The race to the postseason has heated up over the last month, and Week 17 of the 2013 NFL regular season features several teams in the playoff picture fighting to secure their spot on the road to the Super Bowl.
Both the AFC and NFC are incredibly competitive this season. With several playoff positions clinched and several others still up for grabs, there are dozens of scenarios that can play out in the final week of the season.
Here is how the playoff picture could shake out.
*All stats and postseason scenarios via NFL.com.
Breaking Down the AFC
The AFC featured amazing action this year but is only going to continue to get better as the hunt for the playoffs reaches its final week.
For those who missed it, the Denver Broncos secured the West division title and a first-round bye, the New England Patriots won the East, the Cincinnati Bengals won the North, the Indianapolis Colts won the South, and the Kansas City Chiefs secured a spot as one of the AFC wild cards.
There is more to gain for these elite teams, though.
Denver can secure home-field advantage with a win or tie, or a New England loss or tie. The Patriots need a win or tie, or Cincinnati and Indianapolis to each lose or tie to clinch a first-round bye. The Bengals could also get the first-round bye if the team is victorious in Week 17 and New England loses to Buffalo.
For the Colts to secure the first-round bye, the team must beat the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, the Patriots must lose, and Cincinnati must lose or tie.
With only one position remaining unclaimed in the AFC playoffs, the hunt to take that spot will come down to four teams: the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers.
Here’s how the wild-card chase breaks down for the AFC, via NFL.com:
Miami clinch a playoff spot with:
1) Miami win + Baltimore loss or tie OR
2) Miami win + San Diego win OR
3) Miami tie + Baltimore loss + San Diego loss or tie OR
4) Miami tie + Baltimore tie + San Diego tie
Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Baltimore win + San Diego loss or tie OR
2) Baltimore win + Miami loss or tie OR
3) Baltimore tie + Miami loss + San Diego loss or tie OR
4) Baltimore tie + Miami tie + San Diego loss OR
5) Miami loss + San Diego loss + Pittsburgh loss or tie
San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:
1) San Diego win + Miami loss or tie + Baltimore loss or tie OR
2) San Diego tie + Miami loss + Baltimore loss
Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Pittsburgh win + Miami loss + Baltimore loss + San Diego loss
Breaking Down the NFC
While the AFC playoff scenarios are very convoluted, the NFC is just as complicated.
The Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers have all secured a spot in the postseason, but none have clinched their division, home-field advantage or a first-round bye.
Seattle can win the West and secure home-field throughout the playoffs with a win or tie this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Carolina needs to beat or tie the Atlanta Falcons, or New Orleans must lose or tie in order for the Panthers to win the South and secure a first-round bye. Cam Newton and Carolina can also take home-field advantage with a win, a Seahawks loss and a 49ers victory.
San Francisco can lock up the West and a first-round bye with a win and a Seattle loss, but the team can also take home-field advantage with a win, a Seahawks loss and a Carolina loss or tie.
With the North and the East division titles still up for grabs entering the final week of the season, the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers can all secure their own fate with a victory. Philadelphia and Chicago could also win their respective divisions with a tie as well.
That leaves only one wild-card spot open. With the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals fighting for that final slot, here is how the chase breaks down for the NFC, via NFL.com:
New Orleans clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:
1) New Orleans win + Carolina loss
New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:
1) New Orleans win OR
2) New Orleans tie + Arizona loss or tie OR
3) Arizona loss
Arizona clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Arizona win + New Orleans loss or tie OR
2) Arizona tie + New Orleans loss
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