NFL playoff picture: Dolphins' Black Friday win moves them atop AFC playoff standings ... for now

Here's how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 12 of the 2023 season underway:

AFC playoff picture

1. Miami Dolphins (8-3), AFC East leaders: They continue to feast on average-at-best opponents, suggesting they'll be 11-3 come Christmas Eve. But Friday's rout of the New York Jets was consequential ... at least temporarily. The Fins jump from the projected fourth seed to first, their 6-2 record in AFC games superior to Baltimore's 5-3. However if the Ravens, Chiefs and Jaguars all win Sunday, Miami will revert to No. 4 in the conference standings. Remaining schedule: at Commanders, vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

2. Baltimore Ravens (8-3), AFC North leaders: They (mostly) survived a physical game with Cincinnati their last time out to cement their hold on the division − and have now learned they may yet get injured All-Pro TE Mark Andrews back. The Ravens were further rewarded Monday night by Kansas City's loss, which moved Baltimore atop the conference standings – a spot the team can reclaim by beating the Bolts on the road this Sunday night. Two games against LA’s teams seem like the easiest left on the Ravens’ docket ... and, not necessarily all that easy. Remaining schedule: at Chargers, BYE, vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3), AFC West leaders: They're still well positioned to play a sixth consecutive AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. Yes, they have some ground to make up, but that should be doable with Buffalo their only remaining opponent that currently has a winning record and barely so. Wins over Jacksonville and Miami earlier this season give K.C. a valuable tiebreaker should those teams wind up deadlocked. Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Packers, vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

NFL STATS CENTRAL: ? No problem. They began the post-DW portion of their season by notching what could be a pivotal win over Pittsburgh. And as good as this defense is, reaching postseason seems like a realistic goal for rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson ... or former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Remaining schedule: at Broncos, at Rams, vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

6. Houston Texans (6-4), wild card No. 2: Mounting issues in the AFC North seem to bode well for them. However finishing a season sweep of Jacksonville would move the Texans into first place and give them a huge tiebreaker ... and possibly the luxury of not worrying about other divisions. Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, vs. Broncos, at Jets, at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans, at Colts

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4), wild card No. 3: The only team in the AFC North that hasn't suffered a crucial injury in the past week-plus, Pittsburgh's offense remains on injured reserve after another woeful showing in Cleveland dropped the Steelers into the final wild-card slot due to their Week 4 loss at Houston. The Buffalo Bills (6-5) lurk a half-game back. Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Cardinals, vs. Patriots, at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

NFC playoff picture

1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1), NFC East leaders: They own the best record in the league, the first club to reach nine wins after winning Monday night's Super Bowl 57 rematch at Arrowhead Stadium. But a brutal month-plus stretch has only just begun with Detroit, San Francisco and Dallas still in hot pursuit ... though the Lions created a touch of breathing room by losing Thursday. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. 49ers, at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-3), NFC West leaders: They put a chokehold on the division by beating Seattle on Thanksgiving night. The Niners' superior record in NFC games also vaulted them over the Lions. But if they want to really make a push for home-field advantage, the Week 13 game in Philly is just about must-win. Remaining schedule: at Eagles, vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates a touchdown by teammate running back Christian McCaffrey during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Seattle.

3. Detroit Lions (8-3), NFC North leaders: After escaping Chicago last weekend, they didn't survive the upset bid from a division rival (Green Bay) at Ford Field on Thanksgiving afternoon. Shouldn't damage Detroit's playoff hopes much, but it's a blow to any designs on the No. 1 seed in the conference. Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, at Cowboys, vs. Vikings

4. New Orleans Saints (5-5), NFC South leaders: Well-timed bye for battered QB Derek Carr and Co., especially since Tampa Bay lost Sunday to give New Orleans a full one-game lead over the Bucs and Atlanta. Remaining schedule: at Falcons, vs. Lions, vs. Panthers, vs. Giants, at Rams, at Buccaneers, vs. Falcons

5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3), wild card No. 1: They solidified their hold on this position, which will likely afford a matchup with a not-so-daunting NFC South champ in the wild-card round. Yet still plenty of time for Dallas to make the NFC East a legit race after smashing Washington 45-10. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-5), wild card No. 2: An interconference loss isn't all that damaging, particularly since the Vikes still have two cracks at Detroit if they hope to retain their NFC North throne. Can't afford to stumble at home against Chicago on Monday night, though. Remaining schedule: vs. Bears, BYE, at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

7. Seattle Seahawks (6-5), wild card No. 3: Consecutive losses to NFC West foes, including Thursday night's 31-13 home setback to San Francisco, has pushed them to the postseason brink – especially given the upcoming schedule. An inferior record in conference games drops Seattle behind the Vikings and leaves the Seahawks one game ahead of the Green Bay Packers (5-6). The Los Angeles Rams, fresh off a sweep of Seattle, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers can match the Pack's record with wins Sunday. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, at 49ers, vs. Eagles, at Titans, vs. Steelers, at Cardinals


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