NFL Playoff Picture Could Begin to Take Shape This Weekend

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bill-swift - December 1, 2012

Thursday night's game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints kicked off Week 13 of the '12 NFL season. It's too bad that Drew Brees was more into completing passes to Falcons players (career high five interceptions) than his own en route to a 13-23 loss.

The win moved Atlanta a step closer to clinching a post season berth. To move that final step, Tampa Bay needs to either lose or tie (to win the division) or for Seattle to lose or tie (to clinch a playoff spot). If other scenarios play out there could be as many as five teams clinching a spot in the post season by time the weekend is done.

Besides Atlanta, three of four divisions in the AFC could be locked by time the weekend is over.

New England has the easiest route. All they need to do is beat the Dolphins Sunday and they will lock up the AFC East for the ninth time in the last decade. It doesn't hurt that the East has become one of the weaker divisions in the NFL.

Peyton Manning can lead the Denver Broncos to their division crown with a win over Tampa Bay (no easy task).  If they end up losing to the Bucs, as long as the Chargers lose, they can still clinch the AFC West. Should they do so it will be the first time since the '86 and '87 seasons the Broncos won back to back titles.

The AFC North will require a little more of and for the Baltimore Ravens. Win and they are in; a tie coupled with losses by the Bengals and Dolphins will do the same. To win the division they will need a victory along with a loss by the Bengals to lock up their second consecutive title.

Houston sits on top of the only division that can't quite be locked up just yet thanks to the pesky 7-4 Indianapolis Colts; they can clinch a spot in the postseason. A win over Tennessee will do the trick, but should they lose to the Titans any one of three scenarios will work: losses by the Steelers and Bengals; a Dolphins loss or tie and a Bengals loss or tie; or a Dolphins loss or tie and a Steelers loss or tie.

If the Colts and Texans win their next two games the division title would be on the line when the Colts head to Reliant Stadium for a Week 15 game with Houston.

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