The Indianapolis Colts can clinch a playoff berth and the AFC South title with a win against the Cleveland Browns and a Houston Texans loss.
The Denver Broncos can clinch at least a playoff spot with a win and having numerous other scenarios play in their favor with the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns, Texans, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Miami Dolphins are back in the “top six” in the AFC, meaning they are back to controlling their own destiny in the playoff picture. But they needed to snap a long streak to make it happen, and the road won’t get any easier.
The Dolphins ended a 48-game streak of losing road games when they trailed by seven or more points in the fourth quarter, according to Elias Sports Bureau, when they came back for a 16-13 win over the New York Jets. It also put the Dolphins at 7-5 on the season and back as the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff chase with a better division record than the Buffalo Bills, who are also 7-5 and split their series with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins face the Jets again in the regular-season finale, but they will have to get through games against Baltimore, New England and the Minnesota Vikings before the last game of the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Bills have the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Patriots and Oakland Raiders remaining on their schedule.
Along with the Dolphins and Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens all have 7-5 records in what promises to be a tight race to get into the AFC playoffs.
Ahead of them all are – in projected seeding order – the Patriots (9-3), Denver Broncos (9-3), Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1), Indianapolis Colts (8-4-0) and San Diego Chargers (8-4-0).
The NFC gets a little weirder with poor showing in the NFC South so far. The NFC has only one 7-5 team (the San Francisco 49ers) that is currently out of the top six seeds. In addition, the 8-4 Dallas Cowboys are currently out of the top six.
The Arizona Cardinals are reeling a bit after dropping their last two games and falling to 9-3. Technically, they are still ahead of the 9-3 Packers in the NFC race, but the Cardinals face the gauntlet of three NFC West teams in their final four games – hosting the Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks and going on the road to face the St. Louis Rams and 49ers.
During that time, the Packers play two losing teams – the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – as well as the Bills before closing out the season with what could be another meaningful season finale against the Detroit Lions.
The other four NFC teams currently in the top six are, in order, the Philadelphia Eagles (9-3), NFC South-leading Falcons (5-7), the Seahawks (8-4) and the Lions (8-4).
Of the NFC teams on the outside edge of the playoff bubble, the New Orleans Saints (5-7) have the easiest road back into the playoff race. They don’t face one winning team in their remaining four games, setting up a good chance for them to overtake Atlanta. The Saints face the Panthers (3-8-1), Bears (5-7), Falcons (5-7) and Bucs (2-10).
THE OTHER ‘RACE’
While most teams are technically still alive for a playoff spot – although the chances are remote for some – five teams are tightly in the race for the first overall draft pick.
The Oakland Raiders are currently in the “lead” with a 1-11 record, followed by the 2-10 teams: the Bucs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets.
The New York Giants, Washington Redskins are both 3-9, and the Panthers are 3-8-1. They are followed by the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and the Saints and Rams, all with 5-7 records, to round out the top 10 (plus) for draft order next spring.
There have also been 34 comeback wins from 10 or more points down, the most through Week 13 in NFL history.