The NFL Playoffs are only three weeks away. The New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks have already clinched their postseason, in there are four spots left in each of the NFC & AFC to be handed out, which makes things a little bit complicated.
AFC Playoff Picture
The New England Patriots (12-2) are in the playoffs, having clinched the division title once again. They’ll end up with the #1 seed if they win their remaining two games, or win just one while the Oakland Raiders lose another one of theirs. The Miami Dolphins (9-5) could make the postseason for the first time since 2008 through the Wild Card, which they currently hold. If they win their two remaining games against the Bills and Patriots, they’re in. If they lose both they’re probably out. Go 1-1 and it becomes a complicated tiebreaker situation.
In the AFC North, it’s down to the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5). The two teams meet for a second time, with the Ravens holding the edge from the first game. To win the division, the Ravens need to win both games or beat the Steelers again and for Pittsburgh to lose their other game as well. Both Ohio teams are out of the picture. The Steelers going 10-6 could still make the playoffs from the wild card spot.
The AFC South, surprisingly, is still in the hands of the Houston Texans, who beat all three division rivals four times so far, and can clinch the division by winning out. The same goes for the Tennessee Titans, also 8-6, who play the Texans in Tennessee on New Year’s Day in a game that will probably decide the division. The Titans also hold some key advantages in the wild card race, so even a 9-7 finish could hypothetically put them in the playoffs. The Colts at 7-7 can still get in, but they need a lot of outside help.
In the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders have already clinched the playoff spot, but they can lose the first place. At 11-3, they have a one game lead over the Chiefs which they need to maintain, because Kansas City beat them twice this season. At 10-4 and a 4-0 record in their division, Kansas City need one more win to clinch a wild card spot, and need a Raiders loss while they themselves win out to win the division. The 8-6 Denver Broncos need to win both their games and hope for a miracle.
NFC Playoff Picture
In the NFC East, things are simple for the 12-2 Dallas Cowboys. Win one more game, and they have the #1 seed in the NFC. Lose both remaining games and they’ll need the New York Giants to lose at least one, because they lost twice against the G-Men. The Cowboys are in the playoffs anyway. The Giants haven’t clinched their spot yet, but one more win will do it, with both remaining games on the road. The 7-6-1 Washington Redskins need to win twice in order to get in through the wild card, and get some outside help.
The AFC North is in an interesting position. The Detroit Lions (9-5) lead the division, but because they play in Dallas and at home against Green Bay, nothing is certain. Win out, and the first place is theirs. However, if the 8-6 Packers win out, including win in Detroit, they take the division, while a wild card spot is also plausible. The 7-7 Minnesota Vikings (Started 2016 with five wins in five) need something spectacular to happen in order to make it in.
The NFC South is the Atlanta Falcons to lose, which has happened to them before. At 9-5, they have to play in Carolina and home to the Saints. The 8-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to win twice in order to make the playoffs, because 9-7 isn’t going to cut it. The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints aren’t out of it mathematically (6-8), but it’s hard to see them both winning out and making it in.
The NFC West is done. The Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) are in the playoffs and have won the division. Now the question is whether they get the bye or not. Right now, it’s looking good for them, but winning out (playing Arizona and the 49ers) will make things 100% safe.