Figuring out which teams are not in playoff contention is a lot easier than figuring who's in. Going into the final three weeks of the regular season, only four of the NFL's 28 teams have been eliminated: Detroit and Atlanta in the NFC, Cincinnati and Kansas City in the AFC.

The NFC is virtually set with four of the five spots already decided. The Redskins (9-3) have won the East, and the Chicago Bears (10-2) the Central. San Francisco (10-2) has a one-game lead on New Orleans (9-3) in the West. Both teams are in the playoffs, but it could very well take until the final weekend of the season (when the Rams play the 49ers) before the division winner is determined.

If the season ended today, New Orleans would be host to the Minnesota Vikings (7-5) in the NFC wild card game. Eight teams still are mathematically alive for that second conference wild card spot, including the Rams (5-7), who were 1-7 four weeks ago, and the Giants (4-8). Dallas (5-7), Philadelphia (5-7), St. Louis (5-7), Green Bay (4-7-1) and Tampa Bay (4-8) are all alive, though barely.

Minnesota blew a chance of assuring itself a spot by losing to the Bears in the final seconds Sunday night. If the Vikings win two of their remaining three games (against Green Bay at Milwaukee, at Detroit and against the Redskins at the Metrodome), they are in. Even one victory probably would do it.

The AFC playoff picture is considerably more complicated. In the AFC East, where all five teams are in contention, Indianapolis (7-5) has an inside track to the title because it has the best record within the division and has twice beaten the New York Jets, who are tied for second with Buffalo and Miami at 6-6 after losing to the Dolphins last night. A Colts home victory over Buffalo Sunday would make it difficult on the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots (5-7). All are alive for the title or wild card spots.

Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston have 7-5 records, tying for the Central lead. The Steelers or Browns (who play each other the final week) can take the division title by winning their three remaining games.

In the West, Denver (8-3-1) leads San Diego (8-4) with Seattle (7-5) third. The race could tighten considerably if Seattle beats visiting Denver Sunday. San Diego's finale is at Denver. And Seattle still has to visit Chicago (Dec. 20). Don't laugh, but the Raiders (5-7) are alive for a wild card spot, although they'd have to beat Cleveland and Chicago to make it. NFL TIE BREAKING PROCEDURES DIVISION TIES Two Clubs: 1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs). 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference. 4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, if applicable. 5. Best net points in division games. 6. Best net points in all games. 7. Strength of schedule. 8. Best net touchdowns in all games. 9. Coin toss. Three or More Clubs: NOTE: If two clubs remain tied after other clubs are eliminated during any step, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of two-club format. 1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs). 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference. 4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games. 5. Best net points in division games. 6. Best net points in all games. 7. Strength of schedule. 8. Best net touchdowns in all games. 9. Coin toss. WILD CARD TIES If necessary to break ties to determine the two wild card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken: 1. If all tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breakers. 2. If tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps:Two clubs: 1. Head-to-head, if applicable. 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four. 4. Best net points in conference games. 5. Best net points in all games. 6. Strength of schedule. 7. Best net touchdowns in all games. 8. Coin toss. Three or more clubs: NOTE: If two clubs remain tied after other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format. 1. Head-to-head sweep (applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or one club has lost to each of the others). 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games within the conference. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four. 4. Best net points in conference games. 5. Best net points in all games. 6. Strength of schedule. 7. Best net touchdowns in all games. 8. Coin toss.