NFL Playoff Scenarios Week 17 with Expert Predictions
It's really quite amazing heading into Week 17 of the NFL season how little we really know about what is to come in the playoffs. We know who the first and fifth seeds are in the AFC, and the sixth seed in the NFC, but everything else could change in the final week. It makes for an exciting and confusing weekend of action. To help clear your confusion up, here are the NFL playoff scenarios heading into the weekend:
Baltimore Ravens: They have clinched the top overall seed in the division with a game to go. And how are they responding to that luxury? By starting Robert Griffin III at QB and some equivalent guys at other positions where stars usually start. This game means absolutely nothing to them, and they aren't going to risk any more than they absolutely have to.
New England Patriots: Coming off perhaps their best effort of the season, the Patriots are in complete control of their own destiny. With a win this week at home against Miami, they clinch a bye for the 10th straight year. Just think about that for a second - 10 years! If they lose and the Chiefs win, then Kansas City would be the second seed, and the Patriots would discover that the playoffs actually have four rounds.
Kansas City Chiefs: They are in an unfortunate position - they don't have a ton of hope, but they probably can't afford to rest their starters. They can only move up if the Patriots lose, but they need to make sure they beat the Chargers - in a game that kicks off at the same time as the Patriots do - just in case. There is an added incentive to win, too, because if they lose and the Texans beat the Titans , then Houston would be the third seed and Kansas City would drop to fourth. The fourth seed would make a showdown with Baltimore in the second round more likely, and no one wants that right now.
Houston Texans: They will have the luxury of knowing what their situation is before they kick off. If the Chiefs beat the Chargers in the early game, then the Texans are locked into fourth and can let their waterboy play quarterback against the Titans. But if Kansas City somehow blows it, then they will have extra motivation for this home game against Tennessee.
Buffalo Bills: They are the fifth seed, and nothing they do against the Jets will change that. This will be a chance to thank the fans they almost certainly won't see again in the playoffs, and that's about it.
The final wild card spot: This is where things get a little crazy. Three teams - Pittsburgh Tennessee and, remarkably, Oakland - are still alive in this race. And a whole lot of things can happen. It is Tennessee that controls their destiny after an ugly loss by the Steelers last week. If they beat the Texans, they are in. And if Houston finds out that Kansas City has won, Tennessee might get an easier opponent. If Tennessee loses, then chaos reigns. Tennessee would still get in if Pittsburgh and Indy both lose as well. Pittsburgh needs to win, they need losses by Tennessee and Oakland, and they also need a Colts win - it improves their tiebreak scenarios. The Raiders are still alive but need a stunning number of things to go their way. It starts with them beating the Broncos. They also need Tennessee and Pittsburgh to lose, and Indianapolis to win. Then, to win the tiebreak they would need to win the strength of schedule calculation, and that would require a win by the Pats, Lions, Chargers or Bears this week: It could happen - but I'm not betting on it.
West: The schedule makers look like geniuses here. The Seahawks host the Niners in the final game of the year, and the winner wins the West. It's as simple as that. The loser is guaranteed the top wild card spot, but that won't be particularly satisfying.
The byes: Green Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco are all tied at 12-3, with only two byes available. That means that there is a lot of drama heading into this weekend. San Francisco controls their destiny in this one. If they win in Seattle, they will be the top overall seed. But if they lose, they will drop down to the first wild card spot. The Packers are the second seed currently over the Saints because of a stronger conference record. The Saints need to win and hope for a loss for one of the current top two seeds in order to get the bye. Otherwise, they will be the third seed. Green Bay can't become the top seed unless they win and San Francisco loses. Seattle is still alive in this race as well despite their strange loss to the Cardinals last week. They would be the top seed if they beat San Francisco and the Packers and Saints both lose.
East: The most pathetic division in the league has to have a winner, and they get to host a playoff game. Who says that the world is fair? Philadelphia controls their destiny - win against the Giants on Sunday and they are in. If they lose, though, then they will lose the division if the Cowboys beat the Redskins. If the Cowboys and Eagles both lose, then Philadelphia backs into the division crown by default.
Minnesota Vikings: With their loss to the Packers on Monday night, they have lost any shot of winning their division. They are now locked into the final wild card spot.
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