NFL playoff picture: Packers leap into NFC field, Chiefs squander shot at lead for top seed

Every week for the duration of the 2023 NFL regular season, USA TODAY Sports will provide real-time updates to the league’s ever-evolving playoff picture − starting after Sunday afternoon’s late games and then moving forward for the duration of the week (through Thursday’s game or Saturday’s, if applicable).

nfl playoff picture: packers leap into nfc field, chiefs squander shot at lead for top seed

Green Bay Packers tight end Ben Sims (89) celebrates a first quarter touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field.

What just happened? What does it mean? What are the pertinent factors (and, perhaps, tiebreakers) moving forward as each conference’s seven-team bracket begins to crystallize? All will be explained and analyzed up to the point when the postseason field is finalized on Sunday night, Jan. 7.

Here’s where things stand with Week 13 of the 2023 season underway:

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NFC playoff picture

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2), NFC East leaders: They still own the best record in the league, but Sunday’s convincing loss to the Niners could leave them exposed − starting with the head-to-head tiebreaker ceded to San Francisco. But even more concerning? A loss at Dallas in Week 14 will knock Philly out of first place in the division and well down the conference ladder. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3), NFC West leaders: Sunday’s resounding win at Lincoln Financial Field puts them squarely in the chase for home-field advantage and a first-round bye, the Niners now merely having to match the Eagles’ regular-season record. The Niners’ superior record in NFC games also keeps them ahead of the Lions. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

3. Detroit Lions (9-3), NFC North leaders: They hung on to win in New Orleans on Sunday, increasing their margin for error ahead of second-place Minnesota in the division. And the Lions continue to quietly lurk behind the teams juuust ahead of them. Remaining schedule: at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, at Cowboys, vs. Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons (6-6), NFC South leaders: They outlasted the Jets and opened up a one-game lead in the division thanks to New Orleans’ loss. A 3-0 record in NFC South games also gives Atlanta a meaningful advantage at this juncture. Remaining schedule: vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

5. Dallas Cowboys (9-3), wild card No. 1: First place in the NFC East is now in sight. They won their 14th consecutive home game Thursday night, outlasting Seattle 41-35. Dallas solidified its hold on this position – which will likely afford a matchup with a not-so-daunting NFC South champ in the wild-card round. Yet Philadelphia’s loss means the Cowboys can claim first place in the division by beating the Eagles in Week 14 – and that would mean playing at least one postseason game at home for a team that’s excelled at AT&T Stadium. Remaining schedule: vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6), wild card No. 2: They could still make a run at the NFC North given both dates with Detroit are ahead. But Minnesota needs to come back from its bye prepared to deal with a bevy of teams ready to challenge for this spot. Remaining schedule: BYE, at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

7. Green Bay Packers (6-6), wild card No. 3: They took out the Chiefs on Sunday night – with some help from the officials? – to jump into the final playoff spot, which began Sunday in Seattle and was temporarily held by the Rams before the Pack swiped it. Green Bay’s Week 9 win over the Matthew Stafford-less Rams is decisive at this point in time. Remaining schedule: at Giants, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, at Vikings, vs. Bears

AFC playoff picture

1. Miami Dolphins (9-3), AFC East leaders: Another blowout of a bad team Sunday, the Fins crushing the Washington Commanders 45-15. But this win moves them atop the conference standings, Miami’s record in AFC games (6-2) giving them the advantage over idle Baltimore. Remaining schedule: vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3), AFC North leaders: They’re 6-3 against the AFC and soon to face some very tough conference opponents during a grueling stretch drive. Remaining schedule: BYE, vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3), AFC South leaders: Kansas City’s loss bumps them up going into Monday night’s date with Cincinnati. The Jags earned an important split with Houston in Week 12, opening some breathing room atop the division. The strength-of-victory tiebreaker puts the Jags ahead of Miami if a tiebreaker must be invoked. Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, at Browns, vs. Ravens, at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, at Titans

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), AFC West leaders: Had they won at Green Bay on Sunday night, then the reigning champs would have climbed atop the AFC ladder. Instead, the loss drops them here – at least for the time being. A 6-1 record in AFC games and wins over Miami and Jacksonville keep K.C. well positioned to play a sixth consecutive AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. None of the teams left on the schedule currently has a winning record. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5), wild card No. 1: Bad defeat to Arizona and perhaps an even more worrisome loss with QB Kenny Pickett’s ankle injury. Still, they remain ahead of Cleveland based on their superior record in division games and over Indianapolis based on a slim lead in the common opponents tiebreaker. Remaining schedule: vs. Patriots, at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

6. Cleveland Browns (7-5), wild card No. 2: New QB Joe Flacco couldn’t notch a win against the Rams, one that would have moved Cleveland up the conference standings. But at least the Browns’ 39-38 win at Indianapolis in Week 7 continues to serve them well. Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

7. Indianapolis Colts (7-5), wild card No. 3: An overtime escape in Nashville keeps them here … as does a Week 2 win at Houston, which also has a 7-5 record. Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL playoff picture: Packers leap into NFC field, Chiefs squander shot at lead for top seed

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