NFL Playoff Scenarios 2013: Breaking Down Every Outcome Ahead of Week 17

Alex Kay@AlexPKayCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Anquan Boldin #81 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL regular season is winding down, but the last week of the regular season will be anything but drab.

With so many teams yet to lock up guaranteed spots in the playoffs, not to mention the ever-important seeding, Week 17 will undoubtedly be a thrilling affair and one of the most critical Sundays of the year.

Let's take a look at all the different outcomes in play when each of the 32 teams takes the field, broken down by division to make things easier to digest.


AFC East

The New England Patriots have already clinched the division, but they are eyeing a bye week with a win over the Buffalo Bills. They can also nab one if both the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts lose.

New England still has a chance at locking up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, needing a win and a Denver Broncos loss to make that happen.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins can reach the postseason in a number of ways: a win and a Ravens loss or tie; a win and a Chargers win; a tie plus a Ravens loss plus a Chargers loss or tie; and finally, a win plus a Ravens tie and a Chargers tie. It sounds complicated, but Miami still has a decent shot.


AFC North

The Bengals locked up the divisional crown, but still have plenty to play for. This squad can grab a first-round bye with a win and New England loss.

Despite losing in blowout fashion in Week 16, the Baltimore Ravens aren’t out of contention yet. The Super Bowl champions will have a chance at defending their crown if they win and either the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers lose.

Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) gives a stiff arm to New England Patriots safety Steve Gregory (28) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore can also get in if the ‘Phins, Bolts and Pittsburgh Steelers falter on Sunday.

Pittsburgh has an outside chance at the playoffs, needing to win and have the Dolphins, Chargers and Ravens all lose this week.


AFC South

The Colts clinched the division a long time ago but still have an improbable bye to play for. They can nab one if the Patriots and Bengals are both defeated in Week 17.


AFC West

The Broncos simply need a win to capture the top seed in the AFC, but a loss by New England will also accomplish that same goal.

San Diego can jump in with a wild-card spot if it wins and the Dolphins and Ravens both lose.

The Kansas City Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed this year and have a meaningless affair against San Diego to close the season.


NFC East

The NFC East will come down to an effective championship matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The victor gets a coveted playoff spot and the divisional crown at the end of this critical matchup.

It's currently unknown if Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will suit up for this affair, which has been flexed to the marquee Sunday Night Football showdown in Week 17. 

ESPN's Skip Bayless believes that Romo's presence would give Dallas a better shot at winning, but he's not convinced that the signal-caller can take his team much further.

It'll be interesting to see what ends up happening with the Romo situation closer to kick-off.


NFC North

This division will also come down to one final game. The Green Bay Packers are hosting the Chicago Bears for a winner-take-all affair at Lambeau Field, with the postseason and NFC North title on the line.

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04: Martellus Bennett #83 of the Chicago Bears moves against Casey Hayward #29 and Brad Jones #59 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 4, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Packers 27-20. (Photo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


NFC South

The Carolina Panthers have a chance to win this division with either a victory or a New Orleans Saints loss on Sunday. Either of those scenarios would also result in a bye for this team.

Carolina is in the running for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs still, needing a victory in Week 17 along with losses from the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints aren’t even assured a playoff spot just yet, but a win will get them in. An Arizona Cardinals loss will allow them to back in as well, but that cannot be the situation this team is hoping for.

New Orleans isn’t out of the NFC South running, either, and could nab the crown with a win plus a Carolina loss, a situation that would also result in the Saints grabbing a bye with the No. 2 seed.

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints has words for Quintin Mikell #27 of the Carolina Panthers after beating him for a touchdown during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Caro
Grant Halverson/Getty Images


NFC West

The Seahawks have clinched a postseason berth but lock up home-field advantage with a simple win on Sunday. That can also happen if the 49ers are to lose in Week 17 against the Cardinals.

San Fran’s win on Monday Night Football put it into the playoffs, but it can still win the NFC West if it emerges victorious and if the Seahawks were to lose this week.

Don’t count out Arizona in this race yet, as the Cardinals simply need to beat the 49ers and have the Saints lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get into the postseason.

Arizona stunned the Seahawks in Week 16 to remain in contention, gutting out a 17-10 win. 

Seattle's head coach, Pete Carroll, had this to say about the surging Cardinals after the game, as per Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated:

The Cardinals did a nice job. They hung with their approach and got it done and put together a really good win. They played really well on defense — they were harder and tougher than we wanted them to be. You’ve got to give them credit. This is seven out of eight now, and it’s no surprise. We went in with great respect with what they’re doing, so I don’t have any problem with that.

It would be a true shame if the Cardinals missed the playoffs, as they have a better record (10-5) and will finish with more wins than the teams vying to win both the NFC East and NFC North. 


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