Beyond this, there are also teams jockeying for first-round byes and home-field advantage in the Wild Card rounds. The 2017 NFL season is no different because much remains unsettled going into the final week of the regular season.
That said, let’s discuss what playoff spots and seeding need to be determined this week.
AFC Playoff Picture Week 17
The AFC is the most unsettled conference in terms of which six teams are getting into the postseason. The results of games involving the Bills, Chargers, Ravens, and Titans will determine the final two AFC playoff participants.
The other thing that still needs to be determined is whether the Patriots or Steelers will earn the No. 1 overall seed. Here’s a look at what must happen before the AFC playoff picture is settled.
1. New England Patriots (12-3)
The Patriots must beat the New York Jets (5-10) to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Given how New England recently dismantled division rival Buffalo (8-7), who’s in the thick of the playoff hunt, they shouldn’t have much trouble with New York at home.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
Pittsburgh lost Antonio Brown for a few weeks. But they had no trouble dominating the Houston Texans (4-11) by a score of 34-6. This clinched a first-round bye for Pittsburgh, which is crucial as they wait for Brown to recover by the divisional round. The Steelers also have a shot at No. 1 in the AFC, if they can beat Cleveland (0-15) coupled with a New England loss.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5)
Jacksonville’s hopes of a first-round bye vanished with Pittsburgh’s win. But the AFC South champ also has a home game locked up in the Wild Card round.
The Chiefs are the AFC West champions and will host a home game in the Wild Card round no matter what. It’s very likely that Patrick Mahomes will see his first official action this week.
5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Baltimore is automatically in if they beat division-rival Cincinnati. But even if they lose, they’ll have other paths into the postseason. However, it’s highly unlikely that John Harbaugh’s team is focusing on ways to back into the playoffs.
Tennessee has lost three games in a row, yet still remains in a qualifying position. But they have to end the losing streak this week to secure their playoff spot. This won’t be easy, given that Jacksonville has no plans to rest its starters.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
L.A. must start by beating the Oakland Raiders (6-9) this week. They also need the Titans to lose to get into the postseason. The Chargers don’t have to worry about Buffalo, because they hold the tie-breaker here.
8. Buffalo Bills (8-7)
Buffalo is still alive by a thread. But they need to win on the road against Miami (6-9), then hope for losses by the three teams ahead of them since they hold no tie-breakers.
NFC Playoff Picture Week 17
One thing that’s clear in the NFC is that Philadelphia is the No. 1 seed. However, the Eagles are also vulnerable after losing QB Carson Wentz for the season. That said, other top seeds like the Vikings, Rams, and Saints must think they have a good chance, even on the road.
The only playoff team that needs to be determined is the No. 6 seed. Both the Seahawks and Falcons are battling for the final NFC playoff slot, which I’ll cover below.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
Nick Foles played excellent in a Week 15 win against the New York Giants. However, he was much worse last week in a 19-10 victory over the Raiders. The Eagles’ front seven and the running game must carry this team as they move on without Wentz. The good news, though, is that they’ll be playing home games throughout the NFC playoffs.
2. Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
Minnesota shut down the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers to move closer towards a first-round bye. They’ll clinch this with a victory over the Bears. The Vikings can also earn a bye with a Saints win, Panthers loss, or Rams win. Given that just one of these things need to happen, expect Minnesota to be resting during the Wild Card week.
The Rams have made a fantastic turnaround this season under head coach Sean McVay. And McVay is now the youngest coach to make the playoffs. The NFC West champions have an outside chance at a first-round bye, although they’ll likely be participating in the Wild Card round.
4. New Orleans Saints (11-4)
Despite an 0-2 start, New Orleans is now in the playoffs. They can also clinch the NFC South with a win over the Buccaneers (4-11) or a Panthers loss. New Orleans has a complete team that could be a serious contender in the NFC.
5. Carolina Panthers (11-4)
Carolina kept their hopes alive for a division title by beating the Bucs. They now must win at Atlanta and hope for a Saints loss to win the NFC South. The Panthers can even climb up to the No. 2 seed, assuming the Vikings, Rams, and Saints all lose. Of course, this is unlikely to happen, so they need to simply focus on beating Tampa Bay.
6. Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
Atlanta was shut down in New Orleans last week. This sets them up for a scenario where they need to beat Carolina or have Seattle lose to make the playoffs. Given how Atlanta has stumbled so many times dating back to last year’s Super Bowl loss, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get bumped out.
7) Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
Seattle looked dead in the water after a 42-7 blowout loss to the Rams. However, they battled back with a win over Dallas. Now the Seahawks need a win over Arizona (7-8) combined with an Atlanta loss. The road seems possible, but Seattle must focus on beating Arizona at home first.