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NFL playoff picture after Week 13 games / Sunday’s Best

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports / AP)   —-    Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 13’s Sunday action.

NFC
1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2):
NFC North leader. A superior strength of victory tiebreaker moves them into the top spot over Philly. Extend their win streak to nine next weekend, and the Vikes will officially be crowned division champions.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2): NFC East leader. Their loss Sunday night in Seattle was a reminder they’ve largely preyed on inferior competition, but they remain one win (or Dallas loss) from putting a bow on the division.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3): NFC West leader. Their first winning season since 2003 could also produce their first division title in that span.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-3): NFC South leader. A season sweep of Carolina effectively gives them a two-game lead over both the Panthers and Falcons.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Vanquishing the Eagles cements their playoff position and serves a reminder they’re still legitimate contenders. A better record in NFC games gives Seattle a higher seed than Carolina.

6. Carolina Panthers (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Costly loss in New Orleans. The good news is their next three are in Charlotte. The bad news is they’ll be hosting the Vikings, then the Packers, who may have Aaron Rodgers back.

In the hunt: Atlanta Falcons (7-5), Detroit Lions (6-6), Dallas Cowboys (6-6), Green Bay Packers (6-6), Arizona Cardinals (5-7), Washington Redskins (5-7)

AFC
1. New England Patriots (10-2):
 AFC East leader. After extending their winning streak to eight, they now own 15 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. One more win will mean a ninth division title in a row.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2): AFC North leader. Beat the Bengals on Monday, and they reclaim the top seed — barely — based on the strength of victory tiebreaker … and move closer to the Week 15 showdown with New England that will really matter.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-4): AFC South leader. They continue to appear less imposing than Jacksonville, which shares first place in the division. But the Titans’ Week 2 win over the Jags confers the tiebreaker … for now.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): AFC West leader. A 2-1 record in division games is the only thing keeping them nominally ahead of the Chargers and Raiders at the moment despite a three-way tie.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): Wild card No. 1. To remain on course for a Week 17 battle for the AFC South in Nashville, the Jags must pass stern test against Seattle next week.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Next Sunday night, they’re in Pittsburgh. A loss to the arch rival Steelers would be a serious setback, especially with the Raiders and Chargers back from the dead. But Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-27.

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (6-6), Los Angeles Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

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SCOREBOARD

Monday, Dec. 4

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. EST. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the AFC North-leading Steelers (9-2) bring a six-game winning streak to division rival Cincinnati (5-6), which has won two straight to get back into playoff contention. The Steelers won the previous meeting between the teams, 29-14 in Week 7. Despite the Steelers’ multitude of weapons on offense, they have been inconsistent at times and are just 13th in the league in points per game. The Bengals’ defense is allowing 19.5 points per game, 10th in the league. Cincinnati’s two straight wins came against reeling Denver and Cleveland, and the Bengals have not beaten a team that currently has a winning record. However, they have not lost at home since Week 2.

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STARS

Passing

—Alex Smith, Chiefs, went 19 for 33 for 366 yards and four touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 38-31 loss to the Jets.

—Philip Rivers, Chargers, completed 31 of 43 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown as Los Angeles beat winless Cleveland, 19-10.

—Russell Wilson, Seahawks, was 20 of 31 for 227 and three touchdown in Seattle’s 24-10 home victory over Philadelphia.

—Josh McCown, Jets, went 26 of 36 for 331 yards and a touchdown as New York beat Kansas City.

—Blake Bortles, Jaguars, completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards, with TD passes to Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole, in the Jaguars’ 30-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

—Joe Flacco, Ravens, had his best game of the season, completing 23 of 36 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns while guiding an offense that did not commit a turnover in Baltimore’s 44-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Rushing

—Kenyan Drake, Dolphins, ran for 120 yards on 23 carries — both career highs — and a touchdown in Miami’s 35-9 victory over the Denver Broncos.

—Jamaal Williams, Packers, had 21 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s 26-20 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

—Derrick Henry, Titans, rushed for 109 yards on just 11 carries and had a touchdown in the Titans’ 24-13 win over the Houston Texans.

—Marshawn Lynch, Raiders, had his first 100-yard game since coming out of retirement, gaining 101 yards on 17 carries — including a 51-yard touchdown run — in Oakland’s 24-17 win over the New York Giants.

