Nine down, five to go.
That’s the way the playoff picture looks after the Los Angeles Chargers became the ninth team to clinch a playoff spot Monday night when they beat the Indianapolis Colts to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and the first time in the Justin Herbert era.
Five teams are now guaranteed spots in the AFC playoffs. The sixth spot will go to the winner of the AFC South, which will decided in the final weekend of the season when the Jaguars play the Titans. Both teams are 7-8.
The seventh spot will go to the final wild card team. The Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Raiders and Steelers are all fighting for that spot but Miami suffered a blow when Tua Tagovailoa suffered his third concussion of the season. His status is listed as uncertain for the Patriots game but it is difficult to believe the Dolphins will risk his health by putting him back on the field so their playoff hopes are in the hands of Teddy Bridgewater.
Three teams — Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati — are all battling for the top seed. Buffalo can clinch by winning its final two games Cincinnati and Baltimore are still battling for the AFC North title. One will win it and the other will be a wild team. The Bengals are currently 11-4 while the Ravens are 10-5. The Ravens can winthe division but are out of the winning for the top seed. Buffalo and Kansas City have clinched division spots.
In the NFC, Philadelphia failed to clinch the top seed when it lost to Dallas, but still needs to win only one of its last two games to wrap it up and will be favored to do it against the Saints in their next game.
Minnesota and San Francisco have clinched division titles and Tampa Bay can clinch by beating the 6-9 Panthers. The Panthers can still win the division if they beat the Bucs and Saints in their last two games. The Panthers ran for 320 yards to beat the Lions to stay alive.
Dallas has clinched one wild card spot but the other two are up for grabs. The Giants at 8-6-1 and the Commanders at 7-7-1 currently have the two spots but the 7-8 Packers, Lions and Seahawks and the 6-9 Panthers and Saints are still alive.
The Rams-Broncos game was not expected to be significant since both teams were eliminated but when the Broncos were routed 51-14, the new owners had seen enough and fired Nathanial Hackett.