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What Week 10 means for the 2020 NFL playoff picture [UPDATE]

The playoff picture is slowly rounding into form as winter approaches. We break down what the playoff picture looks like heading into Week 10, and what the schedule offers.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford talks with Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after the Lions defeated the Bears 20-10 at Ford Field on December 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sunday recap

What a Sunday of football! The Vikings and Cowboys are left to square off, but we had some big games shake up the playoff picture. The Saints lost to the Falcons, and now sit a half game back of the Packers following Green Bay’s huge stop to beat the Panthers. In the AFC, the Chiefs lost to the Titans, which moves the Raiders to a mere half game back in the AFC West. The Bills lost to the Browns and the Colts lost to the Dolphins, which brings a host of teams that much closer in the playoff race. The Raiders, Colts, and Steelers all sit at 5-4 coming out of Week 10.

The 2020 playoff race is heating up as we move into the late fall (or early winter if you find yourself freezing today), and while nobody will be clinching in Week 10, there’s a chance for things to shake up a bit. Nobody will be eliminated, but a few teams badly need a win to avoid sinking to far down the standings.

The week got going with a fun matchup between the Chargers and Raiders on Thursday Night Football. The Raiders won thanks to a strong defensive effort and a late Josh Jacobs rushing touchdown. They improved to 5-4 and find themselves a game back of the Chiefs in the AFC West and a half game back of the Colts for the second wild card spot.

“Elimination” games

The biggest question for now is who faces potential elimination games. Nobody will be mathematically eliminated yet, but losses now sting a whole lot more. The NFC North features one such matchup between the 3-4-1 Lions and the 3-5 Bears. Both teams are on the fringe of the playoff picture, and a loss would just about end it for one of them. The winner would remain well outside, but at least would live to fight another day.

The Rams and Steelers offer an inter-conference must-win matchup for both of the teams. The Rams are three games back in the NFC West and half a game back in the wild card. The Steelers are two back in the AFC North and one back in the wild card. Both can live to fight another day, but a win would be key for them.

Below is a rundown of the NFL playoff picture and who the top six seeds in each of the conferences face. It’s followed by some of the notable matchups between playoff contenders.

AFC playoff picture

1. New England Patriots: 8-1 — BYE
2. Baltimore Ravens: 6-2 — @ Bengals
3. Houston Texans: 6-3 — BYE
4. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-3 — @ Titans
5. Buffalo Bills: 6-2 — @ Browns
6. Indianapolis: 5-3 — vs. Dolphins

In the hunt: Oakland Raiders (5-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5), Tennessee Titans (4-5), Los Angeles Chargers (4-6), Denver Broncos (3-6)

Chiefs (6-3) @ Titans (4-5)
Rams (5-3) @ Steelers (4-4)

NFC playoff picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 8-0 — vs. Seahawks
2. New Orleans Saints: 7-1 — vs. Falcons
3. Green Bay Packers: 7-2 — vs. Panthers
4. Dallas Cowboys: 5-3 — vs. Vikings
5. Seattle Seahawks: 7-2 — @ 49ers
6. Minnesota Vikings: 6-3 — @ Cowboys

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (5-3), Carolina Panthers (5-3), Philadelphia Eagles (5-4), Detroit Lions (3-4-1), Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) Chicago Bears (3-5)

Lions (3-4-1) @ Bears (3-5)
Panthers (5-3) @ Packers (7-2)
Rams (5-3) @ Steelers (4-4)
Vikings (6-3) @ Cowboys (4-3)
Seahawks (7-2) @ 49ers (8-0)