NFL Playoff Scenarios Heading Into Week 17

A Monday Night Football game with two teams already thinking about next season means it’s time to see the playoff picture for the 2018-2019 NFL postseason, and what possible playoff scenarios can come out of Week 17’s matchups.

AFC

Chargers
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There are four teams already with a ticket to the playoff in their hands, and two teams on the outside of the top 6 trying to get in.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

  • Next game: Oakland Raiders
  • Situation: In the playoffs, guaranteed. The Chiefs can still clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs and the first round bye with a win over the Raiders. If they lose and the Los Angeles Chargers win their game, the Chiefs can fall to the Wild Card. 

2. New England Patriots (10-5)

  • Next game: New York Jets
  • Situation: Won the AFC East. A win vs the Jets will lock up a 1st round bye for them. They can also claim the 1st seed in the AFC if both the Chiefs and the Chargers lose their games. 

3. Houston Texans (10-5)

  • Next game: Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Situation: Guaranteed in the playoffs. Will lock up the AFC South with a win over the Jags. If they lose, the winner of the Colts vs Titans game will clinch the division, and the Texans fall to the Wild Card.

4. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

  • Next game: Cleveland Browns
  • Situation: Still not in. They lead the AFC North, and a win over the Browns will clinch the division. A loss combined with a Steelers win will likely knock them out of the playoffs.

5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)

  • Next game: Denver Broncos.
  • Situation: The Chargers are in the playoffs, but to get home field advantage they’ll need to beat Denver and the Chiefs to lose again.

6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

  • Next game: Tennessee Titans
  • Situation: Very simple for the Colts. A win over the Titans and they’re in the playoffs, maybe even as a division winner if the Texans lose. A loss and they’re out.

Still alive: Tennessee Titans (9-6) & Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1). The Titans are in a similar situation to the Colts – they need to win their week 17 game and they’re in. Lose and they’re out. The Steelers have to beat the Bengals and hope for a Ravens loss in order to win the division. Their chances of being a wild-card team are slim to none.

NFC

Saints
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Things are a bit less complicated in the NFC, with 5 teams already clinching their playoff spot, and just one up for grabs, with only two teams to fight over it.

1. New Orleans Saints (13-2)

  • Next game: Carolina Panthers
  • Situation: A lock for the #1 seed in the NFC, which means the road to the Super Bowl goes through New Orleans, where the Saints are 6-1 this season.

2. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)

  • Next game: San Francisco 49ers
  • Situation: The Rams aren’t guaranteed a first-round bye yet. They need to win their game to end the speculation, or have the Bears lose their game. A Rams loss + Chicago win means LA drops to the Wild Card.

3. Chicago Bears (11-4)

  • Next game: Minnesota Vikings
  • Situation: Won the NFC North. A win + a Rams loss means the Bears will also get a first round bye. They can’t finish lower than the 3rd seed, so they’ll have one home game in this postseason.

4. Dallas Cowboys (9-6)

  • Next game: New York Giants
  • Situation: Won the NFC East. Nothing at stake for them but pride and a double digit win season. They’ll be the 4th seed regardless of what happens.

5. Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

  • Next game: Arizona Cardinals
  • Situation: Won the NFC West. They can’t go higher than #5, can’t go lower than #6. A win or loss by the Vikings locks them at #5, if they beat Arizona. A loss plus a Vikings win drops them to #6.

6. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)

  • Next game: Chicago Bears
  • Situation: A win over the Bears and they’re in. A loss doesn’t end their chances, if the Eagles lose too. A win + a Seahawks loss propels them to #5. 

Still alive: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7). They play the Redskins next. It’s pretty simple for them – beat the Redskins and hope the Vikings lose. Anything else and they’re out.