By Peter Gleason

Here’s how things look in the NFL playoffs race heading into Week 15:


1. Cowboys (11-2)

Dallas already had clinched a playoff spot after Week 13 but failed to secure the NFC East title and a first-round playoff bye after losing to the Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys are back on “Sunday Night Football” next week against the Bucs, and they’ll clinch the division and a first-round bye with a win or tie combined with a Giants loss to the Lions. They’ll clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win combined with a Giants-Lions tie.

2. Lions (9-4)

Detroit will clinch the NFC North with a win over the Giants combined with a Packers loss or tie against the Bears, or with a tie against the Giants, a Packers loss and a Vikings loss or tie against the Colts.

3. Seahawks (8-4-1)

Seattle will clinch the NFC West with a win or tie Thursday against the Rams, or if the Cardinals lose to the Saints.

4. Falcons (8-5)

Atlanta and Tampa Bay are tied atop the NFC South, but the Falcons currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their better record vs. common opponents (6-3 vs. 5-4). Neither team can clinch a playoff berth next week.

5. Giants (9-4)

New York has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys by virtue of their season sweep, so they’re not out of the running for the NFC East title just yet. The Giantswould clinch a playoff berth next weekend with a win over the Lions, a Redskins loss to the Panthers, a Vikings loss or tie, and a Packers loss or tie.

6. Buccaneers (8-5)

Tampa Bay has won five straight — its longest winning streak in 14 years — to stay ahead of the Redskins (7-5-1), Vikings (7-6), Packers (7-6) and Cardinals (5-7-1) for the last wild-card spot. See the Falcons note above for more details on the NFC South race. Tampa Bay and Atlanta split their season series.

Technically still alive: Saints (5-8), Panthers (5-8), Eagles (5-8)


1. Patriots (11-2)

New England didn’t clinch anything after last night’s win over the Ravens, not even a playoff berth. The Patriots will seal the AFC East title with a win or tie Sunday in Denver plus a Dolphins loss or tie to the Jets on Saturday night. They can clinch a first-round bye either with a win or tie against the Broncos, a Dolphins loss or tie to the Jets and a Titans loss to the Chiefs, or with a win, a Dolphins loss or tie and a Steelers loss or tie to the Bengals.

2. Chiefs (10-3)

Kansas City holds the AFC West tiebreaker over the Raiders by virtue of its 2-0 series sweep of Oakland. The Chiefs also have beaten the Broncos, though the two teams play again on Christmas night. Kansas City cannot lose any two- or three-team tiebreakers against the Raiders or Broncos.

3. Steelers (8-5)

Pittsburgh has a one-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North (the teams play on Christmas Day, and Baltimore won their first meeting).

4. Texans (7-6)

Houston beat Indianapolis to assume the AFC South lead over the 7-6 Titans by virtue of its head-to-head win earlier in the year.

5. Raiders (10-3)

Oakland loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Chiefs. But the Raiders would go a long way toward clinching a playoff berth with a win in San Diego next weekend.

6. Broncos (8-5)

Denver currently holds the tiebreaker over the similarly 8-5 Dolphins by virtue of the common-opponents tiebreaker.

Also in the hunt: Dolphins (8-5), Ravens (7-6), Titans (7-6), Colts (6-7).

Technically still alive: Bills (6-7), Bengals (5-7-1), Chargers (5-8).

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