When a new NFL season begins, all any team wants is to earn a playoff berth and get a shot at competing for the Lombardi Trophy. With only one week of regular-season football left, only two spots remain available.
In the AFC, three teams are alive and in search of that No. 6 playoff seed. The Titans are in the driver’s seat, but the Steelers and Raiders both have a shot at earning the final Wild Card spot.
In the NFC, the only thing left up for grabs is the NFC East title. Since the two Wild Card spots are already filled by Minnesota and the loser of next week’s NFC West matchup between San Francisco and Seattle, only Philadelphia and Dallas are still in the hunt.
There’s still plenty of seeding to be worked out in each conference, but the most important part of Week 17 will be filling those two final playoff positions.
The Final AFC Playoff Berth
With Sunday’s win over the Browns, the 13-2 Ravens clinched the top overall seed in the AFC, which means they’ll have a bye week in the postseason and home-field advantage throughout.
The other three divisions have been decided as well, as the 12-3 Patriots wrapped up the AFC East, the 11-4 Chiefs are winners of the AFC West, and the 10-5 Texans clinched the AFC South.
When it comes to the Wild Card, the 10-5 Bills have already claimed the first spot. Buffalo will be facing the AFC’s fourth seed in the postseason.
And the final Wild Card position and last playoff berth of the season will go to either the 8-7 Titans, 8-7 Steelers, or 7-8 Raiders.
After the Week 16 results, the Titans are now leading that race and are the favorites to earn the second Wild Card spot. If Tennessee can beat Houston on Sunday, it’s in. Right now, the Titans are a 4.5-point favorite for that contest.
Because of tiebreakers, the Titans also clinch the final playoff spot if both the Steelers and Colts lose.
After losing to the Jets this week, the Steelers no longer control their own destiny. To get into the postseason, Pittsburgh needs a win over the Ravens and a Titans loss next week. The Steelers are currently a 2.5-point underdog in next week’s game.
The Steelers also clinch with a Titans loss, a Colts win, and losses by the Bears, Lions, Chargers, and Patriots.
The Raiders are a longshot for the sixth seed in the AFC. In addition to beating the Broncos, Oakland needs wins by the Ravens, Texans, and Colts, plus a victory by one team out of the Bears, Lions, Chiefs, or Patriots.
The Final NFC Playoff Berth
As far as seeding is concerned, there’s plenty to play for in the NFC playoff picture. The 12-3 49ers will earn the top overall seed with a win over the 11-4 Seahawks next week, but the 12-3 Saints, the 11-3 Packers (who play this Monday night), and the Seahawks all still have a shot.
Those four teams plus the 10-4 Vikings have already clinched playoff spots of some sort. Minnesota still has a shot at the NFC North title, but it needs to win out and have the Packers lose out.
That all leaves one postseason spot up for grabs – the winners of the NFC East.
After Sunday’s victory over the 7-8 Cowboys, the 8-7 Eagles have the straight shot to the playoffs and the No. 4 seed. With a Week 17 win over the Giants, Philly is in. The Eagles are currently 4.5-point favorites in that contest.
Even if it loses, Philadelphia would also get in with a Cowboys loss in Week 17.
Dallas remains alive, but it needs help to claim the NFC East title. As 11.5-point favorites against the Redskins next week, the Cowboys need to win and have the Eagles lose to the Giants.
If that happens, Dallas would claim the No. 4 seed and host a playoff game.
No matter what, we’ll have the final playoff picture all set by this time next week.