NFL Playoff Scenarios 2017-18: AFC, NFC Week 16 Picture, Postseason Predictions

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2017

Tom Brady and the Patriots are in a position to have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are in a position to have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.Associated Press

The New England Patriots have moved to the top of the class—at least as far as the AFC is concerned.

The Patriots survived their visit to Heinz Field Sunday, finding a way to earn a 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That allowed the Pats to move into the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff structure.

New England and Pittsburgh both have 11-3 records, but the former's last-second win Sunday gives it the tiebreaker edge over the latter.

The Jacksonville Jaguars rolled to a 45-7 triumph over the Houston Texans, and that improved their record to 10-4 and clinched a playoff spot for Doug Marrone's team. The Jags will likely end up with the AFC South title, but they have not clinched that position yet.

The Kansas City Chiefs were in big trouble going into Week 14, having lost six of their previous seven games. They were in a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, as all three teams had 6-6 records.

The Chiefs rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Raiders and Chargers, and ahead of Week 16, they lead L.A. by one game and Oakland by two. Kansas City also has the tiebreaker edge over the former.

The Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills are both 8-6, and they are holding on to the two AFC wild-card spots.

The Baltimore Ravens are also 8-6, but the Titans and Bills have the tiebreaker edges over John Harbaugh's team. However, the Ravens have home games remaining against the Indianapolis Colts (3-11) and the Cincinnati Bengals (5-9), so they have a great opportunity to win out.

The Titans host the Rams and the Jaguars in their last two regular-season games, and it will be much harder for them to hold on to their spot in the playoff structure. The Bills play at New England in Week 16 before closing the season against the Miami Dolphins (6-8) on the road.

Nick Foles and the Eagles are on top of the NFC playoff structure.
Nick Foles and the Eagles are on top of the NFC playoff structure.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles rallied to beat the New York Giants 34-29 Sunday, which handed them a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Eagles (12-2) have a one-game lead over the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings (11-3), and they are in a position to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

The Rams (10-4) and the New Orleans Saints (10-4) are in first place in the NFC West and South, respectively. While neither team has clinched its division or a playoff spot, both are in good positions to earn those titles.

Los Angeles hammered the Seattle Seahawks (8-6) on the road Sunday by a 42-7 score, and Sean McVay's team appears to be quite dangerous with the playoffs around the corner.

The Carolina Panthers (10-4) and the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) are in the two wild-card spots, but the Falcons' position is tenuous.

Atlanta plays on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night, and if it loses that game, it would have the same record as the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks. The final two gameweeks will be a battle for the final playoff spot in the conference.

The Falcons play at New Orleans in Week 16 before hosting the Panthers in the final week of the season. The Lions close with a road game at Cincinnati and a home game with the Green Bay Packers (7-7), while the Cowboys host Seattle in Week 16 before they go to Lincoln Financial Field and take on the Eagles in Week 17.

The Seahawks close the season at home against the Arizona Cardinals (6-8).

                      

Predictions

Look for the Patriots and Steelers to hold on to the top two seeds in the AFC, with the Jaguars earning the No. 3 spot as the AFC South champions.

The Chiefs have survived their slump and will take the AFC West title.

The Ravens will win out and take one of the wild-card spots, and the Chargers will end up with the final AFC playoff position.

Both of those teams will win out, while the Titans will drop their final two games and the Bills will lose at New England. The Chargers have the tiebreaker edge over the Bills as a result of their head-to-head 54-24 victory in Week 11.

The Eagles will win out and earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Vikings will thus earn the No. 2 seed. The Rams and Saints will win their divisions and hold on to the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively. 

The Panthers will take a wild-card spot, but the Falcons will squander their opportunity, and the Lions will take the last NFC playoff spot.

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