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NFL playoff picture: What does Panthers-Bills mean for NFC, AFC standings

The Panthers face the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday. We break down what the game means for the NFL playoff picture.

A general view of Highmark Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

Result: The Bills handled their business on Sunday, beating the Panthers 31-14. Buffalo improved to 8-6 with the win and pulled to within a game of New England in the AFC East after the Patriots lost to the Colts on Saturday. The Panthers dropped to 5-9 and while they are not eliminated from playoff contention, their playoff chances are slim.

The NFL heads into Week 15 with playoff races tightening up in both conferences. We’re looking at some unprecedented parity across the league with only four games remaining. Five teams in the AFC are tied at 7-6 and five teams in the NFC are tied at 6-7.

The Panthers and Bills face off in Buffalo on Sunday and are two of the teams in that mess of squads battling for a wild card berth. The two teams square off Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.

Panthers playoff picture

Current NFC standing

Things have gone south in a hurry for Carolina. They won three straight to open the season, and little has gone right since. They’ve lost eight of ten, and even their big road win over the Cardinals in Week 10 comes with the asterisk that Arizona was without Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and Chase Edmonds.

Carolina now sits 5-8 and in last place in the NFC South. They are a game back of Atlanta and New Orleans and five back of Tampa Bay. Carolina is in 12th place in the overall NFC standings, but are in the thick of the wild card race thanks to the mediocrity across the conference. Five teams are tied at 6-7 and then Carolina and Seattle are tied at 5-8.

Rest of the NFC playoff field

#7 Washington (6-7) @ #9 Eagles (6-7)
#10 Falcons (6-7) @ #6 49ers (7-6)
#13 Seahawks (5-8) @ #5 Rams (9-4)
#11 Saints (6-7) @ #2 Buccaneers (10-3)
#8 Vikings (6-7) @ #15 Bears (4-9)

Bills playoff picture

Current AFC standing

The Bills have lost two straight and three of four to drop to 7-6 on the season. They went from in control of the AFC East to all but out of the race. The Patriots’ seven-game win streak has put them two up on Buffalo with only four games remaining.

The losses have dropped Buffalo from competing for the No. 1 seed to sitting in seventh place in a five-way tie with the Colts, Browns, Bengals, and Broncos. They all sit ne game back of the 8-5 Chargers who hold the top wild card berth. Add in the 6-6-1 Steelers and the 6-7 Raiders and Dolphins, and there’s a lot of teams competing for three playoff berths.

Rest of the AFC playoff field

#3 Chiefs (9-4) @ #5 Chargers (8-5)
#12 Raiders (6-7) @ #8 Browns (7-6)
#1 Patriots (9-4) @ #6 Colts (7-6)
Jets (3-10) @ #13 Dolphins (6-7)
#2 Titans (9-4) @ #11 Steelers (6-6-1)
#9 Bengals (7-6) @ #10 Broncos (7-6)