The 2017 NFL regular season has reached its home stretch, with each team down to its final five games. The top two seeds in each conference are establishing their position. Below them, the race for the four or five remaining playoff spots is competitive with the contenders sporting similar records. And if any of those teams falter, another four to five teams are in position to take those spots.

With that in mind, let’s break down the playoff picture following Week 12 action.

AFC right now
1. Steelers (9-2)
2. Patriots (9-2)
3. Titans (7-4)
4. Chiefs (6-5)
5. Jaguars (7-4)
6. Ravens (6-5)
7. Bills (6-5)
8. Bengals (5-6)
8. Chargers (5-6)
8. Raiders (5-6)
8. Texans (5-6)

The Steelers and Patriots continue to be on a collision course for Week 15 at Heinz Field, which even Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is prepared to admit will likely decide who hosts the AFC championship game.

The other two division leaders, Tennessee and Kansas City, are pretenders just trying to hold on for dear life. The Jaguars, Chargers and Raiders are giving chase in those divisions, but also competing for wild-card spots. Jacksonville has an obvious edge, and the Bolts could be a sleeper because they’re red hot and have an easy closing schedule. Baltimore has the tiebreaker edge over slumping Buffalo and a one-game lead on Cincinnati, Oakland and LA.

AFC projection
1. Patriots (14-2)
2. Steelers (13-3)
3. Titans (10-6)
4. Chiefs (9-7)
5. Jaguars (10-6)
6. Ravens (9-7)
7. Chargers (9-7)
8. Bills (8-8)

The Ravens might hold off the Chargers because they’re likely to have the conference record tiebreaker, which would be a shame because most of us would probably prefer to see them in the playoffs. Titans-Jaguars is a toss-up that’ll likely come down to their Week 17 matchup, but both teams should get in regardless.

That could also be the case with Chargers-Chiefs in the AFC West, which is again a shame because Los Angeles would be a more entertaining playoff team considering the state of the Chiefs. And I ultimately think the Pats will be too much for the less consistent Steelers.

NFC right now
1. Eagles (10-1)
2. Vikings (9-2)
3. Rams (8-3)
4. Saints (8-3)
5. Panthers (8-3)
6. Falcons (7-4)
7. Seahawks (7-4)
8. Lions (6-5)
9. Packers (5-6)
9. Cowboys (5-6)
9. Redskins (5-6)
9. Cardinals (5-6)

Philadelphia continues to roll, but Minnesota has now separated itself from the rest of the pack with a victory over Los Angeles in Week 11 and an LA victory over New Orleans in Week 12. There’s a good chance those teams finish 1-2 in the conference as the Rams and Saints focus on fending off the Seahawks, Panthers and Falcons in their respective divisions.

The Lions and everyone below them are longshots, and banged-up Seattle has a clear disadvantage as well. In other words, it wouldn’t be surprising if these exact six teams wound up in the NFC playoffs.

NFC projection
1. Eagles (13-3)
2. Vikings (12-4)
3. Saints (12-4)
4. Rams (10-6)
5. Panthers (10-6)
6. Falcons (10-6)
7. Seahawks (10-6)

And that’s exactly how I see it. I still have a feeling the Rams will slip up, but not enough to blow the NFC West considering the state of the Seahawks. Minnesota isn’t in Philly’s league, New Orleans isn’t in Minnesota’s league, the Rams aren’t as good as the rest of the NFC division leaders and the Panthers, Falcons and Seahawks aren’t cut out to leapfrog the teams leading the NFC South or West.

This might make for a boring last couple weeks, but a lot of these teams play each other before then, and it’ll make for a very intriguing January.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.