—Alvin Kamara, Saints, ran for 60 yards and two tackle-shedding touchdowns and caught five passes for 66 yards in the Saints’ 31-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Teammate Mark Ingram ran for 85 yards, doing most of his damage on a 72-yard run early in the second quarter. Two plays later, he scored from 3 yards.

—Todd Gurley, Rams, carried 19 times for 74 yards and caught six passes for 84 yards in Los Angeles’ 32-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Receiving

—Tyreek Hill, Chiefs, caught six passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder, in Kansas City’s 38-31 loss to the New York Jets.

—Jermaine Kearse, Jets, had nine receptions for 157 yards in New York’s win over Kansas City, and teammate Robby Anderson caught eight passes for 107 yards.

—Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, had his best game of the season with nine catches for 147 yards in New England’s 23-3 win over the Buffalo Bills.

—Mike Wallace, Ravens, went over 100 yards for the second time this season, with five catches for 116 yards in the Ravens’ 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions.

—Keenan Allen, Chargers, had 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in his third straight big game for surging Los Angeles, which beat the winless Cleveland Browns 19-10.

Special Teams

—Robbie Gould, 49ers, made all five field-goal attempts — none longer than 35 yards — including the winning, 24-yarder in the closing seconds as San Francisco beat his former team, the Chicago Bears, 15-14. Gould, cut by Chicago prior to the 2016 opener, pumped his right arm and screamed at the Bears on the sideline after his final kick.

—Greg Zuerlein, Rams, was 4 for 4 on field goals, including a 56-yarder, in Los Angeles’ 32-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Zuerlein did miss an extra point.

—Justin Tucker, Ravens, made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a key 51-yarder in the fourth quarter of Baltimore’s 44-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

—Michael Brockers, Rams, blocked Phil Dawson’s try for a 45-yard field goal that would have cut Los Angeles’ lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams also blocked an extra point in their 32-16 victory, and Pharoh Cooper had a 30-yard punt return to set up a touchdown.

Defense

— Xavien Howard, Dolphins, returned an interception for a touchdown, the first interception by a Miami outside cornerback this season, and had another interception that set up a fourth-quarter TD in Miami’s 35-9 win over the Denver Broncos. The Dolphins also had two safeties, a first in franchise history.

—Eric Weddle, Ravens, had a strip-sack of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford that led to a touchdown, and later returned an interception for a touchdown against backup Jake Rudock. Baltimore forced three turnovers to extend its league-leading total to 29 in the 44-20 victory over the Lions.

—Clay Matthews, Packers, had 2 1-2 sacks, Kenny Clark added two sacks, and Green Bay sacked Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston seven times overall in a 26-20 overtime victory over the Buccaneers.

—The Vikings held Matt Ryan without a touchdown pass for the first time in 30 games, and Julio Jones had just two catches for 24 yards. Minnesota also kept Atlanta out of the end zone on the way to a 14-9 victory.

—Alex Ogletree, Rams, intercepted the Cardinals’ Blaine Gabbert and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Los Angeles’ 32-16 victory. Ogletree did a head-first flip into the end zone and left the game shortly thereafter with an elbow injury, but he said he did not get hurt on the flip.

STREAKS & STATS

Chargers receiver Keenan Allen became the first player in league history to have 10 or more catches, 100 or more yards and one or more touchdowns in three consecutive games. … A 70-yard run by the Chiefs’ Alex Smith was the longest by a quarterback this season. Smith also became the first player since the 1970 merger to have a 70-yard run and a pass of 70 or more yards (79 to Tyreek Hill) in the same game. Carolina’s Cam Newton had a 69-yard run earlier this year. … Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 248 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, the fifth straight game in which they totaled at least 200 scrimmage yards.

REMEMBER WHEN?

The AFC West didn’t look like it would be all that competitive when the Chiefs started the season 5-0, and if any team appeared capable of a challenge, it wasn’t the Los Angeles Chargers, who began 0-4. But Kansas City has since dropped six of seven, including Sunday’s undisciplined 38-31 loss to the Jets, and LA has won six of eight after beating the Browns 19-10. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders improved to 6-6 with a win over the New York Giants, creating a three-way tie atop the division.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Tom Brady continued his career-long dominance of the Buffalo Bills, and he didn’t even need to throw a touchdown pass to do it. Brady went 21 of 30 for 258 yards and an interception in New England’s 23-3 victory. He improved to 27-3 against Buffalo and broke Brett Favre’s record for wins by a quarterback against any one opponent. New England never trailed, and Brady was content to hand off in the second half and let the Patriots’ rejuvenated rushing attack wear down the Bills. Nearly always comfortable at Orchard Park, New York, New England has been good everywhere on the road, winning 14 consecutive away games — the second-longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots also reached double digits in victories for the 15th consecutive season.

