Live NFL Playoff Picture Getting Close After Cowboys, Chiefs Losses in Week 17

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2022

Live NFL Playoff Picture Getting Close After Cowboys, Chiefs Losses in Week 17

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Looking ahead to Week 18, several matchups have playoff implications.

    Following Sunday's games, five AFC clubs remain in the hunt for two wild-card slots. In that conference, two squads have a shot at the AFC East title, and four other clubs have a chance to clinch home-field advantage.

    In the NFC, we know who's clinched the No. 1 seed and three of the four division titles. At the bottom of the bracket, only two clubs will vie for the final playoff spot.

    With the playoff standings below, we'll walk you through some of the most intriguing seeding and clinching scenarios that could play out in the final week of the regular season.

Playoff Picture Through 17 Weeks

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    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron RodgersAssociated Press


    1. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

    2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

    3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

    4. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

    5. New England Patriots (10-6)

    6. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) 

    7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)


    8. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

    9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)

    10. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

    11. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

    Note: Dolphins have been eliminated from playoff contention.



    1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

    2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

    3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

    4. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

    5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

    6. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

    7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)


    8. New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Titans Can Clinch Home-Field Advantage in the AFC

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    Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
    Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan TannehillAssociated Press

    The Chiefs' loss to the Bengals opened the door for the Titans to claim home-field advantage in the AFC after their win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Tennessee holds the tiebreaker with Kansas City because of a head-to-head victory from Week 7.

    The Titans have already won the AFC South, but an opening-round bye would give them a breather while star running back Derrick Henry recovers from foot surgery.

    According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, Henry returned to the practice field last week and "could be ready next week."

    The Titans don't need to rush Henry back, though, as they could beat a four-win Houston Texans squad without him. Should his recovery remain on track, he might be able to take on a normal workload by mid-January.

    If Tennessee can finish atop the AFC and welcome back its best offensive playmaker for the postseason, they'll further entrench themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Bills, Patriots Still Vying for AFC East Title

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    Bills head coach Sean McDermott (left) and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right)
    Bills head coach Sean McDermott (left) and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right)Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Bills and Patriots have identical records and split their season series, but Buffalo holds the tiebreaker because of a better record within the division.

    In Week 18, the Bills can win the AFC East with a victory over the New York Jets. If they lose and the Patriots beat or tie with Miami, New England would move into the top spot in the division.

    The Patriots will go on the road for a tough matchup with the Dolphins. Miami beat New England 17-16 in the first week of the season and won seven consecutive contests before they lost to the Titans on Sunday.

    Meanwhile, the Bills will host a four-win Jets squad that they shellacked 45-17 in Week 10. Though Buffalo had a head-scratching loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 9, quarterback Josh Allen has three straight wins against Gang Green.

    Coming off a subpar passing performance against the Atlanta Falcons, throwing for 120 yards and three interceptions, Allen should bounce back against the Jets' 29th-ranked pass defense.

Raiders Travel Rocky Road to Win-And-In Game

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    Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr
    Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek CarrDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Raiders have gone through a chaotic season.

    Former head coach Jon Gruden resigned after Week 5 because of racist, misogynistic and anti-gay emails dating back to 2010. The team waived Henry Ruggs III after his involvement in a fatal crash for which he is facing DUI resulting in death and reckless driving charges.

    Star tight end Darren Waller has missed the past five outings because of knee and back injuries.

    Yet after falling to 6-7 following an embarrassing 48-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders have won three consecutive games and head into the final week with a chance to punch their ticket to the postseason.

    On Sunday, the Raiders beat the Colts with a game-winning field goal. They're currently the eighth seed, but a Week 18 win over the Chargers would elevate them into the playoffs.

    In Week 4, Las Vegas lost to Los Angeles on the road. With a win in the season finale, the Raiders can exact revenge on their divisional rival by propelling themselves to the postseason and sending the Chargers home for the offseason.

Rams Closing In on NFC West Title

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Following a Week 11 bye, the Rams have won five of six contests. In December, they closed the gap on the Cardinals and surpassed them in the standings. Now, Los Angeles sits in the driver's seat for the NFC West title and the No. 2 seed in the conference.

    Next week, if the Rams snap a five-game losing streak to the 49ers, they'll avoid a road game in the Wild Card Round and win their first division title since the 2018 campaign.

    If Los Angeles falls to San Francisco again and Arizona beats the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals would finish in the top spot in the NFC West.

    The Cardinals host the Seahawks, which seems like an advantage for the home team, but Arizona has a 3-4 record at State Farm Stadium. After scoring 51 points against the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks could play spoiler and pull off an upset.

49ers, Saints in Contention for Final Playoff Spot in NFC

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    San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance
    San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey LanceLachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    The 49ers can clinch a playoff berth with a win, but they must beat a Rams club that's on a five-game winning streak. If San Francisco loses, the Saints would claim the seventh seed with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

    In Week 10, the 49ers dominated Rams 31-10 with an effective ground game (156 rushing yards) and a stifling defense. However, Los Angeles should pose a tougher challenge while on a hot streak.

    On top of that, rookie quarterback Trey Lance may have to start over Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed Sunday's game with a torn UCL and a fractured bone in his thumb.

    While Lance had a decent performance against the Houston Texans Sunday, he would face stiffer competition in a matchup with defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the opposing side.

    The Saints don't have an easy cakewalk, either. In Week 9, they lost to the Falcons (27-25) at home. New Orleans has to split the season series with Atlanta and root for the Rams to knock the 49ers out of the playoff picture.


    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.