It’s hard to believe that the first round of the NFL playoffs is only two weeks away, and it’s also hard to believe the lack of drama in the AFC playoff picture, as all six teams have already clinched playoff berths.
The New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins are all in. The only thing that hasn’t been decided is the final seeding, which will be finalized after Week 17’s slate of games.
On the other hand, two teams in the NFC still have a lot of work to do to reach the postseason. The Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to win and also need some help.
Let’s take a look at both the AFC and NFC playoff picture with the current seedings heading into the final week of the regular season.
|AFC||1||New England Patriots (13-2)||at Miami|
|AFC||2||Oakland Raiders (12-3)||at Denver|
|AFC||3||Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)||vs. Cleveland|
|AFC||4||Houston Texans (9-6)||at Tennessee|
|AFC||5||Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)||at San Diego|
|AFC||6||Miami Dolphins 10-5)||vs. New England|
|NFC||1||Dallas Cowboys (10-5)||at Philadelphia|
|NFC||2||Atlanta Falcons (10-5)||vs. New Orleans|
|NFC||3||Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1)||at San Francisco|
|NFC||4||Green Bay Packers (9-6)||at Detroit|
|NFC||5||New York Giants (10-5)||at Washington|
|NFC||6||Detroit Lions (9-6)||vs. Green Bay|
|NFC||—||Washington Redskins (8-6-1)||vs. New York Giants|
|NFC||—||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)||vs. Carolina|
We’ll start with the AFC first since it’s cut-and-dried for the most part. With a win against the Dolphins this weekend, the Patriots will clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Raiders, in order to leapfrog New England for the top spot in the AFC, need a victory over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots to lose.
The likelihood that the Raiders can clinch the No. 1 seed is slim because quarterback Derek Carr is out for the season with a broken fibula that he suffered in Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Here’s how unique Derek Carr injury is: Since playoffs began in 1933, no QB with 12+ regular-season W’s has failed to start postseason game.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 25, 2016
Starting in place of the injured Carr will be the veteran Matt McGloin, who might actually surprise some people with his play. At the end of the day, though, the Raiders should hold onto the No. 2 seed, barring a loss to Denver and a Chiefs win over the San Diego Chargers.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s make things a little interesting.
Current NFC Playoff Picture:
5. NY Giants
6. Green Bay
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) December 20, 2016
The Cowboys have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but beyond that, a lot is still up in the air heading into Week 17.
The Falcons are sitting pretty with the second seed but still need to show out against the New Orleans Saints to secure a bye week in the playoffs. If the Saints can pull off the upset, then that opens the door for the Seahawks to take over the No. 2 slot with a win over the hapless San Francisco 49ers.
And the last thing that any playoff team wants is to play an away game against the Seahawks in Seattle.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
For the Packers, a victory (or even a tie) would be enough to secure the third seed. For the Lions, a win guarantees them the fourth seed. Simple enough, right? Wrong.
There is a slim possibility that the Packers and the Lions could both fall to the sixth seed in a couple of different scenarios, but even with a loss, the Packers or the Lions would still be in the playoff picture. Either team can still clinch so long as the Redskins lose to the Giants and the Buccaneers don’t witness a miracle that has seven different results work out in their favor.
Just glimpse at what the picture looked like heading into Christmas Day this past weekend for the Bucs:
If all of the following happens, the Buccaneers are in the playoffs.
The chances of it happening are SLIM pic.twitter.com/RHgDQgTb7g
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 25, 2016
Home-field advantage is everything in the playoffs, but for some teams, just getting in on all the fun is enough. Week 17 will say farewell to a lot of teams but should also give NFL fans some of the best football they’ll see all season.