Nine of 12 playoff berths are clinched and so are four of the eight divisions, but heading into the final week of the regular season there is still very much up for grabs in terms of the NFL playoff picture. We will lay out some NFL Playoff scenarios to paint a clear picture for you.
Things are a little more settled in the AFC where five of the six playoff berths are settled as is the No. 1 overall seed, which belongs to the New England Patriots (13-2). The Patriots have a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, meaning they can rest their starters Sunday at home against Miami, although Bill Belichick likely will not.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) are also in line for a bye if they can win at Cleveland as six-point favorites on Sunday. Baltimore (11-4) is another contender for that bye. They host Cincinnati as 10-point favorites. However, if the Steelers and Ravens win, the division and the bye goes to Pittsburgh because of a tiebreaker as the Steelers are 4-1 in the division while Baltimore is 3-2. Of the teams who have clinched a playoff spot, the Steelers may have the most to play for this week. If they were to lose they would go from a No. 2 seed to a No. 6 seed in all likelihood.
The Kansas City Chiefs surprised everyone and won the AFC West, and even more surprising is they did it in Week 16. The Chiefs (10-5) can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win or a Colts loss. If the Chiefs lose and Colts win the Chiefs will be seeded fourth. The Chiefs are four-point favorites this week at home against Oakland.
Indianapolis (9-6) can clinch the AFC South with a win or a Jaguars loss. The Colts are favored by 9.5 at home against Tennessee. The Jaguars are the only team in the AFC on the outside looking in that is still mathematically alive. Jacksonville needs to win at Houston as 2.5-point favorites and hope the Colts are upset by the Titans.
The Ravens and Jets have both clinched playoff spots. The Ravens (11-4) look to be the No. 5 seed with a win unless Pittsburgh falls at Cleveland and then the Ravens will win the AFC North. The Jets (10-5) are almost guaranteed a No. 6 seed. The only way to rise to No. 5 is with a win, a Ravens win and a Steelers loss. The Jets host Buffalo this week.
Much more is uncertain in the NFC, especially after Atlanta’s loss on Monday night. The Falcons (12-3) are still in pretty good shape. Atlanta is favored by 14.5 against the visiting 2-13 Panthers and the Falcons just need to win or hope for a Saints loss to clinch the NFC South and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
The Bears (11-4) have sewed up the NFC North and a first-round bye thanks to Philadelphia’s stunning loss to Minnesota. They have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed but would need both Atlanta and New Orleans to lose in addition to a win at Green Bay. The Eagles (11-4) have won the NFC East and are locked into the No. 3 seed after their loss to Minnesota. They will host the No. 6 seed in the Wild Card round.
In the running joke that is the NFC West, the Rams (7-8) and Seahawks (6-9) will play on Sunday Night Football to determine the division winner and the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
The Saints clinched a playoff berth with their upset win at Atlanta on Monday night. They would need a win at home against Tampa Bay and a monumental upset, Carolina over Atlanta, to win the NFC South. Barring that huge upset it looks like the Saints have the No. 5 seed and a date at either St. Louis or Seattle.
The final Wild Card spot in the NFC is up for grabs between three 9-6 teams, the Packers, Giants and Buccaneers. The Packers have the inside track on that final spot. A Green Bay win at home over Chicago would clinch a No. 6 seed for the Packers and eliminate the Giants and Buccaneers. A Green Bay loss opens the door. If Green Bay loses then New York can win at Washington and be in the playoffs and the Buccaneers need even more help. Tampa has to win at New Orleans and hope both Green Bay and the Giants lose to reach the postseason.
If all the favorites win on Sunday here is how the NFL playoffs will shape up.
No. 1 New England Patriots
No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs
No. 4 Indianapolis Colts
No. 5 Baltimore Ravens
No. 6 New York Jets
No. 1 Atlanta Falcons
No. 2 Chicago Bears
No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles
No. 4 St. Louis Rams
No. 5 New Orleans Saints
No. 6 Green Bay Packers
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