Heading into the final week of the 2014 NFL regular season, the final NFC playoff spot is up for grabs in a game between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. In the AFC, there is also just one spot up for grabs, but for teams: The San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans will be playing for it.
The one thing we do know that’s certain is the New England Patriots, once more the champions of the AFC East and the guaranteed number one seed throughout the playoff, which means two games at home, where they’re undefeated this season.
The Denver Broncos have clinched a spot and have won the AFC West. To earn a first round bye they need to beat the Oakland Raiders and even a tie will be enough. If they don’t win, the Bengals losing will be enough. A Broncos loss, a Bengals tie and a Colts win will also put the Broncos in the bye.
The Bengals, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, can clinch the AFC North title (they’re in the playoff anyway) with a win or tie. To get the first round bye, they’ll need to win while the Broncos lose. A Bengals tie with a Broncos loss and the Colts not winning their game clinches a first round bye for the Bengals. The Steelers are already in the playoff, and can win the division if they beat the Bengals.
The San Diego Chargers are among the teams trying to make it into the playoff. Playing the Kansas City Chiefs, they’ll make it in if they win their game. They can get in with a tie if the Ravens don’t win their game against the Browns.
How do the Ravens get in? The Ravens need to win and for the Chargers to lose or tie. Another combination is the Ravens ending their game in a draw and the Chargers losing. In short? Do one better than San Diego.
Both the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs are still in the race, but need a lot to happen in order for them to make it. For Houston to find themselves in the playoff, they’ll need to beat Jacksonville and for both San Diego and Baltimore to lose.
For the Chiefs to make it in they’ll need to beat the Chargers, for the Ravens to lose and for the Texans to fail in their attempt to win.
Five teams (Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions, Packers, Cowboys) have clinched a spot. The NFC South will send either the Falcons or the Panthers with a losing record as the sixth team.
That sixth spot is the simple thing in the remaining calculations in regards to seeding, byes and home field advantage. The Falcons have to win, the Panthers can afford that rare occasion of a tie, although that’s already happened to them once this season.
The Lions are going to win the NFC North as long as they don’t lose their game in Green Bay. They can clinch home field advantage through the playoffs if they win and both the Seahawks and Cardinals don’t win their games. A Lions tie and they can make it in if the Cowboys don’t win their game as well, combined with the condition of the NFC West teams.
The Lions can clinch a spot among the bye teams if they win, but also if they tie and the Cowboys don’t win, or if they tie and both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose.
For the Packers, it’s a bit simpler: If they beat the Lions, they win the NFC North. They can clinch the number one seed if they win and the Seahawks don’t beat the Rams.
For the Cardinals to get the number one seed they’ll need to win and both the Seahawks and Packers to either lose or tie. The Cardinals can also clinch the top spot with a tie, but then they’ll need for the Seahawks to lose and for the Cowboys to not win and for the Lions-Packers to tie their game. They can achieve a first round bye with a win and a Seattle loss or tie, with a tie and a Seahawks loss and Cowboys loss; or with a tie, a Seahawks loss and a Packers-Lions tie.
The Seahawks clinch home field advantage throughout the playoff if they win and the Packers & Lions don’t tie their game, or if they win and the Cowboys don’t win their game vs the Redskins or with a tie, a Cardinals loss or tie, a Cowboys loss or tie and the Packers & Lions tying their game.
The Seahawks can clinch a first round bye if they win; they can clinch with a tie, a Cowboys loss and a Cardinals loss or tie; or they can tie, for the Cardinals loss or tie and the Packers-Lions to tie their game.