Posted: Wednesday December 1, 2010 11:59AM ; Updated: Wednesday December 1, 2010 12:45PM
Dom Bonvissuto
Dom Bonvissuto>INSIDE THE NFL

NFL playoff projections, Week 13

Story Highlights

The Jets' road gauntlet will make it difficult to earn the No. 1 seed

If two AFC West teams make the playoffs, the Steelers could get squeezed

Packers, currently on the outside of the playoffs, could climb to No. 2 seed

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Matt Cassel's Chiefs are currently leading the AFC West, but they may not have to win the division to make the playoffs.
Robert Beck/SI

For the first time in NFL history, all eight divisions have at least two teams in first place, or within one game of first, through 12 weeks. Whether it's the result of true parity or pure luck, the unprecedented tightness of the standings will make the end of the regular season that much more exciting and the college bowl system look that much more meaningless.

It will also make our job that much harder.

Beginning today, SI.com will publish weekly playoff projections. We will lay out the playoff picture two ways: 1) As though the season ended today, and 2) As though the season will play out the way we predict it will.

We will use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us or find us on Twitter. Without further ado...

AFC

NEW YORK JETS (9-2)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at New England (L); vs. Miami (W); at Pittsburgh (W); at Chicago (L); vs. Buffalo (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 5 seed
Extra Point: The Jets are 5-0 on the road right now, and to earn the No. 1 seed they'd likely have to go at least 2-1 through a very difficult Foxboro-Pittsburgh-Chicago gauntlet over the next four weeks (with Miami at home as well). If they get home-field advantage, you won't be able to say they didn't earn it.

***

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Pittsburgh (W); at Houston (W); vs. New Orleans (L); at Cleveland (W); vs. Cincinnati (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2 seed
Extra Point: We project 11 wins will get a playoff spot in the AFC, so Ravens fans can breathe easy with three very winnable games left. Get one more against either the Steelers or Saints, and the Ravens can call themselves division champs for the first time since 2006.

***

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Denver (W); at San Diego (L); at St. Louis (W); vs. Tennessee (W); vs. Oakland (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 6 seed
Extra Point: Can the previously considered weak West really get two teams into the postseason? Believe it. If the Chiefs can take care of business at Arrowhead, a notoriously tough place to play late in the season (K.C. is 37-13 in December since 1983), and go 1-1 against San Diego and St. Louis, they're in.

***

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Tennessee (L); vs. Oakland (W); at Indianapolis (L); vs. Washington (W); at Houston (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: Inconsistency reigns in the AFC South, where no team seems capable of taking charge. Don't expect it to be the Jags, who have all three division road games still to go.

***

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-2)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. N.Y. Jets (W); at Chicago (W); vs. Green Bay (L); at Buffalo (W); vs. Miami (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seed
Extra Point: The path to the No. 1 seed for the Pats is simple: Take care of business in the division and split the two remaining games against the NFC North. One thing to point out: the Jets and Pats are very close in tiebreakers, and in one scenario, we had them both at 13-3 and going all the way to the strength of victory tiebreaker to determine the No. 1 seed. Bottom line: Winning on Monday doesn't guarantee the Pats anything.

***

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Baltimore (L); vs. Cincinnati (W); vs. N.Y. Jets (L); vs. Carolina (W); at Cleveland (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; out
Extra Point: It's obviously only a hunch, but that finale against the Browns has upset written all over it. Before Steelers fans riot in anger, let's point out the good: should Pittsburgh beat Cleveland and finish 11-5, tying them with K.C., the Steelers would win the tiebreaker based on record against common opponents.

***

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Oakland (W); vs. Kansas City (W); vs. San Francisco (W); at Cincinnati (W); at Denver (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 3 seed (wins tiebreaker with Kansas City on division record)
Extra Point: Seems like everyone believes the Chargers will win out, and looking at that remaining schedule, it's hard to disagree. Even if San Diego lost one to fall to 10-6 and into a tie with Pittsburgh, the Chargers would win that tiebreaker based on conference record.

***

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Dallas (W); at Tennessee (L); vs. Jacksonville (W); at Oakland (W); vs. Tennessee (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 4 seed
Extra Point: Nothing we predict in the final five for the Colts seems like a reach, so as long as Peyton Manning and company can hold the line, they'll make it nine straight postseason berths.

***

MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Cleveland (W); at N.Y. Jets (L); vs. Buffalo (W); vs. Detroit (L); at New England (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: Pull a stunner in Week 14 at the Meadowlands and we'll talk.

***

HOUSTON TEXANS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Philadelphia (L); vs. Baltimore (L); at Tennessee (L); at Denver (W); vs. Jacksonville (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out
Extra Point: Gary Kubiak's bunch has done nothing to make anyone believe it can run the table, which it likely needs to do to make its first postseason.

***

TENNESSEE TITANS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Jacksonville (W); vs. Indianapolis (W); vs. Houston (W); at Kansas City (L); at Indianapolis (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: Even if the Titans get hot -- a big if, seeing as how they've lost four straight -- those two roadies to finish will be too much for Jeff Fisher's club.

***

OAKLAND RAIDERS (5-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at San Diego (L); at Jacksonville (L); vs. Denver (W); vs. Indianapolis (L); at Kansas City (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 6-10; out
Extra Point: Losing all but one of their final five games may be too harsh of a prediction for a team that's shown more than a little spunk this season, but tough to see the Raiders mounting any kind of run to the playoffs.

AFC Playoff Picture
Scenario No. 1 seed No. 2 seed No. 3 seed No. 4 seed No. 5 seed No. 6 seed
If Playoffs Started Today Jets Ravens Chiefs Jaguars Patriots Steelers
SI.com Projections Patriots Ravens Chargers Colts Jets Chiefs
 
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