Saints clinch NFC South, 11 playoff spots to go

Michael David Smith

The New Orleans Saints are the champions of the NFC South after their Thanksgiving victory over the Falcons. Eleven more playoff spots await.

The Bills’ victory over the Cowboys makes 9-3 Buffalo a near-lock to earn an AFC wild card berth. The Bills have almost no chance of catching 10-1 New England in the AFC East, but the other AFC wild card contenders — the Steelers, Raiders, Colts, Titans and Browns — all have almost no chance of catching the Bills. And remember, two of those teams would have to pass the Bills in the standings to knock Buffalo out of the playoffs.

With the 6-6 Cowboys losing, they and the 5-6 Eagles are locked in a close NFC East race. They meet in December in Philadelphia in a very big game.

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The AFC South remains a close race, with the winner of Sunday’s game between the 6-5 Titans and 6-5 Colts likely to battle the 7-4 Texans down to the wire.

In the AFC West, the 6-5 Raiders likely need to upset the 7-4 Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. If the Chiefs win that game they’ll have a two-game lead in the division and the tiebreaker advantage.

The 9-2 Ravens have the AFC North basically locked up and are hoping to win out and catch the Patriots for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. On Sunday Baltimore hosts the 10-1 49ers, who currently sit atop the NFC but are only a game ahead of the 9-2 Seahawks, who are the leaders in the wild card race. Whoever doesn’t win the NFC West between the 49ers and Seahawks will be a very good wild card team and likely a road favorite over the Cowboys or Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.

The 8-3 Packers currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 8-3 Vikings in the NFC North, but those teams meet again in Minnesota in Week 16.

The long shots in the NFC are the 6-5 Rams and 6-6 Bears, whose Thanksgiving win was probably too little, too late to get into a crowded playoff field.

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