OFFENSIVE AWAKENING

The Ravens came into their game against the Lions with the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense, but were efficient on Sunday, with Joe Flacco directing three scoring drives in the second quarter and three more in the fourth quarter of a 44-20 victory.

Flacco threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns and was not intercepted. Mike Wallace caught five passes for 116 yards, going over 100 for the second time this season, and Alex Collins ran 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Baltimore gained 370 yards to Detroit’s 372, but much of the Lions’ offense came with Detroit in a big hole. Baltimore’s opportunistic defense did its part, too, forcing three turnovers, including Eric Weddle’s interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Justin Tucker, ranked the league’s top kicker in positional rankings released Friday by The Associated Press, was 3 for 3 on field goals, including a 51-yarder that gave the Ravens a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

TWO FOR TWO

The Dolphins had two safeties in a game for the first time in franchise history in their 35-9 win over Denver, both of them on mistakes by the free-falling Broncos that could increase the heat on embattled first-year coach Vance Joseph. Miami took a 2-0 lead when the Broncos botched a third-down play at their 5. Matt Paradis’ high snap deflected off Siemian’s hands, and the ball squirted out of the back of the end zone. Joseph would not commit to Siemian remaining as the team’s starter next week. In the fourth quarter, Denver’s Isaiah McKenzie fumbled on a punt return and recovered in his end zone for another safety.

MILESTONES

New England’s Tom Brady got his 27th win over Buffalo, breaking Brett Favre’s record for wins by a quarterback against a single opponent. Favre beat Detroit 26 times. Brady also became the fourth player in league history to surpass 65,000 passing yards, joining Peyton Manning, Favre and Drew Brees. … New England won its 10th game for the 15th consecutive season, the second-longest streak in league history. San Francisco had at least 10 wins in 16 straight seasons from 1983-1998. … Saints quarterback Brees has 6,127 career completions, surpassing Manning for second place all-time. Favre leads with 6,300 career completions. … Saints rookie Alvin Kamara has 614 receiving yards and 606 rushing yards this season, joining Charley Taylor (1964) and Billy Sims (1980) as the only rookies to have at least 600 yards rushing and receiving. … Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches and became the third player in league history with more than 1,200 career receptions, joining Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez. He reached the milestone in his 214th game, faster than either Rice or Gonzalez. Fitzgerald also passed Isaac Bruce for fourth place all-time in receiving yards with 15,267.

SIDELINED

Jimmy Smith, the top cornerback on the Ravens’ dominant defense, tore his Achilles tendon on a non-contact play in Baltimore’s 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions and will miss the rest of the season, coach John Harbaugh said. … Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford left with a bruised and bloodied right hand after it was stepped on, but X-rays were negative. … Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor hurt his left knee on the opening series of Buffalo’s 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots. He played through the injury before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter, and was limping heavily in the locker room. He did not speak to reporters but nodded his head “Yes” when asked if he was OK. … Bills tight end Tre’Davious White was being evaluated for a concussion after he was struck by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski while lying on the ground. Gronkowski apologized for the hit after the game. … The Houston Texans suffered several injuries, with tight end C.J. Fiederowicz being evaluated for a concussion. Receiver Braxton Miller and running back Alfred Blue also suffered concussions. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was ruled out just after halftime with an injured shoulder. Receiver Bruce Ellington also couldn’t finish against Tennessee with an injured hamstring. … Vikings tight end David Morgan went out in the first quarter against Atlanta with a concussion. Falcons guard Andy Levitre sustained a triceps injury in the first quarter and didn’t return.

SPEAKING

“That’s just dirty football. There’s nowhere in our game for that. I don’t know if it was a shoulder, elbow. I’m not sure what it was. That was dirty.” — Bills safety Micah Hyde after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski struck Tre’Davious White, who was lying on the ground after intercepting Tom Brady.

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“I’m not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White. I don’t really believe in those type of shots.” — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski after he struck White while the player was lying on the ground.

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