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NFL Playoff Picture: Conferences have new #1 seeds, at least for a couple more hours

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And the AFC West is a total disaster.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The NFL has new leaders in both conferences this morning, with the New England Patriots taking a half-game edge over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings leading the Philadelphia Eagles on the strength of victory tiebreaker. The Patriots position atop the AFC is merely temporary until the Steelers face the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

A win by the Steelers would give them a matching 10-2 record with the Patriots and an identical 7-1 conference record. The next tiebreaker is common games, but it requires a minimum of four and the two teams only have two common opponents (Chiefs, Texans), so this does not apply.

Pittsburgh would hold the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over the Patriots, giving them back the top seed if they win.

With that said, the Patriots and Steelers don’t even have the most interesting tiebreaker decision in the AFC. The AFC West is a total disaster with three teams tied atop the division with matching 6-6 records.

The Kansas City Chiefs, losers of six of their past seven games, have collapsed after starting the season 5-0. They remain atop the AFC West because they have a 2-1 division record, which is the “best” of the 6-6 teams.

The Los Angeles Chargers, winners of six of their past eight and with their only two losses coming to the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, are the “second place” team in the division, thanks to a 17-16 victory in Oakland back in week 6 that serves as the tiebreaker.

The Oakland Raiders, infuriatingly inconsistent and impossible to predict, are in third place in the division, with a brutal stretch to close out the season @Chiefs, vs Cowboys, @Eagles, and @Chargers. If they win the division, they’ll certainly have earned it.

The Chiefs host the Raiders and Chargers over the next two weeks and the Chargers host the Raiders in the season finale. It won’t be pretty, but this division will sort itself out- and will serve as cannon fodder for Wild Card weekend.

Here is the current NFL playoff picture.

AFC

  1. (10-2) New England Patriots
  2. (9-2) Pittsburgh Steelers: Face the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.
  3. (8-4) Tennessee Titans: Have current head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  4. (6-6) Kansas City Chiefs: Win head-to-head-to-head based on divisional record.
  5. (8-4) Jacksonville Jaguars
  6. (7-5) Baltimore Ravens

In the hunt: (6-6) Los Angeles Chargers, (6-6) Buffalo Bills, (6-6) Oakland Raiders, (5-6) Cincinnati Bengals

NFC

  1. (10-2) Minnesota Vikings: Have strength of victory tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles.
  2. (10-2) Philadelphia Eagles
  3. (9-3) Los Angeles Rams: Have head-to-head tiebreaker over the New Orleans Saints.
  4. (9-3) New Orleans Saints
  5. (8-4) Seattle Seahawks: Win tiebreaker with Carolina Panthers based on conference record.
  6. (8-4) Carolina Panthers

In the hunt: (7-5) Atlanta Falcons, (6-6) Detroit Lions, (6-6) Green Bay Packers, (6-6) Dallas Cowboys