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Breaking down the NFL playoff picture in mid-October

It's never too early to start thinking about NFL playoff positioning. Or is it? Actually, yeah, it probably is a little early. But to gain a better feel for how things are lining up with the 2013 regular season about 35 percent complete, here's a look at the current playoff picture:

AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)
2. New England Patriots (5-1)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
5. Denver Broncos (6-0)
6. Miami Dolphins (3-2)

It's incredibly hard to break a tie between two unbeaten teams. Technically, Kansas City's schedule has been half a game harder than Denver's. But the point is that those two teams are pretty much interchangeable right now. Still, it's fun to imagine Peyton Manning and the Broncos having to return to Indy for a wild-card game, which would happen if the playoffs began today.

The Dolphins are one of only six AFC teams above .500, but they've already had their bye. Five teams — the Ravens, Titans, Browns, Chargers and Jets — are half a game back at 3-3. We might have a real heated race for that final spot.

NFC

1. New Orleans Saints (5-1)
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-1)
3. Detroit Lions (4-2)
4. Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
5. San Francisco 49ers (4-2)
6. Green Bay Packers (3-2)

The Cowboys only have the NFC East over 3-3 Philadelphia because they win the strength of victory tiebreaker. Those two teams still have to meet twice, including in Week 7. The Saints and Seahawks look like they'll be battling for the top spot, but I'd have to imagine both are heavy favorites right now to earn first-round byes. 

Remember how much stronger the NFC was supposed to be than the AFC? Forget that. The AFC has the only two unbeaten teams and the NFC is the only conference with a non-winning team currently in a playoff position. Plus, it's hard to believe that mediocre squads St. Louis (3-3), Arizona (3-3) and Carolina (2-3) are within a game of the final playoff spot, which currently belongs to Green Bay. 

It doesn't help that four teams that had winning records in 2012 — Atlanta, Minnesota, Washington and the Giants — are a combined 3-18. At 1-4, you get the feeling the Falcons and Redskins might still have a shot, especially with Detroit and Dallas up there.

I also want to mention that Fox or NBC would thank the heavens for that Dallas-San Francisco playoff matchup.

Current playoff teams that didn't make it last year: 5 out of 12 (KC, Miami, New Orleans, Detroit, Dallas)

Inter-conference games: AFC leads 18-14

Teams above .500: 12

Teams below .500: 11

3-3 teams: 9 (28 percent of the league)

Brad Gagnon

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 theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), 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, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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