hopes alive)

Outside Looking In: San Diego Chargers (8-6), Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6), Oakland Raiders (7-7)

San Diego needs to win-out and have the Chiefs lose a game at home (where they're undefeated this season), while the Jaguars missed out on their chance to win the AFC South with Sunday's loss at Indy and now will need some help. The Raiders are out of Wild Card contention, but if they can pass the Chiefs in the standings they'll win the AFC West. 


Who's In:

1. Atlanta Falcons (12-2; clinched playoff berth and wraps up NFC South with win or Saints loss in Week 16)

Division Leaders:

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4; can win NFC East with a win or a Giants loss next week) 
3.  Chicago Bears (9-4; can clinch NFC North with win at Minnesota Monday night)
4. St. Louis Rams (6-8; lost on Sunday, but maintained their division lead)

Wild Card Teams:

5. New Orleans Saints (10-4)
6. New York Giants (9-5)

Outside Looking In: Green Bay Packers (8-6), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6), G, Seattle Seahawks (6-8), San Francisco 49ers (5-9)

With Green Bay's loss at New England Sunday night, their second loss in a row, the Packers are left rooting for the Vikings to beat the Bears Monday night as they prepare for a huge game in Week 16 when the Giants visit Green Bay. Meanwhile, Tampa needs to win out and get help, and amazingly, both the Seahawks and 49ers are still alive for the NFC West. It could very well come down to the final game of the season when Seattle hosts current division leader St. Louis.