NFL 2012: A Fan's Guide to Week 17 Playoff Implications

Dan Condie@@4thand1sportsContributor IIIDecember 28, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The end of the 2012-13 NFL regular season approaches with Week 17.

In only this one week comes a litany of playoff implications, even in an AFC where all playoff spots are clinched. The NFC, on the other hand, holds three teams still on the outside looking in: the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys Fans:

Dallas faces the most simplistic scenario—win and you’re in; lose, you go home. The Cowboys will travel to D.C., where they will face rookie QB Robert Griffin III and his Washington Redskins.

Washington Redskins Fans:

Washington’s playoff situation has a bit more leeway than that of Dallas'. A win for Washington will secure the NFC East Division Title and the fourth seed (cannot reach higher mathematically). However, should the Redskins lose to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, they are not necessarily eliminated from the playoff race. They can still clinch a playoff spot if Chicago and Minnesota both lose, as they hold the tie-breaker between potentially four 9-7 record teams; themselves, the Bears, the Vikings and the New York Giants.

Chicago Bears Fans:

Chicago’s playoff chances are not assured, but also not highly unlikely. For the Bears to make the playoffs, they must first beat the Detroit Lions on the road. The Vikings also must lose to Green Bay at home. It's a scenario which, according to ESPN’s “Accuscore,” is not an impossibility with the Packers a 67% favorite to win.

Minnesota Vikings Fans:

Minnesota’s playoff destiny is in its own proverbial hands. If they beat the Packers, they secure the sixth seed in the playoffs. If they lose that game, they need the Bears, Cowboys and Giants to lose as well—in essence, leaving the standings identical. A Vikings win closes the door on any playoff hopes of both Chicago and New York.

New York Giants Fans:

New York is certainly in the most dire of the NFC playoff race situations. The Giants not only must win their season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, but must also have the Vikings, Cowboys and Bears all lose their final games. If any one of those teams wins, the Giants are out.

Among the teams in the NFC that have already clinched their spots in the playoffs, some Week 7 outcomes may affect the seeding.

Atlanta Falcons Fans: 

The #No. 1 seed is locked up and assured for the Falcons. Notwithstanding their dominance this year, Atlanta has still received criticism for its lack of success in prior playoff trips, losing in the first round of all three of its last berths since 2008.

Green Bay Packers Fans:

Green Bay currently holds the No. 2 seed and will retain it with a win. A loss to the Vikings may result in trading the No. 2 seed for San Francisco’s No. 3 seed, should the 49ers beat the Cardinals at home. The Packers will concede the No. 2 seed to the Seattle Seahawks if both Green Bay and San Francisco lose and Seattle wins—claiming the NFC West Title and tie-breaker with a head-to-head victory in the “Fail-Mary” game against Green Bay. The Packers cannot fall lower than the No. 3 seed, secured with a first-round home-field advantage, at worst.

San Francisco 49ers Fans

San Francisco has the same luxury of an assured first-round home-field advantage, at worst, if they beat the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park Sunday. Should the Packers lose, a Niners victory secures a No. 2 seed and first-round bye along with the NFC West Division Title. If the 49ers lose to the Cardinals and the Seahawks beat the Rams, San Francisco will lose the NFC West to Seattle and snag the No. 5 seed. They’d then have to play either Green Bay, Seattle, Washington or Dallas, on the road in the “wild-card round.”

Seattle Seahawks Fans

Seattle is assured at least the No. 5 seed, but stands to move up to as high as No. 2 with help. If Seattle wins and San Francisco loses, the NFC West Division Title will belong to the Seahawks, as well as home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If Green Bay also loses in the previous scenario, Seattle holds the tie-breaker over Green Bay for the No. 2 seed and first-round bye.

All the AFC playoff spots are secured, however, there still exist situations where movements in seeding can occur.

Houston Texans/Denver Broncos/New England Patriots/Baltimore Ravens Fans

Because Houston and Denver have identical 12-3 records, they hold the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively (Houston beating Denver gives them the tie-breaker). Should Houston beat Indianapolis on the road Sunday, they will lock up No. 1. Should they lose and Denver wins, the Broncos will take the No. 1 spot.

If New England wins along with Denver, a Texans loss drops them to the No. 3 spot and gives the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to Denver and New England, respectively. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will take the No. 2 seed from the Broncos, as they own the head-to-head tie-breaker. If both the Texans and the Broncos lose, a Patriots win gives them the No. 1 seed, leaving Houston and Denver at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. If New England loses and the Baltimore Ravens win, the Ravens will move up to the No. 3 seed and the Pats will to No. 4.

Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals Fans

Indianapolis and Cincinnati have the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds locked up, respectively.