The NFL playoff picture isn't quite set, but with just one game remaining in Week 16, it's getting awfully close.
In the AFC, all four division winners have been determined, and the Baltimore Ravens have clinched the No. 1 seed. In the NFC, five playoff participants have been decided, though only one division and no first-round byes have been settled.
The Green Bay Packers can add a bit of clarity Monday night by defeating the Minnesota Vikings. Doing so would give Green Bay the NFC North and lock the Vikings into the No. 6 seed. If the Vikings win, they'll still have a shot at the division title—though it will require another win and another Packers loss—or the top wild-card spot.
Here, we'll run down some other remaining playoff scenarios and examine the current postseason schedule. First, though, let's take a look at the playoff picture heading into Monday night.
NFL Playoff Picture, Pre-MNF
1. Baltimore Ravens (Z) 13-2
2. New England Patriots (Z) 12-3
3. Kansas City Chiefs (Z) 11-4
4. Houston Texans (Z) 10-5
5. Buffalo Bills (X) 10-5
6. Tennessee Titans 8-7
7. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7
8. Oakland Raiders 7-8
1. San Francisco 49ers (X) 12-3
2. New Orleans Saints (Z) 12-3
3. Green Bay Packers (X) 11-3
4. Philadelphia Eagles 8-7
5. Seattle Seahawks (X) 11-4
6. Minnesota Vikings (X) 10-4
*X indicated clinched playoff spot, Z indicates division champion.
The AFC's Final Wild-Card Spot
Only one playoff spot remains, and it's the last wild-card spot in the AFC. It's also a playoff spot that could largely be determined by which teams rest their starters in Week 17.
The Tennessee Titans have the easiest path to the postseason. They need either a win or a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the final slot. The Steelers need to win and get a Titans loss to get in. Tennessee and Pittsburgh play the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens, respectively, in Week 17.
Here's where resting could come into play. Neither the Texans nor the Ravens have anything of value left to play for. Baltimore has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference, The Texans do have a slight chance of moving from the fourth seed to the No. 3 spot, but that would require the Kansas City Chiefs to lose to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Fortunately, the Texans will know their odds when they take the field, as they play in the late afternoon and the Chiefs play in the early slot.
Though they have an even tougher path to the playoffs, the Oakland Raiders are also still alive. They need a win, losses by the Titans and Steelers and a win by the Indianapolis Colts to spark a tiebreaker scenario that puts the Raiders into the playoffs. It's an unlikely scenario, but it's not impossible.
The NFC West Race
As previously mentioned, the Vikings still have a shot at the No. 5 seed, even if they can't win the division. This is because the Seattle Seahawks have lost two of their last three and can drop to the sixth spot with two Vikings wins and a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17.
If the Seahawks defeat the 49ers, though, they'll take the NFC West crown and will have a shot at a first-round bye. If the 49ers win, they'll take the division and the conference's No. 1 seed.
Depending on how the next week-plus plays out, the Seahawks could finish as the second seed, the fifth seed or the sixth seed. The 49ers could be No. 1 or No. 5. Unfortunately, injuries to Seahawks running back Chris Carson (hip) and tackle Duane Brown (knee) could hand the 49ers a clear advantage.
This is unfortunate because the 49ers-Seahawks clash has been earmarked for the final regular-season game of 2019—and the stakes are tremendous. Most fans would love to see an even playing field.
A Lot Can Still Happen at the Top
While there is only one playoff spot still up for grabs, three of the four first-round byes can be had—and there are numerous potential scenarios.
In the AFC, it's pretty straightforward. If the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins, they'll take the No. 2 seed. If they lose and the Chiefs win, however, Kansas City will get the bye because of its head-to-head win over New England.
We already mentioned how both the Seahawks and the 49ers could potentially earn byes, but the Packers and the New Orleans Saints are in the mix as well.
Green Bay only needs to win out to secure a first-round bye. Its position will then hinge on how the Seahawks and 49ers finish. If the 49ers win in Week 17, the Packers will take the No. 2 seed. If the Seahawks win, Green Bay will finish No. 1—again, provided it wins out.
The Saints need one Packers loss to get a first-round bye, Then, they can take the top spot with a Seahawks win, or the No. 2 seed with a 49ers victory. Either way, New Orleans should be rooting for Minnesota on Monday night.
2019-20 NFL Playoff Schedule
AFC and NFC Wild Card
Saturday, January 4, and Sunday, January 5
Times and TV TBD
AFC and NFC Divisional Round
Saturday, January 11, and Sunday, January 12
Times and TV TBD
AFC Championship Game
Sunday, January 19, at 3:05 p.m. ET
CBS, CBS All Access
NFC Championship Game
Sunday, January 19, at 6:40 p.m. ET
Fox, Fox Sports Go
Super Bowl LIV
Sunday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Fox, Fox Sports Go