With the final month of the NFL Regular Season approaching, the make up of the play-offs is starting to become clear.
The Ravens and Patriots look the two teams to beat in the AFC, although the Texans threw a spanner in the works with a win over New England, opening the door for the Buffalo Bills to pounce.
In the NFC, New Orleans have already clinched the South but the battle in the West between the Seahawks and 49ers for top spot will be one to watch in the final month.
The season started with 32 teams in contention but we have reduced that to 11 based on form and results with a further two teams still hanging around.
Here’s how the contenders and challengers are shaping up.
Baltimore Ravens (10-2)
A win over the 49ers meant the Ravens jumped New England, who they had previously beaten, for the top seed in the AFC. Three games ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North, Baltimore look a lock to win the division having negotiated a difficult month.
New England Patriots (10-2)
Losses to the Ravens and Texans in recent weeks have raised some doubts about the Patriots, but you can never bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The reigning Super Bowl Champions should still lock in a first-round bye come play-offs.
Houston Texans (8-4)
Houston overcame the might of New England to maintain top spot in the AFC South. The Texans have a slender one-game lead over the Tennessee Titans in their division.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
First in the AFC West, the Chiefs fell to the third seed Texans earlier in the season. The performances of quarterback Patrick Mahomes has come under question in recent weeks. He must return to form for the Chiefs to have any chance against the Patriots.
Buffalo Bills (9-3)
The Bills haven’t won a play-off game since the 1995 AFC Wild Card but are in prime position to give themselves another crack after losing the same contest last in 2017. They face a tough final month and need to keep the pressure on the Patriots in the AFC East.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Much of the commentary around the Steelers has been the choice of starting quarterback but Mike Tomlin seems to have guaranteed Devlin Hodges the position over Mason Rudolph for the rest of the season. Pittsburgh hold the wildcard spot over the Titans due to a better conference record.
New Orleans Saints (10-2)
The Saints locked in the division title with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, avenging their loss to the side that beat them in November. New Orleans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks and look primed for a deep play-off campaign.
Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
The Seahawks are one of the in-form sides in the NFL. They haven’t lost in five matches, and their two losses have come against the top seeds Ravens and Saints. They must keep winning to stay in touch with New Orleans.
Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Leaders in the NFC North, Green Bay were thumped by San Francisco two weeks ago but bounced back to defeat the Giants. The pivotal match in the last month is the clash with the Vikings, who sit only a game behind.
Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
The NFC East is easily the weakest in the league with America’s Team only sitting at .500. Dallas sit a game ahead of the Eagles but should they win the division they’ll be stuck with this seed given their losses to the Saints and Packers.
San Francisco 49ers (10-2)
It’s a big few weeks for the 49ers. They fell to the Ravens, meaning they dropped out of first place in the NFC West. This week they face the Saints and need to win to have any chance of playing at home in the play-offs.
Minnesota Vikings (8-4)
Minnesota hold the final wild-card spot for the moment but have the LA Rams breathing down their neck only a game behind. A win against the hapless Lions this week will help them enormously.
Still hanging around
Tennessee Titans (7-5)
The Titans beat other challenger the Colts to put them in the frame for a wildcard spot.
LA Rams (7-5)
Third in the NFC West, the strength of this division is on display with the Rams in prime position to pounce should the Vikings slip up.