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Facing the Fork: Playoff hopefuls on the brink

They're done ... but we're not.

Our gang of scribes are "forking" teams we don't believe can reach the playoffs. We've already offed a third of the league, and this weekend will go a long way toward fattening the list of doomed squads:

Hovering near death

Loser of Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-6)

It's impossible to write off Sunday's winner. If the Browns prevail, Cleveland plays the Jacksonville Jaguars with a shot to be 6-6 entering Week 14. If the Steelers move to five wins, they get the Ravens on Thanksgiving night in a game with meaning for the AFC's sixth playoff seed. The loser -- especially if it's Cleveland -- is cooked.

Harrison: Week 12 Game Picks

Can the Chiefs hold off the Chargers? Will the Panthers keep this up? Elliot Harrison makes his Week 12 predictions. READ

San Diego's upcoming schedule is a white-hot mess. After playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Chargers face a slate that includes the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Chiefsagain in Week 17. San Diego is one of the few sixth-seed hopefuls with a top quarterback at the controls, but the Chargers have lost three consecutive games behind a defense that's generated fewer turnovers than any team in football.

Like the Steelers and Browns, the Ravens are in business with a win. But losing Sunday to the New York Jets would all but choke a team that still has the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals left on the schedule. Baltimore has a chance to finish 4-2 in the AFC North, but the Ravens have dropped four of their last five for a reason: They aren't any good.

We can't bring ourselves to fork a team that's won four in a row heading into Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, but Big Blue's hot streak is a mirage. Knocking off the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers probably was New York's best showing of the year, but we're not taking the Giants seriously. Not yet.

The playoff picture

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How would your team's prospects look if the season ended today? See where each team stands in the playoff picture midway through the season. More ...

In hot water

The Packers have lost three in a row for the first time since 2008 and desperately need a win against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Fading fast as a wild-card hopeful, future tilts with the Lions and Chicago Bears loom large in the NFC North. If quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns by Thanksgiving, everything changes.

*Note: The fork is applied only after our entire staff unanimously votes that a team's playoff hopes are over. We've already written off the Texans, Redskins, Titans, Bills, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, Buccaneers, Falcons and Vikings. Will your team be next?
*

*We previewed every Week 12 game in the latest "Around The League Podcast." *

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