In the AFC, you can have a winning record with four weeks left in the regular season and still be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

A good team or three likely will miss the postseason.

It's the opposite in the other conference. While the AFC has six teams at 7-6 all fighting for the final wild-card spots, the NFC has six teams at 6-7 all tied for the seventh-best record and the final playoff spot: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.

At the top of the conference, it appears likely that two teams from the NFC East -- the 10-3 Dallas Cowboys and 10-3 Philadelphia Eagles -- will make the playoffs, one as the division winner and the other as the top wild-card team. The 10-3 San Francisco 49ers have already clinched a playoff spot and look like they're on cruise control to the West title.

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In the North, the 9-4 Detroit Lions have a two-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings, who are the lone 7-6 team in the NFC and would currently be the No. 6 seed.

The South has three 6-7 teams: the Buccaneers, Falcons and Saints. One will win the division and a spot in the postseason, with Tampa Bay currently holding the tiebreaker.

The others are in a gaggle fighting for the final wild-card spot, which, based on tiebreakers, would currently go to the Packers.

With all that in mind, here's a look at the six 6-7 teams, in order of their current conference rank for the NFC's seven playoff spots.


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Current division rank: 4 (as NFC South winner)

Chances of making the playoffs, per FPI: 43.0%

Remaining schedule: at Packers, vs. Jaguars, vs. Saints, at Panthers

Why they might make the playoffs: They've been here before, quite literally. They were 6-7 in Week 14 last season, they won the NFC South two years in a row, and they've been to the playoffs the past three seasons. The offense is ascending, thanks to a ground game that is finally turning the corner with running backs Rachaad White and Chase Edmonds. The hope is teams will start accounting for that and give wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin more room to operate downfield. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is also having a career season.

Why they might not make the playoffs: They're still having issues with consistency, especially on defense. They'll make key stops at the goal line and force turnovers, but then they'll have huge gaffes like last week, when Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts scored a 36-yard touchdown or when they had only nine defenders on the field on Bijan Robinson's 3-yard score. They've had injuries on defense, but attention to detail remains an issue. -- Jenna Laine


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Current division rank: 7

Chances of making the playoffs: 48.5%

Remaining schedule: vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, at Vikings, vs. Bears

Why they might make the playoffs: The schedule and the quarterback. The Vikings game is the only one remaining game against a team with a winning record, and they're a mess at quarterback. Before Monday night's loss to the Giants, quarterback Jordan Love had found a groove. Try to blitz him, and he'd pick it apart. He has the second-best QBR in the league against the blitz -- behind only Dallas' Dak Prescott -- and he should get perhaps his most dynamic player back when running back Aaron Jones returns, possibly this week, from a knee injury.

Why they might not make the playoffs: The running game -- as in not being able to stop it. They've allowed four teams to rush for more than 200 yards in a game, most recently the Giants. And it's not just running backs who have hurt them (see quarterback DeVito, Tommy). If it comes down to the season finale, could they stop the Bears' Justin Fields from hurting them with his feet like he has done before? There's also concern about the Packers' banged-up receiving corps. Christian Watson, Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks (three of their top four receivers) are dealing with injuries. -- Rob Demovsky

The availability of Rams QB Matthew Stafford (left) and Seahawks QB Geno Smith has had a notable impact on their playoff chances. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Current division rank: 8

Chances of making the playoffs: 41.4%

Remaining schedule: vs. Commanders, vs. Saints, at Giants, at 49ers

Why they might make the playoffs: The Rams look like a different team since their Week 10 bye. Quarterback Matthew Stafford returned from a thumb injury and is playing his best football of the season. Los Angeles is averaging 34.6 points per game in its past three games, victories over the Cardinals and Browns and a loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. The Rams also have only one game remaining against a team with a winning record: Week 18 against the 49ers.

Strength of schedule*

TeamSOS PlayedSOS LeftRams4th19thBuccaneers16th20thSeahawks2nd21stSaints31st25thFalcons32nd27thPackers21st31st*1st is hardest, 32nd easiest

Why they might not make the playoffs: While the defense has no doubt kept the Rams in several games and shown a lot of improvement since the start of the season, it may be the reason they can't close out games and make the playoffs. Against a high-powered Ravens offense in Week 14, they showed there's still improvement to make, allowing two touchdowns of more than 45 yards. The Rams chose to surround tackle Aaron Donald with a young defense, and while they've had several rookies play important roles, the unit's inexperience could be the Rams' downfall. -- Sarah Barshop

Current division rank: 9

Chances of making the playoffs: 25.7%

Remaining schedule: vs. Eagles, at Titans, vs. Steelers, at Cardinals

Why they might make the playoffs: It's got more to do with the wide-open wild-card race than anything the Seahawks have done over the past month. Despite losing four straight, they have the same record as the current No. 7 seed (Green Bay) and are only one win behind the No. 6 seed (Minnesota). Three of their recent losses were against two of the NFC's best teams, the 49ers (twice) and Cowboys. Even with another tough matchup Monday night against the Eagles (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN), their remaining schedule is manageable (12th easiest).

Why they might not make the playoffs: Did I mention they've lost four straight? One was to the Rams, who also beat the Seahawks in the opener and thus would own a two-way tiebreaker over Seattle. While they nearly upset the Cowboys in Arlington and had a fourth-quarter lead over the Rams, the Seahawks are not doing much of anything consistently well, which means even their regular-season finale against the Cardinals doesn't look like a gimme. Plus, they could be without starting quarterback Geno Smith for one more game because of his groin injury. -- Brady Henderson


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Current division rank: 10

Chances of making the playoffs: 37.0%

Remaining schedule: at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

Why they might make the playoffs: Someone from the NFC South has to. That's part of the calculus here, but on the field, Atlanta's defense has largely played well and the Falcons have a top-six running game. If Atlanta can lean into those two avenues and find a way to unlock consistent performances from quarterback Desmond Ridder, the talent is there to reach the postseason.

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Why they might not make the playoffs: Inconsistency. Atlanta has yet to win three straight games in a season since Arthur Smith took over as coach in 2021, and watching the Falcons is like being on a roller coaster. The highs are really high. The lows are shake-your-head low. And that type of inconsistency can be magnified -- for the young quarterback and the team as a whole -- as each game hits a higher level of importance. -- Michael Rothstein

Current division rank: 11

Chances of making the playoffs: 39.3%

Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, at Rams, at Buccaneers, vs. Falcons

Why they might make the playoffs: The Saints don't have any teams with winning records left on their schedule, and they'll get a mini-bye before their final games against the Bucs and Falcons after a Thursday night game in Week 16. They'll also be eligible to get receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Marshon Lattimore back from injured reserve before those two games. Receiver Rashid Shaheed also returned to practice this week. Getting some players healthy could allow them to make a stretch run.

Why they might not make the playoffs: The Saints have been wildly inconsistent on offense and have struggled to score in the red zone, even when more players were healthy. Defensively, they've had issues in stopping the run; they allowed 228 rushing yards the last time they played the Falcons, their Week 18 opponent. The Saints pulled away against the one-win Panthers last week, but their offensive struggles early in that game may not bode well for how New Orleans might fare against their final four teams. -- Katherine Terrell