Updated Playoff Scenarios for NFL Week 17

With the NFL season winding down, the playoff picture still has a lot of question marks to be filled in.
With the NFL season winding down, the playoff picture still has a lot of question marks to be filled in. / William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The conclusion of the NFL season is fast approaching, but the playoff picture is still murky for both conferences. As of Monday afternoon, there are 18 teams who are still mathematically in the playoff race but yet to clinch a spot.

The 11-4 Kansas City Chiefs are the only team to clinch a spot in the AFC. In the NFC, there are far fewer spots left up for grabs with the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Arizona Cardinals having clinched their berths heading into Week 17.

But much is still up in the air and many spots are still up for grabs. 

NFC Playoff Picture

Let's start with the NFC where things are a little clearer heading into Week 17. The Packers locked up the NFC North back in Week 15 and still hold the overall lead in the conference. The Cowboys are 9-1 in the NFC and technically could still win the conference by winning out and a Packers loss. The Cowboys have already locked up the NFC East thanks to a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Eagles. Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South in a win over the Panthers and are also in the mix to win the NFC if luck goes their way.

Both Dallas and Tampa Bay must lose this week for the Packers to clinch the division and a first-round bye. 

The only division in the NFC yet to be determined is the NFC West. While both the Rams and Cardinals are heading to the playoffs, the division winner will get home-field advantage in the first round. The Rams can clinch the division if they win against the Ravens in Week 17 and the Cardinals lose. 

As far as the final two spots in the NFC go, the San Fransisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and New Orleans Saints are all in the running. Technically the Vikings, Falcons, and Washington Football Team are not eliminated from Wild-Card contention. But, it would basically require all the aforementioned teams to meltdown and lose out. 

AFC Playoff Picture

Shifting gears to the AFC race, things become a lot less straightforward. Unlike the NFC, the AFC has just one team that has a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. The Chiefs clinched the AFC West after the Los Angeles Chargers were upset by the Houston Texans in Week 16. 

The AFC North is led by the Cincinnati Bengals with a one-game advantage over the Baltimore Ravens. While both are currently playoff-bound, neither could make it to the show come Week 18. If the Bengals win this week they clinch the division and a playoff berth. Easy enough, but they have to beat the Chiefs to get there. They also have to beat the 7-8 Browns who are not out of the running for the playoffs. The Steelers, who are 7-7-1, are not yet eliminated either. 

The AFC South is also open after the Titans and Colts both won last week. However, if things remain tied after Week 18, the Titans hold the tiebreaker with two head-to-head wins over the Colts. If Tennessee beats Miami this week, they clinch the division in Week 17. 

The AFC East, meanwhile, is currently a battle between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. The pair occupy the fourth and sixth spots respectively and are currently playoff-bound. What makes this even more interesting is that neither can clinch the division this weekend no matter what happens. Buffalo does have the edge after Week 18 and holds the tiebreaker if both teams finish with identical records.

The AFC Wild-Card race is anyone’s guess at the moment with all the aforementioned teams along with the Broncos and Raiders in the mix.