Nothing Settled In NFL Playoff Race Heading Into Final Week
By Adam Jakubiak
The 17th and final week of the NFL regular season is upon us, and many teams are still jockeying for playoff position. That includes the New England Patriots, who currently occupy the No. 2 seed in the AFC chase, but that could change depending on how they and other teams fare in their games tomorrow. Here’s a look at all of the playoff scenarios as the regular season comes to a close on Sunday, and remember, the top two seeds get the coveted first round bye.
Who Has Qualified: Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City
What’s At Stake: Denver is currently the top seed, with New England right behind them. The Broncos cannot finish lower than the 2-seed, and if they beat Oakland on Sunday, they will be the top seed and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, if Denver loses and New England defeats Buffalo, then the Patriots will get the top spot and home-field advantage.
If New England loses and Cincinnati defeats Baltimore, Cincinnati will move up to the No. 2 spot and the Patriots will fall to No. 3. If both the Patriots and Bengals lose, and Indianapolis defeats Jacksonville, the Colts will jump up to the two spot and get the first round bye, while New England and Cincinnati will finish third and fourth, respectively.
Kansas City, despite starting the year 9-0, is locked into the No. 5 spot and will start the postseason on the road.
Who Is Still Alive: Miami, Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh
There is still one spot left in the AFC race with four teams battling for it. Miami, Baltimore and San Diego are all 8-7, while Pittsburgh is on life support at 7-8. Miami gets the last spot if they beat the New York Jets, coupled with either a Chargers win or a Ravens loss. If the Dolphins lose, they’re out. If the Ravens beat the Bengals and the Dolphins or Chargers lose/tie, Baltimore is in. San Diego makes the playoffs if they win and the Ravens and Dolphins lose/tie. If all three lose and the Steelers beat Cleveland, Pittsburgh is the sixth seed. Finally, if everybody loses, the Ravens win the spot.
Who Has Qualified: Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco
What’s At Stake: Despite only three teams having qualified in the NFC thus far, the playoff picture is little clearer on this side of the league. Seattle currently holds the top spot and can clinch the top seed with a win over St. Louis. But if they lose and San Francisco knocks off Arizona, the 49ers win the NFC West, while the Seahawks fall all the way to the No. 5 slot. Carolina, currently in the No. 2 seed, can still get the top spot with a win against lowly Atlanta and a Seattle loss. San Francisco can get the top spot with a win and losses by Seattle and Carolina.
Who Is Still Alive: Chicago, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans, Arizona
Chicago and Green Bay will square off in a winner-take-all game for the NFC North title, while Philadelphia and Dallas face the same scenario for the NFC East crown. The loser of those games will be eliminated.
Meanwhile, New Orleans will finish in either the No. 2 spot or the No. 6 spot. Should they win over Tampa Bay and Carolina loses, they’ll win the NFC South and jump to the 2-seed, while Carolina falls into a wild card position. If New Orleans and Carolina both win, the Saints will get a wild card berth.
Last but not least, Arizona can earn a wild card spot with a win over San Francisco and a New Orleans loss to the Buccaneers.
Get all that? Check back with the BU News Service next week for a full wild card weekend preview.