The Packers, Ravens, Bucs and Patriots took positive steps towards punching their tickets for a berth in the playoffs Sunday. All are in first place with six games left after posting victories.
Meanwhile, the Rams, Colts, Vikings and Chargers all lost and may wind up settling for battling for a wild-card berth.
The 8-4 Titans lost at New England but stayed two games ahead of the Colts, who lost to the Bucs. The Bucs at 8-3 remained three games ahead of the Falcons, who beat the Jaguars. And two teams with byes, 9-2 Arizona with the best record in the NFL and the 7-4 Chiefs, remained in first place.
The Packers boosted their record to 9-3 and extended their lead to three games over the Vikings, who lost to the 49ers. The 49ers are in the wild card race at 6-5. The Vikings at 5-6 are also in wild-card race.
—Leonard Fournette scored four touchdowns in the Bucs victory over the Colts that kept them a game back of Arizona in the battle for the NFC bye.
—The Patriots are the hottest team in the league as they posted their sixth victory in a row with the triumph over the Titans. They now play the Bills twice down the stretch to determine if they will win the division title. They play the Bills on Monday night and the day after Christmas. The Pats are 8-4 and the Bills are 7-4.
—The Chargers fell a game behind Kansas City at 6-5 with loss to Denver. The Chargers, Broncos and Raiders are all tied at 6-5, a game back of the Chiefs.
—Washington’s victory over the Seahawks Monday night moved them within two games of the Cowboys in their division despite their losing record.
—The Rams went all in to win the Super Bowl this year but suffered their third loss in a row when they lost to the Packers. They’re 7-4 in second place in their division, two games back of the Cardinals and just a game ahead of the 49ers. They figure to beat the 2-9 Jaguars this week, but may have to settle for a wild card spot if Arizona doesn’t stumble.
—Cincinnati routed the Steelers and are a game back of the Ravens at 7-4. The Steelers are 5-5-1 and not looking like a contender.
—Although the Ravens are only a game ahead of Cincinnati at 8-3 after beating the Browns, they have the best record in the AFC. The critical loss dropped the Browns to 6-6 and they are now battling for a wild card spot. If they had beaten the Ravens, they would have been a game out of first place. Now they are three back.
—The NFC race is so wild that Washington’s third straight win over Seattle made them one of four teams at 5-6 battling for the final NFC playoff spot. The other three are Saints, Falcons and Vikings with Washington currently having the tie breaker. Washington is also now just two games behind the Cowboys in their division.
—So unless one of the 5-6 teams finishes 4-2, a team with a losing record at 8-9 will get the seventh NFC playoff spot. That is the downside of having seven teams in each conference in the playoffs.
—So with six games left, there is one two-loss team (Arizona), three three-loss teams (Packers, Bucs and Ravens), seven four-loss teams, five five-loss teams and six-six loss teams. That means 11 teams with two, three or four losses have the inside track on the 14 playoff spots and if all 11 make it, three of the 11 teams with five and six losses will have to fight for the final three slots. The 10 teams with seven or more losses are the longest of long shots.