NFL playoff picture: Steelers' loss costs them wild-card spot, moves Texans into field

Every week for the duration of the 2023 NFL regular season, USA TODAY Sports will provide real-time updates to the league's ever-evolving playoff picture − starting after Sunday afternoon's late games and then moving forward for the remainder of the week (through Thursday's game or Saturday's, if applicable).

What just happened? What does it mean? What are the pertinent factors (and, perhaps, tiebreakers) prominently in play as each conference's seven-team bracket begins to crystallize? All will be explained and analyzed up to the point when the postseason field is finalized on Sunday night, Jan. 7.

Here's where things stand with Week 14 of the 2023 season underway:

AFC playoff picture

1. Miami Dolphins (9-3), AFC East leaders: Another blowout of a bad team Sunday, the Fins crushing the Washington Commanders 45-15. But that win moved them atop the conference standings, Miami's record in AFC games (6-2) giving them the advantage over idle Baltimore. Remaining schedule: vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3), AFC North leaders: They're 6-3 against the AFC and – coming out of the bye week – soon to face some very tough conference opponents during a grueling stretch drive. Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), AFC West leaders: Had they won at Green Bay on Sunday night, then the reigning champs would have climbed atop the AFC ladder. Instead, the loss drops them here – though it's one spot better following the Jaguars' surprising loss. A 6-1 record in AFC games and wins over Miami and Jacksonville keep K.C. well positioned to play a sixth consecutive AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. None of the teams left on the schedule currently has a winning record. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4), AFC South leaders: Potentially a season-crippling Monday night loss to the Bengals – primarily due to the ankle injury suffered by QB Trevor Lawrence. Yet the Jags still had an opportunity to win in overtime, a victory that would have launched them to the top of the conference standings. But not to be. Suddenly worth wondering anew if they'll be able to hold off Houston as the divisional battle tightens anew. Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Ravens, at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, at Titans

5. Cleveland Browns (7-5), wild card No. 1: Their 39-38 win at Indianapolis in Week 7 continues to serve them well in the tiebreaker department. So did Pittsburgh's loss on Thursday night, one that bumped Cleveland up one spot. Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

6. Indianapolis Colts (7-5), wild card No. 2: An overtime escape in Nashville keeps them in the projected field ... and the upcoming schedule might ensure they don't drop out. Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans

7. Houston Texans (7-5), wild card No. 3: They've already lost to Indy and also have a worse divisional record than the Colts. However mounting issues in the AFC North seem to bode well for them. Houston waxed Pittsburgh earlier this year, so a tie with the Steelers would be advantageous – as was their loss Thursday night, one that vaulted the Texans into the final postseason slot. Remaining schedule: at Jets, at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans, at Colts

Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) is chased by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) in their Oct. 1 meeting, which was won by Houston.
Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) is chased by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) in their Oct. 1 meeting, which was won by Houston.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), out of playoff field: With consecutive losses to previously two-win teams, they probably don't deserve to advance to the playoffs at this point. But despite Thursday's setback to the Patriots, the Steelers don't need a ton of help to climb back into the bracket ... though staying there won't be easy considering their remaining opponents. Remaining schedule: at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

9. Denver Broncos (6-6), out of playoff field: Their five-game heater came to an end in Houston, where they also lost a key tiebreaker. At least Denver has already beaten Buffalo ... and should be equipped to handle most of its remaining opponents. Remaining schedule: at Chargers, at Lions, vs. Patriots, vs. Chargers, at Raiders

10. Cincinnati Bengals (6-6), out of playoff field: QB Jake Browning's impressive performance Monday night has restored them to the fringes of relevance ... though a 2-6 record in conference matchups will be tough to overcome. Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, vs. Vikings, at Steelers, at Chiefs, vs. Browns

11. Buffalo Bills (6-6), out of playoff field: Even the bye week felt like a loss, what with the legal issues now attached to OLB Von Miller. Not the way you want to start the upcoming doubleheader against Kansas City and Dallas. Not only that, losses to Denver and Cincinnati drop them further down the pecking order. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Cowboys, at Chargers, vs. Patriots, at Dolphins

