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NFL Playoff Scenarios for the Final Week of the Season

The last week of the 2017 NFL season is upon us. 9 of the 12 playoff teams have been decided, but only 3 teams are locked into their seeds for the postseason. There’s plenty of movement that can still happen, which is what we’re going to look at today.

AFC

1. New England Patriots (12-3); vs. New York Jets

The AFC East champs haven’t locked up the top seed yet, but all they need to do to secure it is win. If they lose, the Steelers would have to lose too.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3); vs. Cleveland Browns

The Steelers loss to the Patriots a couple weeks back could’ve given away their hopes for home-field advantage. The AFC North winners can only get it with a victory over the winless Browns and a Patriots loss.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5); @ Tennessee Titans

With the Steelers win over the Houston Texans on Christmas, the Jaguars can’t jump into a first-round bye. They’re now locked into the third seed, so ruining their AFC South rivals’ playoff chances is their only priority in week 17.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-6); @ Denver Broncos

The Chiefs are also locked into their seed in the AFC. Even if they win and the Jaguars lose, they’ll remain in the fourth seed, hosting whoever grabs the fifth slot. The AFC West is already theirs since they hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers.

5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6); vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Ravens control their own destiny. If they win, they’ll stick in the 5th seed. If the Bengals are able to beat them, they’d need the Bills and Titans to both lose to stay here.

The only way the Ravens would slip to the sixth seed is both them and one of the Titans or Bills lose as well. They hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers thanks to conference record. If the Ravens lose and both the Titans and Bills win, Baltimore is out entirely.

6. Tennessee Titans (8-7); vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Titans have the toughest task of the four teams fighting for the wildcard spots; taking down their division rival won’t be easy, especially in the wake of Tennessee’s three-game losing streak. However, if the Titans win, they’re in. Their seed would be determined by how Baltimore does. A Ravens loss and a Titans win will give the latter the 5th seed.

The Ravens and Titans both winning will let them stay in their current seeds. The Titans can still get in with a loss if the Bills and Chargers both lose. They hold the conference percentage tiebreaker over those two.

7. San Diego Chargers (8-7); vs. Oakland Raiders

The Chargers are in a weird spot. With no chance to jump the Chiefs in the West, the best they can do is get the sixth seed. Due to the way the NFL’s tiebreakers work, they have to hope for one of the teams in front of them to win and the other to lose. Here’s the very specific scenario: Chargers win + Ravens win + Titans loss.

A Bills win will not matter unless the Ravens and Titans both lose. In the event of that happening, the Bills would get the 5th seed due to strength of victory, and the Ravens would get the 6th seed over the Chargers via conference percentage.

8. Buffalo Bills (8-7); @ Miami Dolphins

The Bills could potentially climb up to the 5th seed, as outlined in the Chargers section. Here’s how: Bills win + Titans and Ravens loss.

Otherwise, the path to the sixth seed for the Bills is simple: Bills (and Ravens) win + Titans and Chargers loss. If they lose, they’re eliminated from contention.

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2); vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Eagles clinched the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a Christmas Day win over the Raiders. The NFC East champs can take it easy on Sunday, though they’ll still be missing Carson Wentz.

2. Minnesota Vikings (12-3); vs. Chicago Bears

The NFC North winners can’t jump past the Eagles even if the latter loses, so their focus will be keeping their first-round bye with a victory. However, the only team that can possibly move past them is the Panthers, who would need a win and losses from the Vikings, Saints and Rams in order to pull that off.

3. Los Angeles Rams (11-4); vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Rams have won the NFC West, so all they’re playing for is seeding. They can’t pass the Vikings for the 2nd seed, so a win will let them stay as the 3rd seed. If they lose, they’ll have to hope for the Saints and Panthers to lose as well. Otherwise, the Rams will be the 4th seed.

4. New Orleans Saints (11-4); @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Saints are safe in regards to the playoffs, but they haven’t clinched the NFC South yet. A win will ensure that. If they lose to the Bucs, they can still win the division with a Panthers loss. The Saints can also jump to the 3rd seed if they win and the Rams lose.

5. Carolina Panthers (11-4); @ Atlanta Falcons

The Panthers have the most flexibility out of any team still left in the playoff hunt. They’ve clinched a berth already, so all they have to do is win and see what the other teams in the NFC do. A loss will keep them in the 5th seed.

To win the NFC South, the Panthers must win and hope for a Saints loss. That would give them at least the 4th seed. Getting a better one from there will obviously depend on how the rest of the games go down.

2nd seed: Panthers win + Saints loss + Rams loss + Vikings loss

3rd seed: Panthers win + Saints loss + Rams loss

6. Atlanta Falcons (9-6); vs. Carolina Panthers

The Falcons will determine their own fate. They can’t do any better than the 6th seed, so a win will secure them that spot. If they end up losing, they’ll stay safe with a Seahawks loss.

7. Seattle Seahawks (9-6); vs. Arizona Cardinals

The Seahawks have one way of getting into the playoffs. They have to win, and the Falcons have to lose. Otherwise, they’re done.

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