Three teams can clinch berths

Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks now that Week 14 has begun.

NFC
1. Los Angeles Rams (11-1):
NFC West champions. The first team in 2018 to officially clinch a playoff berth, the Rams have wrapped up a second consecutive division crown. Sunday night’s opponent, Chicago, is the only one left on their schedule with a winning record. Beat the Bears, and L.A. claims a first-round bye.

2. New Orleans Saints (10-2): NFC South leader. The Saints still look like a good bet for a bye and can put a bow on the division title Sunday by handling the Bucs or getting help if Carolina extends its losing streak in Cleveland.

3. Chicago Bears (8-4): NFC North leader. Can’t lose to teams like the Giants if you hope to catch the Saints. Chicago also missed a golden opportunity to take a major step toward locking up the division.

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5): NFC East leader. Lose to the Eagles, and a tiebreaker will cost Dallas the division lead.

 

5. Seattle Seahawks (7-5): Wild card No. 1. They can’t do better than this spot but must be thrilled to have it — especially after some geniuses foresaw a 4-12 season. Helps to have one game apiece remaining against Niners and Cards.

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1): Wild card No. 2. Kirk Cousins can thank his former Washington teammates after their Monday night loss in Philly allowed Vikes to move back into the field. Week 14 game in Seattle has major ramifications for both clubs.

In the hunt: Carolina Panthers (6-6), Philadelphia Eagles (6-6), Washington Redskins (6-6), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

More: Do any of NFL’s seven 6-6 teams have real hope? Ranking their playoff viability

AFC
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2):
AFC West leader. Stunning setback in wake of Kareem Hunt’s release. But even as Chiefs continue to sort through fallout, they can still lock down a berth by beating Baltimore on Sunday.

2. New England Patriots (9-3): AFC East leader. You hate to diminish them by saying they’re on cruise control at this point. But after dismantling solid Vikings team to start December, Pats will be hard to slow down moving forward. They’ll win the division for the 10th straight year by surviving Miami on Sunday — though worth noting, Dolphins have won four of five at home against New England.

3. Houston Texans (9-3): AFC South leader. Now winners of nine straight, hottest team in the league maintaining pressure on Patriots in pursuit of bye. (New England’s Week 1 defeat of Houston continues to loom large.) However even if the Texans run their streak to 10 on Sunday, the Titans’ victory Thursday night precludes them from clinching anything this week.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1): AFC North leader. Their come-from-ahead loss to the Chargers on Sunday night could effectively eliminate them from quest for a first-round bye … and, more importantly perhaps, also jeopardizes hold on division.

5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3): Wild card No. 1. Their aspirations of winning the AFC West are alive and well. Showdown in Kansas City looms in Week 15. In the near term, Tennessee’s win also means the Bolts will have to wait another week for a clinching scenario.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Now 3-0 with rookie QB Lamar Jackson as the starter, they can’t let up with so many teams nipping at their heels. However a win at Nashville in Week 6 guarantees the victorious Titans can’t overtake the Ravens this week even if they lose at Kansas City.

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (7-6), Denver Broncos (6-6), Indianapolis Colts (6-6), Miami Dolphins (6-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) 

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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