Time for early look at NFL playoff picture

With Thanksgiving the appetizer, the dawn of December is when NFL fans really start to dig into the playoff picture. No teams have yet clinched a postseason berth but five could this weekend: the Broncos, Patriots, Ravens and Texans in the AFC, and the Falcons in the NFC — if they won Thursday night.

The current playoff picture, by conference, with the six projected qualifying teams and the team on the bubble based on percentile likelihood via computers, along with each team’s remaining home games and opponent record:


1. Texans (10-1): Likelihood 99.998 percent. Clinch playoffs Sunday with win or other results. Remaining opponents, .582. Home games left, 2.

2. Broncos (8-3): Likelihood 99.926 percent. Clinch division with win Sunday or San Diego loss. Opponents, .400. Home, 3.

3. Ravens (9-2): Likelihood 99.884 percent. Clinch playoffs with win Sunday or other results, clinch division with win or Cincinnati loss. Opponents, .582. Home, 3.

4. Patriots (8-3): Likelihood 97.1 percent. Clinch division with win Sunday. Opponents, .555. Home, 3.

5. Colts (7-4): Likelihood 84.1 percent. Opponents, .527. Home, 2.

6. Steelers (6-5): Likelihood 41.8 percent. Opponents, .491. Home, 3.

Bubble: Bengals (6-5): Likelihood 37.9 percent. Opponents, .491. Home, 2.

Note: Dolphins (5-6) are next with likelihood of 17.8 percent, opponent record of .555 and three home games left.


1. Falcons (10-1, entering Thursday night): Likelihood 99.878 percent. Could clinch playoffs with win Thursday and Seattle loss Sunday, or division with win plus Tampa Bay loss. Remaining opponents, .455. Home games left, 3.

2. 49ers (8-2-1): Likelihood 97.2 percent. Opponents, .500. Home, 2.

3. Bears (8-3): Likelihood 87.0 percent. Opponents, .491. Home, 2.

4. Giants (7-4): Likelihood 81.4 percent. Opponents, .582. Home, 2.

5. Packers (7-4): Likelihood 68.5 percent. Opponents, .509. Home, 3.

6. Seahawks (6-5): Likelihood 39.4 percent. Opponents, .527. Home, 3.

Bubble: Vikings (6-5): Likelihood 34.0 percent. Opponents, .664. Home, 2.

Scatter-shooting the league:

• Dolphins in updated Pro Bowl voting: Tackle Jake Long continues to lead but has fallen into a virtual tie for first with Ravens’ Michael Oher. Punter Brandon Fields’ lead is stronger. Others in top five: DE Cameron Wake (third) and DT Randy Starks (fifth).

• Bears’ Brandon Marshall is fifth receiver to have a 1,000-yard season with three different teams. The others: Irving Fryar, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Tony Martin. (Yes, Tony Martin.)

• Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins became fourth rookie to return two interceptions for TDs in a game, but first since Bobby Franklin in 1960. (The 50 INT scores league-wide are most ever at this point.)

• Texan Andre Johnson’s 461 catch yards the past two games are most ever in two-game stretch, topping previous mark of 450 by Chad Johnson in 2006.

• Lions’ Calvin Johnson is near pace (1,829) to challenge Jerry Rice’s enduring 1995 league record of 1,848 receiving yards.

• Take heart, Dolfans. Fifteen teams since 1990 have made playoffs after being 5-6 at this point. But don’t take too much heart. Patriots have won 11 consecutive December games.

• Updated Super Bowl odds via Bovada have Texans and Patriots deadlocked at 9-2, with 49ers 5-1 and Broncos 11-2.

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