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What Week 12 means for the 2020 NFL playoff picture

The playoff race continues to heat up as Thanksgiving approaches. We break down the implications of the Week 12 schedule.

DeForest Buckner of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Aaron Rogers of the Green Bay Packers during the game at Lambeau Field on October 15, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Week 12 1:00 p.m. recap

It was a slightly wild early slate of games. The big shocker saw the Jets thump the Raiders 34-3. The Steelers barely beat the Bengals and moved into the six seed for the time being. With the Colts also 6-5, the Titans 5-5 pending their game with Jacksonville, and the Browns at 5-6, the AFC wild card race is wide open.

In the NFC, the Saints escaped with a win over the Panthers and remain in position for a shot at a first round bye. Seattle beat Philadelphia, which further secures the Seahawks in the wild card race, pending the outcome of Packers-49ers. Meanwhile, Philly will hope the Patriots beat the Cowboys to keep the NFC East race at a one-game difference.

Welcome to Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season! We’ve got six weeks remaining on the regular season schedule and the playoff race is heating up in a big way. We had a huge AFC South matchup on Thursday Night Football with the Houston Texans holding off the Indianapolis Colts to take a one-game lead in the AFC South. There’s plenty of time left in the season, but Houston avoided a head-to-head sweep with Indianapolis.

This weekend we have a huge schedule of games. The AFC playoff picture was highlighted on Thursday, but Sunday brings big implications for the NFC. We get the Seahawks and Eagles squaring off at 1:00 p.m. and close out Sunday with the 49ers and Packers on Sunday Night Football.

We remain without any playoff clinching scenarios, but there are plenty of critical games. On the other side, Washington can be eliminated with a loss or Cowboys win.

Games of the Week

Packers at 49ers: These are the top two teams in the NFC right now, and the winner claims the No. 1 seed for the time being. This opens a particularly difficult stretch for the 49ers. Including the Packers, the 49ers next three opponents are all 8-2 right now (@ Ravens, @ Saints).

Seahawks at Eagles: These two teams are in second in their respective divisions. Seattle leads the wild card and is in pretty good shape there. Philadelphia is a game back of Dallas in the NFC East and 2.5 games back of the second wild card spot. Philly needs this more than Seattle for simply playoff purposes, but Seattle could climb into a tie with San Francisco if they win and the 49ers lose.

“Elimination” games

Washington can officially be from the playoffs with a loss or Dallas win, but they were not going to be getting into the playoffs this year even with a win. This week’s quasi-elimination game is Jaguars at Titans. This qualifies more for Jacksonville than Tennessee, but a loss for either is big with what would be five weeks remaining on the schedule. If the Jaguars lose, they drop three games back of Houston in the division (who swept them head-to-head), and potentially three games back of Oakland in the wild card race. If the Titans lose, they drop two games back of Houston and potentially two games back of Oakland.

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: 9-1 — vs. Cowboys
2. Baltimore Ravens: 8-2 — @ Rams
3. Houston Texans: 7-4 — @ Ravens
4. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-4 — BYE
5. Buffalo Bills: 7-3 — vs. Broncos
6. Oakland Raiders: 6-4 — @ Jets

In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5), Tennessee Titans (5-5), Cleveland Browns (4-6), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6), Los Angeles Chargers (4-7)

Jaguars (4-6) @ Titans (5-5)
Cowboys (6-4) @ Patriots (9-1)
Ravens (8-2) @ Rams (6-4)

NFC playoff picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 9-1 — vs. Packers
2. Green Bay Packers: 8-2 — @ 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints: 8-2 — vs. Panthers
4. Dallas Cowboys: 6-4 — @ Patriots
5. Seattle Seahawks: 8-2 — @ Eagles
6. Minnesota Vikings: 8-3 — BYE

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (6-4), Philadelphia Eagles (5-5), Carolina Panthers (5-5), Chicago Bears (4-6)

Packers (8-2) @ 49ers (9-1)
Panthers (5-5) @ Saints (8-2)
Seahawks (8-2) @ Eagles (5-5)
Cowboys (6-4) @ Patriots (9-1)
Ravens (8-2) @ Rams (6-4)