Week 16 of the NFL season promises to be one of the best yet in terms of excitement, especially with so many playoff implications riding on the outcomes of many games.
Let’s take a look at three of Sunday’s late games and highlight the potential postseason scenarios that hinge on the results.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
Cleveland is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but the upstart squad could knock the Broncos down a peg by pulling off an improbable victory.
Denver needs a win plus a New England Patriots loss to lock up a first-round bye, assuming there aren’t any ties. It would be a huge boon for a team led by veteran QB Peyton Manning to get an extra week of rest, and that’s exactly what the Browns will be hoping to prevent.
After a dismal start to the season, Cleveland has won three of its last four and is gunning to end the 2012 campaign on a high note by beating one of the best teams in the conference.
Denver would like to finish strong and secure one of the AFC’s top two seeds.
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals
After a 7-1 start, the Bears have slid all the way down to 8-6 and need some luck to secure a postseason berth.
In order to have the best chance of advancing, Chicago must win on Sunday against the Cardinals and then defeat the Detroit Lions in the season finale.
The Bears also need help from a number of different teams. According to Chris Gasper of MidwayMadness.com, here is how the team can get in:
-The Vikings lose at least once, Seattle goes 0-2 against the 49ers and St. Louis Rams.
-The Giants lose and Seattle goes 0-2.
-Seattle goes 0-2 and both the Redskins and Cowboys lose once.
-The Vikings and Giants both lose at least once.
-The Vikings, Redskins, and Cowboys all lose once.
These certainly aren’t improbable scenarios, so Chicago needs to turn itself around and pick up these last two W’s.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
This Sunday Night Football contest features a ton of playoff implications, including first-round byes, the NFC West title and more.
Which team will win?
The 'Niners would lock up the division by simply winning the game and can earn a Wild Card Weekend vacation by achieving victory plus watching the Green Bay Packers lose (again, assuming no ties).
For Seattle, the team has still not secured a wild-card berth but could actually claim the division title by winning out and have San Francisco falter in its season finale.
There is a multitude of ways for the Seahawks to lock up a postseason spot—the simplest being straight up winning in Week 16.
Here are the rest of the ways, courtesy of NFL.com:
1) SEA win OR
2) CHI loss + MIN loss + DAL loss or tie + WAS tie
3) SEA tie + NYG loss + CHI loss or tie OR
4) SEA tie + NYG loss + MIN loss or tie OR
5) SEA tie + CHI loss or tie + MIN loss or tie OR
6) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + CHI loss or tie OR
7) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR
8) CHI loss + MIN loss + WAS loss OR
It seems the Seahawks are going to make it, but obviously nothing is secure in today’s unpredictable NFL.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South
No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth
No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-4) Clinched NFC North
No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East
No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)
IN THE HUNT
Chicago Bears (8-6)
Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
New York Giants (8-6)
St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)
New Orleans Saints (6-8)
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South
No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West
No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East
No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC North; Clinched Playoff Berth
WILD CARD LEADERS
No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
IN THE HUNT
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
Miami Dolphins (6-8)