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What Week 13 means for the 2020 NFL playoff picture

The playoff race continues to heat up as we move into the holiday season. We break down the implications of the Week 13 schedule.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady greets Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson after the game at Gillette Stadium. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday Night Football result

The Texans beat the Patriots to close out Sunday, winning 28-22 after a late Patriots comeback effort. With the win, the Ravens move into the No. 1 seed, the Patriots drop to No. 2, and the Texans remain No. 3 heading into Week 14.

4:05/4:25 p.m. results

The Rams thumped the Cardinals 34-7 to improve to 7-5 on the season. They are a game and a half back of the Vikings and two and a half games back of the Seahawks for the two wild card berths.

The Chiefs crushed the Raiders 40-9 to improve to 8-4 and take a two game lead in the AFC West. The Chiefs face the Patriots next week. The Raiders fell to 6-6 and now sit a game back of the second wild card berth. The Raiders host the 7-5 Titans next week.

1p.m. results

The Ravens edged out the 49ers 20-17 on a Justin Tucker field goal as time expired. If the Patriots lose Sunday evening to the Texans, the Ravens move into the top seed in the AFC. If the Seahawks win on Monday against the Vikings, they move into the top seed in the NFC. We also saw the Titans beat the Colts to remain tied with the Steelers for the second wild card berth. The Steelers beat the Browns 20-13.

Welcome to Week 13 of the 2019 NFL season! Thanksgiving brought a triple-header of matchups in which the Saints became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. They beat the Falcons to clinch the NFC South.

We’ve got five weeks remaining on the regular season schedule and the playoff race is approaching the home stretch with December upon us. The 49ers and Patriots can both clinch a playoff berth in Week 13 with a win or tie and some help. Both face huge matchups just to get their wins, with San Francisco headed to Baltimore and New England traveling to Houston.

49ers-Ravens is arguably the best game this weekend, but it’s not quite the most important. It’s a potential Super Bowl preview, and both teams badly need a win if they want to maintain their current conference standing. However, their respective remaining schedules offer more important matchups.

Games of the Week

Patriots at Texans: The Patriots lost the tiebreaker to Baltimore, so they can’t afford to drop in a tie. Meanwhile, Houston sits two back of Houston and one back of Baltimore, but also just one up in the AFC South. Both teams need this win, but Houston likely needs it more.

Vikings at Seahawks: The two NFC wild card teams are also firmly in the mix in their respective divisions. A Seahawks win offers some life to the Rams and Bears in the wild card race, while a Vikings win leaves the Rams and Bears likely coming up short in the playoff race.

Raiders at Chiefs: A Chiefs win just about locks up the AFC West, while a Raiders win moves them into a tie and makes the final four weeks fascinating for both teams. If the Raiders lost, they could drop behind several teams in the wild card race.

Titans at Colts: This is a critical must-win game for both teams. The loser still has a decent shot at the playoffs, but would likely drop behind a sizable group of teams in the wild card race. With Houston hosting New England, the winner stands a good chance of moving into a tie atop the AFC South.

“Elimination” games

The Dolphins, Washington, Giants, and Cardinals can all be officially eliminated from playoff content with losses. There are a host of other games featuring teams badly in need of a win. Losing won’t eliminate certain teams, but they are still quasi-elimination games.

Given the number of 6-5 teams in the AFC wild card race, there are few formal elimination games for both teams involved. Instead, the 4-7 Jaguars and 4-7 Chargers would be looking forward to golfing with a loss in Week 13. Arguably the most important game might be Browns-Steelers. If Cleveland loses, they are just about out of the playoff picture. If the Steelers lose, it lofts Cleveland into a tie with 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: 10-1 — @ Texans
2. Baltimore Ravens: 9-2 — vs. 49ers
3. Houston Texans: 7-4 — vs. Patriots
4. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-4 — vs. Raiders
5. Buffalo Bills: 9-3 — beat Cowboys 26-15
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-5 — vs. Browns

In the hunt: Oakland Raiders (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Tennessee Titans (6-5), Cleveland Browns (5-6), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7), Los Angeles Chargers (4-7), New York Jets (4-7)

49ers (10-1) @ Ravens (9-2)
Titans (6-5) @ Colts (6-5)
Browns (5-6) @ Steelers (6-5)
Raiders (6-5) @ Chiefs (7-4)
Patriots (10-1) @ Texans (7-4)

NFC playoff picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 10-1 — @ Ravens
2. New Orleans Saints: 10-2 — beat Falcons 26-18
3. Green Bay Packers: 8-3 — @ Giants
4. Dallas Cowboys: 6-6 — lost to Bills 26-15
5. Seattle Seahawks: 9-2 — vs. Vikings
6. Minnesota Vikings: 8-3 — @ Seahawks

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (6-5), Chicago Bears (6-6), Philadelphia Eagles (5-6), Carolina Panthers (5-6)

49ers (10-1) @ Ravens (9-2)
Vikings (8-3) @ Seahawks (9-2)