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By the Numbers: NFL playoff pictures muddled at outset of Week 15

Josh Allen Buffalo Bills Josh Allen - The Canadian Press

With four games left on the NFL schedule, 11 teams in both conferences either hold or are tied for one of the seven spots in the playoffs. 

For context: at this point in the season last year, nine teams in the AFC and eight in the NFC either occupied or were tied for a playoff spot. 

The AFC playoff picture has been severely complicated by injuries at the quarterback position: Six of the 11 teams in contention for a playoff spot have injury concerns to their signal caller, including one division leader.

AFC Playoff picture

Team Season Record Record in last five games Injury concern at QB?
Baltimore Ravens  10-3  4-1  No 
Miami Dolphins  9-4  3-2  No 
Kansas City Chiefs  8-5  2-3  No 
Jacksonville Jaguars  8-5  2-3  Yes 
Cleveland Browns  8-5  3-2  Yes 
Buffalo Bills  7-6  2-3  No 
Denver Broncos  7-6  4-1  No 
Pittsburgh Steelers  7-6  2-3  Yes 
Cincinnati Bengals  7-6  2-3  Yes 
Indianapolis Colts  7-6  4-1  Yes 
Houston Texans  7-6  3-2  Yes 

Six teams are tied for the final two wild-card slots in the AFC playoff picture at 7-6, and only the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills have their opening-day starting quarterback in their lineup in Week 15. 

The Cincinnati Bengals are without Joe Burrow, who has a torn ligament in his wrist. The Indianapolis Colts are missing rookie Anthony Richardson (AC join surgery), and the Houston Texans could be without rookie star C.J. Stroud (concussion protocol).

Pittsburgh Steelers starter Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury in Week 13 and had surgery to address it, leaving Mitch Trubisky to commandeer the 27th-ranked offence toward the playoffs. 

While backup QBs have performed admirably for some teams - Jake Browning has led the Bengals to consecutive wins and Gardner Minshew has a 5-4 record as the Colts' starter - they will all be tested significantly in leading their respective squads to a playoff spot in a tight race. 

Meanwhile, the Bills and Broncos have Josh Allen and Russell Wilson leading the charge, who each have extended playoff experience in their careers, but have struggled with inconsistent play throughout the year.  

Buffalo has matchups with two division leaders in their final four games, while the Steelers and Bengals have to battle teams occupying or tied for a playoff spot in each of their final four contests. 

Six-team battle for two AFC Wild-Card slots

Team QB Injury? Offensive scoring rank Defensive scoring rank Games remaining against division leaders Games remaining against teams in playoff contention
Buffalo Bills  No 
Denver Broncos  No  13  23 
Pittsburgh Steelers  Yes  27 
Cincinnati Bengals  Yes  17  19 
Indianapolis Colts  Yes  8 29 
Houston Texans  Yes  13  16 

On the NFC side, the North and West divisions are locked down by the Detroit Lions (9-4) and San Francisco 49ers (10-3), respectively. They each hold division leads of at least two games.

The East and South Divisions are more tightly contested, with ties atop both divisions. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are tied for the lead of the East at 10-3, and the South is a mess with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons tied at 6-7. 

NFC Playoff picture

Team Record Division leader
Dallas Cowboys  10-3  Yes (East) 
Philadelphia Eagles 10-3 
San Francisco 49ers  10-3  Yes (West) 
Detroit Lions  9-4  Yes (North) 
Minnesota Vikings  7-6 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers  6-7  Yes (South) 
Los Angeles Rams  6-7 
Seattle Seahawks  6-7 
Green Bay Packers  6-7 
Atlanta Falcons  6-7 
New Orleans Saints  6-7 

The NFC playoff picture is shaping up to a fierce battle for the two final Wild-Card slots. 

Whichever team between the Eagles and Cowboys loses the NFC East crown will earn the top Wild-Card seed, but while the Minnesota Vikings have a game in hand for the second slot, they have injury issues of their own at QB.

Kirk Cousins is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Joshua Dobbs was benched for poor play in the third quarter of their 3-0 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders

As evidenced by their losing records entering Week 15, teams on the bubble on the NFC side have struggled with inconsistent play. Desmond Ridder has struggled at QB for the Atlanta Falcons, and the New Orleans Saints have dealt with injuries throughout the season to various offensive players.

Five teams tied at 6-7 for final NFC Wild-Card slot

Team Offensive scoring rank Defensive scoring rank QB injury? Record last five games
Los Angeles Rams  10  20  No  3-2 
Seattle Seahawks  17 (tied)  27  Yes  1-4 
Green Bay Packers  17 (tied) 11  No  3-2 
Atlanta Falcons  24  12  No  2-3 
New Orleans Saints  15  10  Yes  2-3 

Last year's NFC South race ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the division with an 8-9 record above each of the Carolina Panthers, Saints and Falcons finishing at 7-10. 

The wild-card race finished with the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions competing for the final spot in Week 18, with the Seahawks claiming the seventh seed with an overtime victory over the Rams. 

The current standings indicate a similar close finish may be on the horizon.