NFL playoff picture: AFC, NFC seeds through Week 10

T.J. Watt: Steelers 'weren't happy' with defense on 1st drive (0:38)

T.J. Watt joins SVP as he explains how the poor defense on Pittsburgh's first drive motivated them to be better for the rest of the game. (0:38)

We're still 10 days from Thanksgiving, and yet here we are -- at the end of the NFL's 10th week -- talking about imminent clinching scenarios. If all goes to a not-too-outlandish plan, we'll actually have an official division winner in Week 11.

Here is our weekly look at what the postseason would look like if the season had ended today.


1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)

Week 10 was a good one for the Chiefs. In addition to taking care of business with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, they also put some distance between themselves and the top of the AFC field. The New England Patriots' loss in Tennessee effectively gives the Chiefs a two-game lead for the No. 1 overall seed. The Patriots hold the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams, but Sunday's action means they'll need to make up two games over their final six to wrestle away the top seed. Meanwhile, the Chiefs hold a 2.5-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the head-to-head tiebreaker in the unlikely event that the teams finish with identical records, considering the Steelers' Week 1 tie.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1)

The Steelers have rendered the Le'Veon Bell storyline nearly moot. They've now won five consecutive games, most recently putting up 52 points on the Carolina Panthers, and have scored at least 30 points in five of their nine games. Bell can't play this season if he doesn't report this week, and it's worth noting that the Steelers' schedule is about to get difficult. They have conference games upcoming against the Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers, as well as a Week 16 trip to New Orleans. Overall, ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) rated their remaining strength of schedule as the fifth-most difficult in the NFL.

3. New England Patriots (7-3)

It doesn't appear that anyone is going to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East, but their loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans snapped a six-game winning streak and threatened their chances for a first-round bye. Losing out on home-field advantage is significant in Patriots history. Of the past five Super Bowls they've advanced to, all have come after hosting the AFC Championship Game.

4. Houston Texans (6-3)

The Texans return from their bye to find a tightening race in the AFC South. The Titans are one game back, and the Indianapolis Colts aren't far behind, either. But five of the Texans' final seven games are against teams with losing records. According to FPI, they have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.

5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-2)

A six-game winning streak has put the Chargers in great shape in the relatively weak AFC wild-card chase. FPI's live playoff probability, which doesn't include other results in Week 10, raised their chances to 96 percent after a 20-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders. There isn't another wild-card contender within two games of them.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

The Bengals have lost three of their past four games, and their past two defeats have been by a combined 96-24. Yes, the Bengals are struggling. But fortunately for them, they're not exactly in a dogfight for a wild-card spot. They are holding at No. 6 in this bracket because they have a better conference record (3-2) than the Titans (3-4).

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (5-4), Miami Dolphins (5-5), Baltimore Ravens (4-5), Indianapolis Colts (4-5), Cleveland Browns (3-6-1)


1. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)

After Sunday's victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams have a reasonable chance to clinch the NFC West next week. It would be the earliest such feat since the current playoff format began in 2002. To do it, they'll need to defeat the Chiefs in Mexico City on Monday night, and the Seahawks would have to lose in Green Bay. That's no small task, and if nothing else, it speaks to the fortunate timing of the Rams' hot start in a division that includes a pair of two-win teams, and three teams with losing records.

2. New Orleans Saints (8-1)

The Saints have scored at least 30 points in six of their past seven games. They've topped 40 points in four of those matchups, and eclipsed 50 points twice. No one in the NFL is playing better, but with two games left against the Panthers, the pressure remains high to continue at this pace. FPI gives them an 85 percent chance to win the division and a 99 percent chance to reach the playoffs, either as a division winner or as a wild card.

3. Chicago Bears (6-3)

One of the year's most surprising teams has hit the defining portion of its schedule. Sunday's 34-16 victory over the Detroit Lions was the first of three consecutive NFC North games that will go a long way toward determining the Bears' playoff fate. The stakes increase next Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, who will travel to Soldier Field hoping to overtake the Bears for the division lead. For now, the Bears are seeded third in our imaginary bracket because they have a better conference record (4-1) than the Washington Redskins (6-2).

4. Washington Redskins (6-3)

While the football world waits for the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys to overtake them in the division, the Redskins keep winning just enough to hold them both off. They won their third road game of the season Sunday in Tampa Bay, and cornerback Josh Norman says he thinks they play better away from FedEx Field. Fortunately for them, four of their final seven games are on the road.

5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)

It didn't look good Thursday night in Pittsburgh, but it was the least harmful type of loss -- on the road against an AFC foe -- from a playoff positioning perspective. FPI still gives the Panthers a 71 percent chance to clinch at least a wild-card spot.

6. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)

After a bye, the Vikings will shift into a brutal but crucial portion of their schedule. They'll first get a chance to gain ground on the Bears, via a Week 11 Sunday night matchup in Chicago. But then they'll host the Green Bay Packers before traveling in consecutive weeks to play the Patriots and Seahawks. Overall, per FPI, the Vikings have the fourth-most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL.

In the hunt: Green Bay Packers (4-4-1), Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Seattle Seahawks (4-5), Dallas Cowboys (4-5), Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)