NFL Playoff Schedule 2016: Known AFC, NFC Wild-Card and Postseason Info

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2016

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) looks to throw a pass against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

The NFL season will conclude Jan. 3 with the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Green Bay Packers in the final Sunday Night Football game of the year.

While both teams have clinched playoff berths, the NFC North division title is on the line, as is a home playoff game.

That scenario and many more will play out in Week 17 as the playoff picture starts to take shape.

Let's take a look at the playoff schedule, the current playoff seeds and some known information as the NFL heads into its final week of the season.

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, Jan. 9

Sunday, Jan. 10

Divisional Playoffs

Saturday, Jan. 16

Sunday, Jan. 17

Conference Championships

Sunday, Jan. 24

Super Bowl 50

Sunday, Feb. 7

The teams are yet to be determined, but here is a look at the current playoff picture for both conferences:

What's Known in the NFC

All six playoff spots have been secured in the NFC, but Washington is the only team locked in to its current seed.

Whether the NFC East champs finish 8-8 or 9-7, they will have the worst record of any division winner but will still host a game on Wild Card Weekend.

The top three seeds are still up for grabs, although the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are the only teams that have a shot at the No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

A graphic released by the NFL showed the different scenarios of the top four seeds:

The wild-card spots will be occupied by two of three teams, although the Seattle Seahawks will be one of them, as they have clinched a postseason berth but cannot catch the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West.

The loser of the Vikings-Packers game will be the second wild-card team, which means the playoff picture will not be set until the final snap of the regular season.

What's Known in the AFC

The AFC playoff picture is more wide open than the NFC, as only four teams have officially clinched a postseason berth.

Currently at No. 1, the New England Patriots will remain there with a win or Denver Broncos loss. While it's cut and dry for New England, it's a bit fuzzier for the Broncos.

Although they hold the No. 2 spot heading into Week 17, they could fall into a wild-card spot. By virtue of losing a tiebreaker to the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver drops to the No. 5 seed if it loses to the San Diego Chargers and the Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders.

A Denver win or Chiefs loss means the Broncos wrap up the AFC West and the Chiefs are the No. 5 seed.

The AFC South has an interesting scenario as well.

At 8-7, the Houston Texans lead the Indianapolis Colts by one game and currently have a hold on the No. 4 seed and a home playoff game. The Texans are safe considering the only way the Colts jump them is an Indianapolis win, Texans loss and six victories from other teams, which would give the Colts the division title.

The NFL shared a video that sums up just how unlikely it will be for Indianapolis to earn the playoff berth:

The Cincinnati Bengals have a clearer path to their seed. If they win in Week 17, they stay at No. 2. However, a loss coupled with a Denver win will drop them to No. 3.

At this point, it's safe to say the top five playoff spots, in no particular order, will be held by the Patriots, Broncos, Bengals, Texans and Chiefs. The final seed will belong to the New York Jets or Pittsburgh Steelers.

If the Jets defeat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17, they will remain in the No. 6 spot and Pittsburgh is out. The only way the Steelers find a way into the postseason is a Week 17 win coupled with a Jets loss, in which they win the tiebreaker over New York.

There is still so much to be determined in both conferences that it's best to just watch the games and let things play out how they will. If the regular season is any indication, the playoffs will be an entertaining five weeks.


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