The NFL Playoff picture is clearing up but there are still many NFL Playoff scenarios to breakdown with 18 games left in the season. If you're interested in who's in, who's still fighting, and who's going to play who in the playoffs--you're in the right place.
Who's In The Playoffs
New England has clinched home field throughout the playoffs in the AFC. Atlanta can earn that distinction in the NFC with a Monday Night win over New Orleans. Either way the Falcons are in.
Five of the six AFC participants have been determined.
Kansas City owns the AFC West crown and the NY Jets have secured a wild card birth, in spite of Sunday's loss.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore are battling for the AFC North title. Both are in the playoffs and both have favorable match-ups against the lesser half of the division next week. If the teams remain tied Pitt owns the breaker.
The NFC playoff picture is still a bit cloudier. We talked about Atlanta who could end up anywhere from the top NFC team to a wild card. Odds are they will at least own the NFC South crown with Carolina in week 17.
Chicago and Philly have also clinched their divisions. If both were to win-out the Bears will earn the higher seed.
Who's Still Fighting
Who will win NFC West?
Indianapolis has control over the AFC South for the final playoff spot in the conference. The only way Jacksonville can steal it back is if the Colts drop a home game to the Titans next week and the Jags beat the Texans in Houston. The current line has the Colts by 8.5 points in week 17.
New Orleans still has a chance of earning the top seed in the NFC, or missing the playoffs entirely. If the Saints win-out and Atlanta loses to Carolina NO would be #1. As long as the Saints win one of their next two they are in as wild cards. Even if the Saints lose to the Falcons and Bucs they can still make the playoffs with NYG and GB losses.
Tampa Bay can make the playoffs if the Saints lose their next two games. If the Saints happen to win the Bucs will need week 17 losses from Green Bay and the Giants to go with their beating of NO.
The Packers know if they beat the Bears in week 17 they're in. They could come through the back door if the Giants and Bucs both lose in week 17 to go with a GB loss.
The Giants hold a tiebreaker over Tampa and NO so if they finish 9-7 they don't have a shot. In order to make the playoffs they need to beat Washington next week and have the Packers lose or the Saints lose their next two.
The final piece to the NFL playoff picture is the lowly NFC West. If Seattle wins they are in. If St. Louis wins they are in. Let's root for the Rams for the integrity's sake.
Who's Going To Play Who In The Playoffs
Given the scenarios above, here is how I see the playoffs shaking out.
New York Jets (AFC 6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (AFC 3) - The Jets hit the playoff road as dawgs again and KC in undefeated at home. I've enjoyed watching KC all year, and would like to see them win but the Jets are battled tested giving them the edge.
Baltimore Ravens (AFC 5) @ Indianapolis Colts (AFC 4) - The Ravens are a much more complete team than Indy. The Colts have had an impressive run to close-out the regular season but its hard to see this one going Peyton Manning's way.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC 2) and New England Patriots (AFC 1) earn byes.
Green Bay Packers (NFC 6) @ Chicago Bears (NFC 3) - If the Packers beat the Bears in week 17 this is the likely match-up the following week. As long as Aaron Rodgers can keep his head clear I like the Packers to earn back to back wins over Da Bears.
New Orleans Saints (NFC 5) @ St. Louis Rams (NFC 4) - Saints did the Rams 31 - 13 in week 14. Now that the game is in STL maybe it will be more like 28 - 16.
Philadelphia Eagles (NFC 2) and Atlanta Falcons (NFC 1) earn byes.
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