In the NFC Playoffs, five of the six teams have clinched playoff berths. Two teams already know their positions before play begins in Week 17. It’s pretty simple.
- The Saints have already clinched the top seed in the conference, which means the road to the Super Bowl goes through the Superdome.
- The Rams can clinch the second seed with a win over the 49ers at home.
- If the Rams lose, the Bears will have a chance to swap places with them with a win over the Vikings in Minnesota.
- The Vikings clinch a wild card berth with a win over the Bears.
- A Minnesota loss puts the Eagles in the driver’s seat, although they need a win over the Redskins.
- Meanwhile, the Seahawks can lock down the fifth seed with a win at home against Arizona. If Seattle loses, the Vikings get the fifth seed with a win.
There, I just explained the entire NFC debacle in seven short sentences.
The covfefe going on in the AFC will need a bit more explaining and a couple more sentences. Let’s break it down team-by-team.
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
The Chiefs have a new BFF in the Baltimore Ravens after Baltimore beat the Chargers last Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Chiefs could have clinched home-field with a win on Sunday Night Football, but they could not close it out against the Seahawks.
They’ll get a chance to accomplish what they couldn’t last week this week, at home against a much less difficult opponent in the Raiders. Win and the Chiefs are the top seed throughout the AFC Playoffs. The AFC can run through Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. All Kansas City needs to do is beat a 4-11 Raiders team. A loss could throw them in a number of different directions.
If the Chargers were to win, a Chiefs loss would knock Kansas City down to fifth in the AFC. That would mean no division and no first-round bye. It would likely be the final game played at Arrowhead this season.
Again, all of these scenarios are put to bed if the Chiefs beat the Raiders. No pressure, Kansas City.
No. 2 New England Patriots (10-5)
Thanks to the Eagles’ win over the Texans last Sunday, the Patriots find themselves back in the second seed, primed to claim a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season.
A New England win against the 4-11 Jets at home on Sunday will guarantee at least a first-round bye. Throw in losses by the Chargers and Chiefs, and the AFC could still run through Foxborough.
A loss by the Patriots would put their bye in extreme jeopardy. A Texans win over the Jaguars would push New England to at least third, and if the Ravens were to win on top of that, the Patriots could finish as low as the fourth seed. Losses by Houston, Tennessee, and Baltimore would cushion New England’s fall and keep them at the second seed at worst.
Again, seeing the Patriots fall below two in the AFC is very unlikely. All they need to do is beat the lowly Jets to get their bye.
No. 3 Houston Texans (10-5)
The Texans had the chance last week to move one step closer to where no team has gone before in their franchise history: a first-round bye. However, late-game heroics from the Eagles added another tick in the loss column for the Texans and pushed them right back to third place in the AFC. With the Steelers loss to the Saints last week, the Texans did clinch a playoff berth, so they are promised at least one more game after the regular season ends. When and where that playoff game happens, however, is still very much up in the air.
The Texans have a chance to move back to second, and even move up to first in the AFC, but they need to take care of the 5-10 Jaguars at home and then get a whole lot of help.
The Texans would need losses from Los Angeles, Kansas City and New England to get to the first seed in the AFC. If two of those teams were to lose, the Texans would earn a bye. If New England and Kansas City or New England and Los Angeles both won, the Texans would stay at #3.
However, the Texans also need to beat the Jaguars this week because their division has not been clinched. Two 9-6 divisional rivals are right on their tails playing on Sunday night; a loss against the Jags will almost surely knock Houston out of the third seed and into the sixth seed. If the Titans and Colts somehow tied on Sunday Night Football, the Texans would still win the division, but the chances of that happening are obviously very slim.
The Texans will likely be paying attention to all three time-blocks of football on Sunday, as all will have a direct impact on where the team ends up. The most important of all is the first block, as Houston will have their fate in their own hands when the Jags come to town.
No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Baltimore is in the driver’s seat in the AFC North, but they’re not guaranteed a playoff berth. The Ravens either win the division or get eliminated on Sunday.
The Ravens can claw all the way up to the second seed if New England and Houston lose. They can reach the third seed if one of those two teams loses.
For the second season in a row, Baltimore’s fate is in their own hands at home in Week 17. Win and they’re in. Lose and go home. Can they reverse the curse?
No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)
It gets a little more clear from here. The Chargers will either finish first or fifth in the AFC.
A win, coupled with a Chiefs’ loss, will get them home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs and the AFC West division title that comes with it. Could you imagine the AFC running through a 25,000 seat stadium in Carson, California?
A Chargers loss or a Chiefs win will crown the Chargers as the first wild card and a date with the fourth seed on Wild Card Weekend. That seems to be the likeliest scenario.
No. 6 Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
The Colts are in win-or-go-home territory. They are starting the playoffs one week ahead of everyone else. Beating the Titans will get them in as at least a Wild Card, and the AFC South could be theirs if the Texans lose to the Jags.
If Indianapolis were to win the division, their seeding would depend on what happens in the AFC North. A 10-6 Ravens team would rank ahead of them, pushing the Colts to the fourth seed. However, a 9-7 Ravens or a 9-6-1 Steelers squad would rank behind them, pushing them to the third seed and a match-up with the Texans on Wild Card Weekend. In Indianapolis.
No. 7 Tennessee Titans (9-6)
The Titans are in the same boat as their Sunday Night Football opponent this weekend. Win or go home.
However, the Titans, who currently find themselves on the outside looking in, could also find themselves with a first-round bye. However, it would take a lot of work.
A win over the Colts is obviously necessary, but losses from Baltimore, Houston, and New England would also have to occur in order to place Tennessee in the second seed. It’s very unlikely, but it’s possible.
A Houston win would immediately push Tennessee to sixth at best as they would lose the division, but a Titans win and a Houston loss could land them in several spots, as Tennessee holds the tiebreakers over Houston and New England.
No. 8 Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
Pittsburgh needs a win against the 6-9 Bengals to stick around, and even then, they need help to get into the postseason. A Browns win over the Ravens, coupled with a win of Pittsburgh’s own, would give the Steelers the AFC North. A Colts-Titans tie would grant them the second Wild Card spot.
I hope that I have cleared the air somewhat. I implore you to comment down below to chit-chat about scenarios and throw your predictions into the wind.
Which two teams will have byes in the AFC Playoffs?
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