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NFL Playoff Picture 2013: Complete Outlook Heading into Final Week

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers intercepts a two point conversion try and falls over receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals in the back of the endzone during the third quarter at Candlestick Park on October 13, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Tim KeeneyContributor IDecember 24, 2013

So much for the final week of the regular season not meaning anything. 

This past Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks had a chance to wrap up home-field advantage throughout the NFC. They shockingly lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals. The New Orleans Saints had a chance to win the NFC South. They fell to the Carolina Panthers. The Chicago Bears could have closed the book on the wild NFC North. They forgot to show up against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Over in the AFC, the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens both lost, keeping the wild-card race wide open. 

Combine all of that, and heading into Week 17, there is just one current playoff team—the Kansas City Chiefs, who are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC—with nothing to play for. 

Let's take a closer look. 

 

NFC Picture

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 22:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs against Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals on December 22, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Here we are, with just one game remaining, and the Panthers, Seahawks and 49ers are the only teams to have clinched playoff berths:

NFC Playoff Picture
NFC EastWinsLossesTies.Pct
Philadelphia Eagles960.600
Dallas Cowboys870.533
NFC NorthWinsLossesTies.PCT
Chicago Bears870.533
Green Bay Packers771.500
NFC SouthWinsLossesTies.PCT
Carolina Panthers (x)1140.733
New Orleans Saints1050.667
NFC WestWinsLossesTies.PCT
Seattle Seahawks (x)1230.800
San Francisco 49ers (x)1140.714
Arizona Cardinals1050.667
NFC Wild CardWinsLossesTies.PCT
San Francisco 49ers (x)1140.714
New Orleans Saints1050.667
Arizona Cardinals1050.667
(x) Clinched Playoff Berth

Pete Carroll's squad suffered the upset of the week, but the Seahawks get another chance to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage at CenturyLink on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. With a win, they'll be No. 1 in the conference. Don't assume it will be a cakewalk against the 7-8 opponent, though. 

Robert Quinn leads a dangerous St. Louis pass rush that is capable of making Russell Wilson uncomfortable, much like Arizona did, per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling:

Should the Seahawks lose that one, they can still clinch the NFC No. 1 seed if those same Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers at home.

As for the rest of the West, the 'Niners need a win on the road against the Cardinals plus a Seattle loss to capture the division for the third straight season, while a win plus a Seattle loss plus a Carolina loss would gave Jim Harbaugh's team home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Arizona's magical season keeps getting, um, magic-ier, but Bruce Arians' squad still needs some help to crack the postseason. The Cards need to beat the 49ers and have the Saints lose at home—where they are undefeated—to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Speaking of the Saints, all they need is a victory to clinch a playoff spot, but they also need some assistance if they want a division title and first-round bye. The white-hot Panthers take on the stumbling Atlanta Falcons, and a win will earn them those accolades. Should they lose, the Saints will pass them with a win.

The Panthers can also still win home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win, Seattle loses and San Francisco wins.  

Over in the East and North, things are a lot simpler. The winners of Dallas vs. Philadelphia and Chicago vs. Green Bay will win their respective divisions. 

As ESPN's Darren Rovell points out, recent history doesn't exactly favor the Cowboys:

Moreover, Tony Romo is dealing with a back injury. Jason Garrett talked about his status, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:

 

AFC Picture

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos works out on the field prior to the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Things in the AFC are a little less muddy. Five teams—the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs—have clinched playoff spots and are now just fighting for seeding (except for the Chiefs): 

AFC Playoff Picture
AFC EastWinsLossesTies.Pct
New England Patriots (z)1140.733
AFC NorthWinsLossesTies.Pct
Cincinnati Bengals (z)1050.667
AFC SouthWinsLossesTies.Pct
Indianapolis Colts (z)1050.667
AFC WestWinsLossesTies.Pct
Denver Broncos (z)1230.800
AFC Wild CardWinsLossesTies.Pct
Kansas City Chiefs (x)1140.733
Miami Dolphins870.433
Baltimore Ravens870.433
San Diego Chargers870.433
Pittsburgh Steelers780.467
(x) Clinched playoff spot; (z) Clinched division

Denver is in the driver's seat, simply needing a win at Oakland to earn the AFC's No. 1 seed. 

The only other team still alive for that distinction is New England. It must beat the Buffalo Bills at home and hope the Raiders also pull the upset at home against Denver. As Joe Ferreira points out, the Broncos are still assured a first-round bye, though:

As we turn our focus toward the last wild-card spot, things gets a bit messy, as the Dolphins, Ravens, Chargers and Steelers all still alive. 

The Dolphins are in the best shape. They need a home win against the New York Jets coupled with a Ravens loss at Cincinnati, where the Bengals are undefeated. Miami can also clinch with a win plus a San Diego win versus Kansas City.

Remember, the Chiefs have nothing to play for, and as the National Football Post notes, Andy Reid could rest his starters:

However, say for a second both the Dolphins and Ravens win their 1 p.m. ET games. That makes the Kansas City at San Diego game vital: If the Chiefs win, the Ravens are in, but if the Chargers win, the Dolphins are in. However, both Miami and Baltimore winning would eliminate the Chargers (more on them in a second) and leave them with nothing to play for in the 4:25 p.m. ET game. 

Hence, Kansas City at San Diego would be as unpredictable as it is important. 

Back to John Harbaugh's team. In addition to a win plus a San Diego loss, the Ravens could also clinch with a win plus a Miami loss. 

San Diego needs a win plus losses from both Miami and Baltimore, while Pittsburgh is in the market for a miracle: a win at home against the Browns plus losses from all other three contenders. 

Buckle up, folks. 

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