NFC playoff picture

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2), NFC East leaders: They still own the best record in the league, but Sunday's convincing loss to the Niners could leave them exposed − starting with the head-to-head tiebreaker ceded to San Francisco. But even more concerning? A loss at Dallas in Week 14 will knock Philly out of first place in the division and well down the conference ladder. However a victory paired with a loss by either Seattle or the Rams will secure a postseason spot for the Eagles, who also have more complicated clinching scenarios this week. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3), NFC West leaders: Sunday's resounding win at Lincoln Financial Field puts them squarely in the chase for home-field advantage and a first-round bye, the Niners now merely having to match the Eagles' regular-season record. San Francisco's superior record (7-1) in NFC games also keeps the team ahead of the Lions. A win over Seattle plus a loss by either Green Bay or Minnesota will ensure at least a wild card for the 49ers. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

3. Detroit Lions (9-3), NFC North leaders: They hung on to win in New Orleans on Sunday, increasing their margin for error ahead of second-place Minnesota in the divisional race. And the Lions continue to quietly lurk behind the teams juuust ahead of them. Remaining schedule: at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, at Cowboys, vs. Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons (6-6), NFC South leaders: They outlasted the Jets and opened up a one-game lead in the division thanks to New Orleans' loss. A 3-0 record in NFC South games also gives Atlanta a meaningful advantage at this juncture. Remaining schedule: vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

5. Dallas Cowboys (9-3), wild card No. 1: First place in the NFC East is now in sight. They won their 14th consecutive home game in Week 13, outlasting Seattle 41-35. Dallas solidified its hold on its current position – which will likely afford a matchup with a not-so-daunting NFC South champ in the wild-card round. Yet Philadelphia's loss means the Cowboys can claim first place in their division by beating the Eagles on Sunday night – and that would mean playing at least one postseason game at home for a team that's excelled at AT&T Stadium. A win combined with several convoluted combinations of other teams losing would secure a playoff spot for Dallas as early as this week. Remaining schedule: vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6), wild card No. 2: They could still make a run at the NFC North given both dates with Detroit are ahead. But Minnesota needs to come back from its bye prepared to deal with a bevy of teams ready to challenge for this spot. Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

7. Green Bay Packers (6-6), wild card No. 3: They took out the Chiefs on Sunday night – with some help from the officials? – to jump into the final playoff spot, which started Sunday in Seattle and was temporarily held by the Rams before the Pack swiped it. Green Bay's Week 9 win over Matthew Stafford-less LA is decisive at this point in time. Remaining schedule: at Giants, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, at Vikings, vs. Bears

8. Los Angeles Rams (6-6), out of playoff field: They beat Cleveland on Sunday – a win that tied LA with Seattle (6-6), a team the Rams have already swept and consequently overtook. The loss at Lambeau Field earlier this year could haunt them until the bitter end. Remaining schedule: at Ravens, vs. Commanders, vs. Saints, at Giants, at 49ers

9. Seattle Seahawks (6-6), out of playoff field: That's four defeats in their past five outings following the heartbreaker at Dallas. Dropping both games to the Rams could be a lingering issue. And the schedule only gets tougher the next two weeks for Seattle, which may be in an unrecoverable nosedive. Remaining schedule: at 49ers, vs. Eagles, at Titans, vs. Steelers, at Cardinals

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7), out of playoff field: They're in the wild-card chase but probably a bigger factor in the NFC South race, just a game behind Atlanta. Remaining schedule: at Falcons, at Packers, vs. Jaguars, vs. Saints, at Panthers

11. New Orleans Saints (5-7), out of playoff field: They're in the wild-card chase but probably a bigger factor in the NFC South race, just a game behind Atlanta. Schedule ain't bad ... though QB Derek Carr's mounting injuries certainly appear to be. Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers, vs. Giants, at Rams, at Buccaneers, vs. Falcons


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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL playoff picture: Steelers lose to Patriots, Texans now wild card