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There are 16 games in remaining in the NFL’s regular season, and most of the playoff spots are spoken for.
Of the 12 playoff spots, three are still up for grabs: the NFC North champion, the AFC West champion, and the second wild-card team in the NFC. However, only two of those – the NFC North and NFC wild card – are being fought over by teams that have yet to clinch a playoff spot.
The Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Washington Redskins will fill the final two spots in the NFC, although technically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have a heartbeat – barely. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are both in the playoffs, but a division title and an ever important first-round bye is still up for grabs.
Here is a closer look at the most important scenarios for the final week of the season that will decide the final playoff spots and first-round byes.
Teams still competing for a playoff spot (Week 17 opponent and chances to make playoffs in parentheses, via FiveThirtyEight). We are not including all scenarios involving ties:
- Detroit Lions (vs. Green Bay; 71%) – If the Lions beat the Packers, they are NFC North champs and in the playoffs. If they lose, they can still get in as the wild card if the Redskins don’t beat the Giants. Green Bay Packers (at Detroit; 70%) – If the Packers beat (or tie) the Lions, they are NFC North champs and in the playoffs. If they lose, they can still get in as the wild card if the Redskins lose to the Giants. Washington Redskins (vs. New York Giants; 58%) – If the Redskins beat the Giants (and the Lions-Packers game does not end in a tie), they are in the playoffs as a wild-card team. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Carolina; <1%) – The Bucs need a miracle. If they beat the Panthers, they would still need all of the following to happen: 1) Redskins tie the Giants – yes, tie; 2) Packers lose to the Lions; 3) Titans beat the Texans; 4) Colts beat the Jaguars; 5) Cowboys beat the Eagles; and 6) 49ers beat the Seahawks. The final four games in that scenario are all needed for the Bucs to beat the Packers with the fourth tie-breaker, “strength of victory.”
Teams still competing for a first-round bye in the NFC (Week 17 opponent and chances to earn a first-round bye in parentheses, via FiveThirtyEight). The Dallas Cowboys have clinched the top seed in the NFC. We are not including all scenarios involving ties:
- Atlanta Falcons (vs. New Orleans; 78%) – If the Falcons beat the Saints, they are the No. 2 seed and have a first-round bye. If they lose, they can still be the No. 2 seed if both the Seahawks and Lions lose. Seattle Seahawks (at San Francisco; 20%) – The Seahawks will be the No. 2 seed if they beat the 49ers and the Falcons do not beat the Saints. Detroit Lions (vs. Green Bay; 2%) – The Lions will be the No. 2 seed if they beat the Packers, the Falcons lose to the Saints, and if the Seahawks do not beat the 49ers.
Teams still competing for a first-round bye and/or home-field advantage in the AFC (Week 17 opponent and chances to earn a first-round bye in parentheses, via FiveThirtyEight). We are not including all scenarios involving ties:
- New England Patriots (at Miami; 100%) – The Patriots have clinched a first-round bye. If they don’t lose to the Dolphins, the Pats will be the No. 1 seed and will have home-field advantage in the AFC. New England will be the No. 2 seed if they lose and the Raiders beat the Broncos. Oakland Raiders (at Denver; 60%) – The Raiders clinch the AFC West title and at least the No. 2 seed with either a win over the Broncos or a Chiefs loss to the Chargers. If the Raiders win and the Patriots lose, the Raiders clinch the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Kansas City Chiefs (at San Diego; 40%) – It is pretty simple for the Chiefs. If they beat the Chargers and the Raiders lose to the Broncos, the Chiefs are AFC West champs and will be the No. 2 seed. If not, they are a wild-card team and will be forced to play on the road in the first round.