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What Week 13 means for the 2021 NFL playoff picture

The NFL schedule for Week 13 is packed with meaningful games as the playoff race heads into the last quarter of the season.

Buffalo Bills v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Week 13 action started off with the Dallas Cowboys tightening their hold in the NFC East with a win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. That game was just an appetizer for the rest of the week’s docket that features several high-profile games capped off with a consequential Monday night matchup between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.

In the early afternoon slate on Sunday, the top draw is between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. A Chargers win could push them to the top of the AFC West, if the Chiefs lose to the Broncos in the late afternoon slot. If the Bengals can pull off their third win in a row, it would put them one step closer to the top of the AFC North. The Ravens, on a bye this week, would still be in the top spot by virtue of their win percentage, but things would really get interesting with the standings tightening even further in that division.

Of course, the AFC game that gets top billing this week is the Patriots at the Bills on Monday night. With the Ravens and Titans both on a bye, the Patriots have a chance to take over the top spot in the AFC with a win. That would also put another game between them and the Bills in the AFC East race. However, the Bills could flip the script with a win. That would give Buffalo the top spot in the division and into one of the top four seeds. It would also mean the AFC East title comes down to a Week 15 rematch between these teams.

Over the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals could tighten their hold on the top spot with a win over the Chicago Bears. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a favorable matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. A win would move them closer to the Packers, who are on a bye this week, but Green Bay would still have an edge in the overall standings by virtue of their 7-2 record within the conference.

The Los Angeles Rams can stop their three-game skid with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, but that won’t move them into the top four spots. Dallas Still has control of the fourth seed because they’re leading the NFC East and have a better record in the NFC than the Rams.

AFC playoff picture

1. Baltimore Ravens, 8-3
2. New England Patriots, 8-4
3. Tennessee Titans, 8-4
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 7-4

5. Cincinnati Bengals, 7-4
6. Buffalo Bills, 7-4
7. Los Angeles Chargers, 6-5

Outside looking in: Las Vegas Raiders (6-5), Denver Broncos (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1), Cleveland Browns (6-6), Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Week 13 schedule

Chargers (6-5) @ Bengals (7-5)
Giants (4-7) @ Dolphins (5-7)
Colts (6-6) @ Texans (2-9)
Washington (5-6) @ Raiders (6-5)
Ravens (8-3) @ Steelers (5-5-1)
Broncos (6-5) @ Chiefs (7-4)
Patriots (8-4) @ Bills (7-4)

NFC playoff picture

1. Arizona Cardinals, 9-2
2. Green Bay Packers, 9-3
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8-3
4. Dallas Cowboys, 8-4

5. Los Angeles Rams, 7-4
6. San Francisco 49ers, 6-5
7. Washington Football Team, 5-6

Outside looking in: Minnesota Vikings (5-6), Atlanta Falcons (5-6), Philadelphia Eagles (5-7), Carolina Panthers (5-7), New Orleans Saints (5-7), New York Giants (4-7), Chicago Bears (4-7)

Week 13 schedule

Buccaneers (8-3) @ Falcons (5-6)
Cardinals (9-2) @ Bears (4-7)
Vikings (5-6) @ Lions (0-10-1)
Giants (4-7) @ Dolphins (5-7)
Eagles (5-7) @ Jets (3-8)
Washington (5-6) @ Raiders (6-5)
Jaguars (2-9) @ Rams (7-4)
49ers (6-5) 2 Seahawks (3-8)