With one week remaining in the NFL season, the playoff picture is nearly set heading into Week 17, but there are a few spots still up for grabs among a few teams in both conferences.
All four division titles are locked up in the AFC, while none of them have been clinched coming out of the NFC. For the four remaining wild-card spots, two of them are open, with one out of each conference, meaning that there will be a number of exciting games to watch for this coming week.
Below is a look at the current playoff standings for both conferences, followed by a breakdown of the current situation heading into Week 17.
|NFC Playoff Standings|
|5||x-San Francisco 49ers||11-4|
|6||New Orleans Saints||10-5|
|9||Green Bay Packers||7-7-1|
|x=Clinched playoff berth|
Although no division titles have been clinched in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers have all snagged playoff berths heading into Week 17. As long as the Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams, they'll win the NFC West and grab the No. 1 seed along with home-field advantage.
If they can beat the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers will have the No. 2 seed, and given the way both teams have played, Carolina should be in good shape.
That brings us to the NFC East and NFC North races, which will likely provide us with the two most exciting games of the week.
After the Green Bay Packers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, all the Chicago Bears had to do was win against the Philadelphia Eagles and they would have been NFC North champions. Instead, they lost 54-11 and now have to play the Packers for the NFC North title.
The status of Aaron Rodgers is still up in the air, so this will be a very dramatic few days heading into Sunday as both teams prepare to play in what could be their last games of the year.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be playing without Tony Romo this week in a game for the NFC East title against the Eagles. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the odds don't look good for Romo to play after aggravating a back injury this past week:
With one of the wild-card spots locked up between either the 49ers or Seahawks, the other will go to either the New Orleans Saints or Arizona Cardinals. As long as the Saints win, they'll be in, but if they lose and the Cardinals beat the 49ers, then Bruce Arians and company will be heading to the postseason in his first season with the team.
|AFC Playoff Standings|
|2||z-New England Patriots||11-4|
|5||x-Kansas City Chiefs||11-4|
|8||San Diego Chargers||8-7|
|z=Clinched division, x=Clinched playoff berth|
All of the division titles have already been clinched, but those four teams will likely be playing their starters in Week 17, as seeding has yet to be determined. The Denver Broncos have a very good chance of grabbing the No. 1 seed, but anything could happen in the final week of the season.
The Kansas City Chiefs have grabbed a wild-card spot and the No. 5 seed. However, regardless of what they do this week against the San Diego Chargers, they will not change their seeding, so there is a chance that they decide to rest their starters and try to get healthy heading into the playoffs.
With one spot left, four teams will be trying to grab it, and as Will Brinson from CBS Sports points out, the race between the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers is a bit of a mess:
Although the Dolphins hold the No. 6 spot right now, they might not even go to the playoffs if they beat the New York Jets. If they win, they will have to hope for either a Baltimore loss or, strangely enough, a San Diego win in order to head to the postseason.
The Ravens have the straightest path, although they have one of the tougher matchups. They will have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, who are currently fighting for playoff seeding, and then hope for either the Dolphins or Chargers to lose. Considering they were the Super Bowl champions just a year ago, it's wild to think that the Ravens could be staying at home for the playoffs.
If the Chargers can win, they will have to hope for both the Ravens and Dolphins to lose. Fortunately for San Diego, it will be going against the Chiefs, who may be resting their starters. For the Steelers, they have the toughest road of all, as they will have to beat the Cleveland Browns and then hope for the other three teams to lose.
It's a complicated picture for the last wild-card spot, but the rest of the teams in the AFC are ready for the playoffs to begin.