There is still a surprising amount of playoff uncertainty in both the NFC and AFC, considering there are just two weeks left in the 2013 NFL season.
Fortunately, a number of matchups this coming Sunday—and Monday night—will help make the postseason picture much more clear.
Let’s take a look at what is on the line and what each team in the hunt needs to do in order to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Ties have been taken out of the equation to keep things a bit more tidy.
AFC Week 16 Scenarios
Three teams in the conference have already clinched playoff appearances, with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs set to emerge from the AFC West in some order and the Indianapolis Colts locking up the AFC South title.
The Broncos can outright win their division this week by winning and having Kansas City lose. They can secure the top overall seed in the conference with a win plus a loss by both the Chiefs and Patriots.
Speaking of the Pats, they aren’t even guaranteed to make a playoff run yet. They can win the AFC East with a win or if the Miami Dolphins outright lose.
They can earn a bye if they win and the Cincinnati Bengals and Colts lose. Finally, New England is guaranteed to be in the playoffs in some capacity if the Bengals lose in Week 16.
Which AFC team is most likely to miss the playoffs?
Cincy will be doing all it can to beat the Vikings on Sunday, as a “W” coupled with a Baltimore Ravens loss would give this franchise the AFC North crown. The Bengals are also in the playoffs if they win and the ‘Phins falter.
Baltimore can nab a playoff spot, but not the AFC North title this week, but the Ravens need some help. They have to get a win plus a Miami and San Diego Chargers defeat in order to earn a chance to defend their Super Bowl championship.
Finally, the Dolphins can earn a postseason berth by winning while the Ravens and Bengals lose.
It’s a bit complicated, but those are all the playoff scenarios in play in Week 16 for the AFC.
NFC Week 16 Scenarios
The NFC has plenty of action and intrigue on the line this week. There are five teams that have an opportunity to lock up a playoff spot, but many of them will need assistance from other squads around the league.
Only the Seattle Seahawks have clinched a berth in the upcoming postseason, leaving many of these franchises unsure of whether or not they will even make it to the final six this year.
The Seahawks can wrap up home-field advantage and the NFC West by straight-up winning or having the 49ers lose. It is that simple and very possible considering they play the Arizona Cardinals at home.
The New Orleans Saints are hoping to be the other NFC team with a bye and can earn one by scoring a victory over the rival Carolina Panthers on the road. It’s much easier said than done, and a loss would set up a number of intriguing scenarios for the season finale.
The Saints are guaranteed to be in the playoffs if Arizona loses and in a handful of other scenarios in which an unlikely tie would be involved.
Their opponent this week, the Panthers, can grab a coveted playoff spot with a victory or losses by both the Cardinals and 49ers.
Speaking of the Niners, they also earn a postseason berth with a victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. Should they fail, they would also be in with an Arizona loss.
Will Seattle squander the No. 1 seed?
The Philadelphia Eagles can clinch a top-four seed and the NFC East title if they win against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football, but only if the Dallas Cowboys aren’t able to beat the Washington Redskins.
Finally, the Bears are still in the hunt and win the NFC North division title outright by beating Philly and having both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers lose.
There are clearly tons of outcomes in play this week, so make sure you tune in to the many games that have big implications in Week 16.