The only team in the NFL that knows they’re going to enjoy home advantage throughout the postseason are the Atlanta Falcons. For the rest of the NFC and the AFC, there are still two spots up for grab and some positional battles left to fight, hoping to get at least one home game in the schedule or even a bye week.
In the NFC, four teams have already clinched a playoff spot. The Atlanta Falcons, with the first seed and a 13-2 record are the only team that already knows they’re going to have a week off, while the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have positions to fight for. In the AFC, all six spots have been clinched, but no one has yet to clinch one of the two spots for a bye week. In any case, it’ll be the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos in the postseason.
NFC – Fighting for two spots
The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North with their 11-4 record and go into the final day needing a win against the Minnesota Vikings to keep their 2nd seed and get a week off. Still, if they lose but both Seattle and San Francisco lose their games, the Packers still get in to the playoffs as a second seed. If they lose and one of the NFC West teams wins, they fall to 3rd or even 4th.
The Minnesota Vikings (9-6, winning their last three) don’t have to win to make the playoffs. A win and they’re guaranteed a spot in the Wild Card playoffs. Even if they lose to the Packers, a scenario that sees the Bears & Giants lose while the Redskins win will still put them in the postseason. Any other scenario along with their loss eliminates them from the postseason picture.
The biggest game is Washington playing Dallas. The Cowboys are 8-7, the Redskins are 9-6. A Dallas win and they are in the postseason. If Dallas lose they’re out. Very simple, just like last season, when they failed to come through. It’s similar for the Redskins, although they still have an out. They can still make the postseason with a loss if both the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears lose.
The Bears will be playing in Detroit, but it isn’t completely up to them. Bears fans need their team to win and actually root for the Green Bay Packers, because unless the Vikings lose as well, Chicago will be missing out on the postseason despite the 7-1 start. The New York Giants, 8-7, can still get in. They need to win, and hope for both Minnesota and Chicago to lose while the Redskins to win in Dallas. Any other scenario, and they’re eliminated.
In the NFC West, it’s about winning the division and getting at least one home game. The San Francisco 49ers will be playing against the Arizona Cardinals. If they win and the Green Bay Packers lose, they become the second seed. If the Packers win, they’re third. If the 49ers lose, it’s up to the Seahawks. If the Seahawks win their game, the 49ers fall to fifth. If the Seahawks lose their game, 49ers remain third.
Seattle? At 10-5, they can still get the second seed. They need to win, the Packers to lose and the 49ers to lose, and they become the 2nd seed. If the Packers win and the 49ers lose, the become the third seed. If they win and the 49ers win, they remain fifth, and if they lose they remain fifth.
AFC – Positional Battles
At the moment, the number one seed in the AFC are the Houston Texans, who will be playing a big game in Indianapolis against the Colts. Houston, 12-3, will obviously go in as the number one team with a win. They can still remain number one with a loss, if both the Broncos and the Patriots lose as well. If one of those teams wins, Houston falls to 2nd. If both teams win, Houston falls to third.
The Indianapolis Colts (10-5) are currently the 5th seed in the AFC, and will remain there regardless of the result. The Cincinnati Bengals, 6th, will also remain there regardless of their result against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens, who have clinched the AFC North once again, can climb to the 3rd seed if they win their game against Cincy while the Patriots lose theirs. Any other result, and they remain going into the postseason as the 4th seed.
For the New England Patiorts there a bit more option on the board, currently being the third seed with their 11-4 record. To get the first seed, they need to win and both Denver and Houston to lose. If only one of them loses, the Patriots climb to the second spot. If all three teams win, Pats remain in the Wild Card playoffs. If they lose, the only repercussions are being #3 or #4, which depends on the Ravens winning or not.
For Denver (12-3, vs Chiefs), the first spot if up for grabs if they win and the Texans lose. Win and the Texans win, they remain second. They can fall to third if they lose and the Patriots win.