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  • Kevin SeifertNFL Nation Close
    • ESPN.com national NFL writer
    • ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
    • Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008

Week 15 brought a decidedly unfamiliar prospect in the AFC playoff picture: the New England Patriots playing on wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009. The Patriots fell below the Houston Texans, and into the No. 3 spot in the AFC race, after losing Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here is how the rest of the NFL playoff picture shakes out at the moment, with live playoff odds from ESPN's Football Power Index.

Note: X denotes a team that has clinched a playoff berth, while Z shows a team that has clinched its division.


1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) — X

FPI playoff odds: 100 percent

The Chiefs missed a chance to win the AFC West and be in position to clinch AFC home-field advantage after losing Thursday night to the Chargers. They remain atop the AFC West because of a better division record (4-1) than the Chargers (3-2). As a result, FPI is still giving the Chiefs a 71 percent chance to win the division. They can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win in Week 16, but home-field advantage might come down to Week 17, with the Chiefs needing a victory over the Raiders, to lock it up.

Next up: at Seattle Seahawks

2. Houston Texans (10-4)

FPI playoff odds: >99 percent

The Patriots' loss Sunday elevated the Texans into sole possession of the No. 2 spot, putting them in range of the first playoff bye in franchise history. One minor obstacle: They have yet to clinch a postseason berth, let alone the AFC South. That could come in Week 16. The Texans could clinch the playoffs with a win or a loss by the Ravens or Steelers, the AFC South with a win and losses by the Titans and Colts, and a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss.

That could all happen in Week 16.

Next up: at Philadelphia Eagles

3. New England Patriots (9-5)

FPI playoff odds: >99 percent

A loss Sunday in Pittsburgh officially dropped the Patriots to the No. 3 spot. If current positioning holds, the Patriots will miss out on a first-round playoff bye for the first time in nine seasons. It is not unheard of for a team to advance to the Super Bowl from the wild-card round, but New England has never done it in three tries under coach Bill Belichick. Fortunately for them, the Patriots close at home with games against the Bills and Jets (9-19 combined record), they can clinch the AFC East with a victory over the Bills. But they'll need help from the Texans to get back to the No. 2 spot.

Next up: vs. Buffalo Bills

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

FPI playoff odds: 83 percent

A three-game losing streak dropped the Steelers as far as they could fall without materially affecting their playoff positioning. Had they lost Sunday to the Patriots, they would have fallen behind the Ravens in the AFC North and then completely out of the playoff picture. Now, they can clinch the division with a win and a Ravens loss in Week 16. Their upcoming road remains difficult, especially in Week 16, but for one week, the Steelers can breathe easier.

Next up: at New Orleans Saints

5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) — X

FPI playoff odds: 100 percent

The Chargers clinched a playoff berth with Thursday night's victory at Kansas City, but they have more work to do. If the division title comes down to Week 17, they'll need a win in Denver — a more difficult spot than the Chiefs would face. FPI gives them a 29 percent chance to pull it off.

Next up: vs. Baltimore Ravens

6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

FPI playoff odds: 32 percent

The Dolphins' loss in Minnesota narrowed the race for the No. 6 spot a bit. The Ravens are now fending off two other 8-6 teams — the Colts and Titans — and hold the tiebreaker among that trio. But look out. While the Ravens have a cross-country trip ahead to play the Chargers in Week 16, the Colts will host the 5-9 Giants and the Titans will host the 7-7 Redskins. That's why FPI is giving better playoff odds to the Colts (42 percent) and Titans (39 percent).

Next up: at Los Angeles Chargers

In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (8-6), Tennessee Titans (8-6), Miami Dolphins (7-7), Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)


1. New Orleans Saints (11-2) — Z

FPI playoff odds: 100 percent

The Saints won't play until Monday night, when they take on the Panthers at the Bank of America Stadium. Regardless of what happens, however, they'll remain atop the NFC playoff picture following the Rams' loss Sunday night. But New Orleans won't have an opportunity to clinch that spot until Week 16 at the earliest.

Next up: at Carolina Panthers (Monday, Week 15)

2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3) — Z

FPI playoff odds: 100 percent

The Rams might have kissed their chance at NFC home-field advantage goodbye on Sunday night. And after losing at home to the 6-7 Eagles, they are now in position to lose out on a first-round bye altogether. They're only one game ahead of the Bears, who defeated them in Week 14 and thus hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. On the other hand, they can still clinch a first-round bye with a win in Week 16 and a Bears loss. Stay tuned.

Next up: at Arizona Cardinals

3. Chicago Bears (10-4) — Z

FPI playoff odds: 100 percent

For the first time since 2010, the Bears are NFC North champions. They secured the inevitable Sunday by defeating the Packers at Soldier Field. The only question left now is if they can sneak past the Rams for a first-round bye. The Bears hold a head-to-head tiebreaker if it comes to that.

Next up: at San Francisco 49ers

4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

FPI playoff odds: 94 percent

Sunday's loss in Indianapolis delayed what is still a likely NFC East title for the Cowboys. Their lead in the division is down to one game over both the Redskins and Eagles. But according to ESPN's Playoff Machine, the only way the Cowboys will lose the division is if they lose both of their remaining games and either the Redskins or Eagles finish 2-0. FPI gives that scenario a 2.3 percent chance.

Next up: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

FPI playoff odds: 98 percent

Had they won Sunday at San Francisco, the Seahawks would have clinched a playoff berth. But one victory over their final two games should still do it. It won't get any easier in Week 16, but if all else fails, they'll host the woeful Cardinals in Week 17.

Next up: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)

FPI playoff odds: 62 percent

Had the Vikings not defeated the Dolphins on Sunday, they would have fallen out of the second wild-card spot. They have no margin for error with a half-game lead, and their only way to guarantee a playoff berth is to win their final two games — both against NFC North rivals. But they do have a chance to clinch a wild-card berth with a win in Week 16, a loss by the Eagles and a loss by the Panthers either Monday night or in Week 16.

Next up: at Detroit Lions

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

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