The NFL playoff scenarios for the last week of the season are usually as complicated as Newtonian physics, and they probably require a lot less math. We’ve all tried to follow the insane stream of logic required to understand the end-of-season playoff scenarios: if team A loses to team B and team C either ties or beats team D then team E can make the playoffs via the final wild card spot and face team A in the first round of the playoffs (yeah, I have no idea what I just said either). But, luckily for NFL bettors, this season’s AFC playoff situation has wrapped itself up in a nice holiday bow and is much easier to follow than in years past
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Knowing and understanding each team’s playoff situation is a great way to find last-minute value during the final games of the season. The AFC is virtually set entering Week 17, so let’s start there. Here is a quick breakdown of the playoff scenarios for each AFC team still in contention entering the final game of the season.
AFC Playoff Scenarios
Houston Texans (12-3)
Week 17 opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Spread: Texans -7.5 (5Dimes)
Super Bowl odds: +700 (Bovada)
Playoff scenarios: The Texans can end the season anywhere from the one seed all the way down to the three seed — which is the worst they can do. If Houston beats the Colts on Sunday and ends the year 13-3, they will lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC as they hold the tie breaker for head-to-head wins over the Denver Broncos.
If Houston loses to the Colts and the Broncos win, then they will end up as the second seed, with a New England Patriots loss during Week 17 — and will end up as the third seed if the Patriots win. In essence, the Texans hold the tie breaker over the Broncos but the not Patriots. So, if they end up tied with the Broncos, they win out. And if they end up tied with the Patriots, they lose out.
Denver Broncos (12-3)
Week 17 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
Spread: Broncos -17 (5Dimes)
Super Bowl odds: +400 (Bovada)
Playoff scenarios: The Broncos can also end the season anywhere from the one seed to the three seed. If Denver beats the Chiefs on Sunday and the Texans lose, they would end up in the one seed. If Denver loses and the Patriots win, then they would end up in the three seed — and if all three teams either win or lose, then everything stays the same. The Broncos do not hold the tie breaker against either team.
New England Patriots (11-4)
Week 17 opponent: Miami Dolphins
Spread: Patriots -11 (5Dimes)
Super Bowl odds: +475 (Bovada)
Playoff scenarios: The Patriots are virtually in the same boat as the Broncos and Texans but can end the season as low as the fourth seed with a loss on Sunday. The Patriots hold the tie breaker against both the Broncos and Texans, so if they can beat the Dolphins, and the Texans and Broncos lose, then they will end the season as the top seed team in the AFC. A Patriots’ win and any loss by the Texans or Broncos would move them up a spot. But if the Patriots lose and the Baltimore Ravens win, then they would fall to the four seed and have to play the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens (10-5)
Week 17 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Ravens -2.5 (5Dimes)
Super Bowl odds: +2000 (Bovada)
Playoff scenarios: The Baltimore Ravens have a simple playoff situation: they hold the tie breaker against the Patriots, so if they win and the Patriots lose on Sunday, then the Ravens would move up into the three seed — a Patriots’ win keeps everything the same.
The Five and Six Seed: The Indianapolis Colts (5) and Cincinnati Bengals (6) already have their playoff seeding locked up and cannot move up or down no matter the outcome of their Week 17 games.
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