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What Week 12 means for the 2021 NFL playoff picture

The Week 12 NFL schedule is loaded with playoff implications.

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens shakes hands with Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns after the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The NFL wrapped up the Thanksgiving triple-header and now it’s time for the Week 12 main course. It’s arguably the biggest week of the season to date with some huge matchups on the card. Jets-Texans and Falcons-Jaguars won’t exactly get many people fired up, but every other game on the card has modest to significant playoff implications. And even the Falcons can hang around the NFC picture with a win.

Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET slate features two huge AFC matchups. The 6-4 Bengals host the 5-4-1 Steelers with wild card and divisional positioning on the line. Baltimore is atop the division at 7-3, so the winner of this at worst maintains pace in a wide open AFC North. We also get the 7-4 Patriots hosting the 8-3 Titans. The Patriots will reclaim first place in the AFC East with a win, depending on various other results, could be the No. 1 seed in the AFC by the close of business on Sunday.

The later afternoon and evening schedules feature four games with implications across the board. The 5-5 Broncos host the 6-4 Chargers at 4:05 p.m. and both teams are hanging near the Chiefs while also maneuvering around the AFC wild card race. The NFL is then the focus at 4:25 p.m. with the 8-3 Packers hosting the 7-4 Rams and the 5-5 49ers hosting the 5-5 Vikings. That latter game features the sixth and seventh place teams in the NFC.

The day wraps up with a huge Sunday Night Football matchup featuring the AFC North. Baltimore is atop the division and Cleveland is in last place, but they are only separated by a game and a half. A Browns win would further tighten an already tight division.

AFC playoff picture

1. Tennessee Titans, 8-3
2. Baltimore Ravens, 7-3
3. Buffalo Bills, 7-4
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 7-4

5. New England Patriots, 7-4
6. Cincinnati Bengals, 6-4
7. Los Angeles Chargers, 6-4

Outside looking in: Pittsburgh Steelers, (5-4-1), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Las Vegas Raiders (6-5), Cleveland Browns (6-5), Denver Broncos (5-5)

Week 12 schedule

Steelers (5-4-1) @ Bengals (6-4)
Buccaneers (7-3) @ Colts (6-5)
Titans (8-3) @ Patriots (7-4)
Chargers (6-4) @ Broncos (5-5)
Browns (6-5) @ Ravens (7-3)

NFC playoff picture

1. Arizona Cardinals, 9-2
2. Green Bay Packers, 8-3
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-3
4. Dallas Cowboys, 7-4

5. Los Angeles Rams, 7-3
6. Minnesota Vikings, 5-5
7. San Francisco 49ers, 5-5

Outside looking in: Philadelphia Eagles (5-6), Carolina Panthers (5-6), New Orleans Saints (5-6), Washington Football Team (4-6), Atlanta Falcons (4-6), Chicago Bears (4-7), New York Giants (3-7), Seattle Seahawks (3-7)

Week 12 schedule

Buccaneers (7-3) @ Colts (6-5)
Panthers (5-6) @ Dolphins (4-7)
Eagles (5-6) @ Giants (3-7)
Falcons (4-6) @ Jaguars (2-8)
Rams (7-3) @ Packers (8-3)
Vikings (5-5) @ 49ers (5-5)
Seahawks (3-7) @ Washington (4-6)