Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

NFL playoff picture: Scenarios heading into Week 17

[UPDATE]: NFL playoff picture Week 17: Before Sunday Night Football


The final week of the NFL season is here and there are a lot of games that will impact the landscape of the NFL playoff picture. We’ve detailed all the scenarios for the NFL playoff picture below.

The NFC Picture:

Things in the NFC are very tight, no one has clinched their division yet and essentially every division is up for grabs. Seattle Seahawks will win the NFC West with a win and the Carolina Panthers will win the NFC South with a win.

The NFC North and East will both be determined in a Week 17 championship game of sorts. Whoever wins the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers game wins the NFC North. The winner of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game wins the NFC East.

Even the wild card race is interesting with the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals — both with 10-5 records —  are fighting for the final playoff spot. One thing is for certain, a team with double-digit wins won’t make it to the playoffs.

Here are the playoff standings heading into Week 17:

NFC playoff standings

No. 1 – (X) Seattle 12-3

No. 2 – (X) Carolina 11-4

No. 3 – Philadelphia 9-6

No. 4 – Chicago 8-7

No. 5 – (X) San Francisco 11-4

No. 6 – New Orleans 10-5

In the hunt: Arizona 10-5, Dallas 8-7, Green Bay 7-7-1

(X) – clinched playoff berth (Y) – clinched division

Here are all the playoff scenarios for the NFC teams still in the hunt:


Three teams are guaranteed a playoff spot and are just playing for seeding purposes. Those teams are the Seahawks, 49ers and Panthers.


Seattle is in the driver’s seat. They’re playing for the NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs. If they win, they get it, simple as that. If they lose, and the 49ers lose, they’d still get the NFC West crown and home field advantage. If they ended the season 12-4 as NFC West Champions and the Panthers were 12-4 as well, they’d hold the tie-breaker from their week 1 win.


Carolina can clinch the NFC South division and a first-round bye with a win. They’d also clinch with a Saints loss, but considering they’re playing the Buccaneers at home I wouldn’t bank on that.

Carolina can actually clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with the right combination of events. They’d need to win, the Seahawks to lose, and the 49ers to win. They basically would need the 49ers to win the NFC West.


Eagles are in as the NFC East champions if they can beat the Cowboys.


Bears are in as the NFC North Champions if they can beat the Packers.


If the 49ers win and the Seahawks lose, they’ll be the NFC West champions and get a first-round bye. In the right set of circumstances, the 49ers could get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They’d need to win, and the Seahawks and Panthers both to lose.


The Saints are in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card spot, but there is a chance they don’t end us as the Wild Card team. A win and Panthers loss would five them the NFC South title and a first-round bye.

If the Panthers win, they’ll get the Wild Card spot with a win on Sunday. If Arizona losses, they’re through to the playoffs as well.


Right now the Cardinals are the odd man out in the NFC playoff picture. They have double-digit wins and could miss the playoffs. They need some help to get there. They need to win or tie, and the Saints to lose. unfortunately the Saints are playing the Buccaneers at the Superdome so it is an unlikely result.


If the Cowboys beat the Eagles they’re in as the NFC East champions


If the Packers win they’re in as the NFC North champions.

The AFC Picture:

The AFC playoff picture is a lot clearer than the NFC picture. Each AFC division has been clinched already, unlike the NFC where none have been clinched. Mainly at play here is positioning within the standings and jockeying for home-field advantage situations.

The final wild card spot is up for grabs though. Right now the 8-7 Miami Dolphins are in the driver seat and just need to win and get in. The Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers are right there with 8-7 records as well. If the Dolphins could win they’d make the playoffs.

There is still even hope that the 7-8 Pittsburgh Steelers could slide into that final playoff spot under the right circumstances.

Here are the playoff standings heading into Week 17:

AFC playoff standings

No. 1 – (Y) Denver 12-3

No. 2 – (Y) New England 11-4

No. 3 – (Y) Cincinnati 10-5

No. 4 – (Y) Indianapolis 10-5

No. 5 – (X) Kansas City 11-4

No. 6 – Miami 8-7

In the hunt: Baltimore 8-7, San Diego 8-7, Pittsburgh 7-8

(X) – clinched playoff berth (Y) – clinched division

Here are all the playoff scenarios for the AFC teams still in the hunt, from


Every division in the AFC has been won already. Denver, New England, Cincinnati and Indianapolis have all clinched their divisions before Week 17. The Broncos have also already clinched a first-round bye. The Kansas City Chiefs have locked down the No. 5 seed and Wild Card spot as well.


Denver is playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They clinch that with a win or Patriots loss.


New England is really playing for a first-round bye. They’ll get that with a win, or a loss from Cincinnati and Indianapolis. If Denver loses and New England wins, they’ll get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.


The Bengals clinched their division and are playing for a first-round bye. They’d need to beat the Ravens and the Patriots to lose.


The Colts have also clinched their division and are playing for a first-round bye. They’d need to win, and they’d need the Patriots and Bengals to lose.


Miami is in the driver’s seat for the final Wild Card spot but they can’t simply win and get in. If they do win they need either the Ravens to lose or the Chargers to win. The Ravens own a tie breaker over the Dolphins so they need a three-way tie with the Chargers and Ravens or the Ravens out of the equation.


Baltimore needs some help to get into the playoffs. If they win, they need either the Chargers or Dolphins to lose. If Baltimore ties, they’d need Miami to tie and San Diego to lose or both to lose. If the Dolphins, Chargers, and Steelers all lose they’re through as well.


The Chargers are outsiders trying to get into the playoff picture. They need some help. Basically they need to win, and they need the Dolphins and Ravens to lose.


The Steelers have a shot at a playoff berth, however unlikely it may be. They need to win, and the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all to lose.

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