Wild Card Weekend
Bengals at Texans: Saturday, Jan. 5, 4 p.m.
Vikings at Packers: Saturday, Jan. 5, 8 p.m.
Colts at Ravens: Sunday, Jan. 6, 1 p.m.
Seahawks at Redskins: Sunday, Jan. 6, 4:30 p.m.
Lowest remaining AFC seed at Broncos: Saturday, Jan. 12, 4 p.m.
Highest remaining AFC seed at Patriots: Sunday, Jan. 13, 4:30 p.m.
Highest remaining NFC seed at 49ers: Saturday, Jan. 12, 8 p.m.
Lowest remaining NFC seed at Falcons: Sunday, Jan. 13, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 20
11:30 p.m.: In the AFC, the No. 1 Broncos and No. 2 Patriots will get first-round byes. No. 3 Houston will take on No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 4 Baltimore will take on No. 5 Indianapolis.
In the NFC, the No. 1 Falcons and No. 2 49ers will get first-round byes. No. 3 Green Bay will take on No. 6 Minnesota while No. 4 Washington will take on No. 5 Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.
11:28 p.m.: Robert Griffin III did it in his first year in the NFL. There’s going to be a rookie vs. rookie Round 1 playoff game between the Seahawks and Redskins as Washington wins the NFC East.
For Tony Romo, this will be a long offseason and one that will surely be filled with questions about his future as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback.
11:22 p.m.: Unlike Al Michaels, we’re not ready to crown the Redskins the champs just yet, but it’s getting close. Washington just scored on another Alfred Morris rush to make the game 28-18.
Unless Tony Romo can mount an unbelievable comeback, the Redskins will face the Seahawks in Round 1 of the playoffs.
11:11 p.m.: Tony Romo might have just handed this game to the Redskins with his third interception of the game. Romo has not fared well in elimination games in the past, and so far, this does not seem like the exception to that rule.
11:06 p.m.: The Cowboys are suddenly down by just a field goal in the battle for the NFC East. Tony Romo connected on a 10-yard touchdown to Kevin Ogletree. Dallas also converted a two-point conversion on a pass from Romo to Dwayne Harris.
10:45 p.m.: The Redskins lead 21-10 thanks to an impressive ground game from the Redskins. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris both scored on rushing plays.
The Cowboys will need to mount an impressive comeback to take the NFC East.
9:29 p.m.: The Redskins responded quickly. Rookie running back Alfred Morris rushed 17 yards for a score as Washington ties it up 7-7.
9:20 p.m.: The Cowboys have taken the early lead on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten. The Cowboys’ quarterback had all day in the pocket to deliver the throw. There’s still a lot of game left, but if the Cowboys can pull this off, they would host Seattle in Week 1 of the playoffs.
9:06 p.m.: The NFL has announced its playoff schedule. Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. game will be Cincinnati at Houston, Saturday’s 8 p.m. game will be Minnesota at Green Bay, Sunday’s 1 p.m. game will be Indianapolis at Baltimore and Sunday’s 4:30 p.m. game will be Seattle at NFC East winner.
In the second round, Denver will play the Saturday 4:30 p.m. game, San Francisco will play the Saturday 8 p.m. game, Atlanta will play the Sunday 1 p.m. game and New England will play the Sunday 4:30 p.m. game.
8:57 p.m.: Lets just say, this hasn’t been the most impressive Tony Romo performance so far. And surprise, surprise, his poor start is coming in the Cowboys’ most important game of the season.
Romo is one for five with two interceptions. The game is still scoreless.
8:45 p.m.: The game remains scoreless as Redskins kicker Kai Forbath misses his first field goal of the season. Prior to Sunday night, he was a perfect 17 for 17.
8:31 p.m.: The scenario is simple tonight: If the Redskins win, they’re in. If the Cowboys win, they’re in. The battle for the NFC East will be a fun one.
7:47 p.m.: The Vikings are in the playoffs, the 49ers are the No. 2 seed and the Seahawks have clinched the No. 5 seed.
It came down to the wire for all three of those scenarios, but the playoff picture is nearly complete and comes down to the NFC East in Sunday night’s Cowboys-Redskins game. The Vikings won 37-34 over the Packers and the Seahawks beat the Rams 20-13.
In Week 1 of the playoffs, the Texans will take on the Bengals, the Ravens will play the Colts, the Packers will take on the Vikings and the NFC East winners will face the Seahawks.
7:28 p.m.: The Packers have tied it up. This one is coming down to the wire, folks. There’s a lot at stake here now that the 49ers have won. A Vikings win means Minnesota is in the playoffs, a loss means they’re out.
A Packers win means they have the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye; a loss means the 49ers have the No. 2 seed.
7:20 p.m.: It’s official, the Patriots have clinched the No. 2 seed with a 28-0 win over the Dolphins. The AFC playoff picture is complete.
7:18 p.m.: The Vikings are back up after a three-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins from Christian Ponder. Minnesota leads Green Bay 34-27 on their quest for a playoff berth.
7: 15 p.m.: The Broncos have made it official. They’re the No. 1 seed after beating the Chiefs 38-3. As long as the Patriots can hold on to their 28-0 lead over the Dolphins, they should be the No. 2 seed.
7:07 p.m.: While the AFC is pretty clear now, the NFC is still cloudy at best. The Packers and Vikings are now tied at 27-27. If the Vikings win, they’re in. If they lose, the Bears are.
7:04 p.m.: The AFC playoff picture is all but sewn up now. The Broncos should take the No. 1 seed, as they lead the Chiefs 38-3. The Patriots will have the No. 2 seed as they now lead 28-0 against the Dolphins.
The Texans will have the No. 3 seed after losing to the Colts, the Ravens have the No. 4 seed, Indianapolis has the No. 5 seed and the Bengals have the No. 6 seed.
6:50 p.m.: The Packers continue to make the Vikings and their fans squirm. Green Bay is down just three to the Vikings 27-24 after an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to James Jones.
6:39 p.m.: The Vikings have increased their lead over the Packers to 27-17 on an Adrian Peterson touchdown grab from Christian Ponder. Peterson has 144 yards on the ground and needs 64 to pass Eric Dickerson.
6:36 p.m.: The Broncos have increased their lead over the Chiefs to 35-3, nearly ensuring their No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Rams now lead the Seahawks 10-6, but as long as the 49ers lead the Cardinals, it doesn’t really matter for Seattle.
6:20 p.m.: The Broncos and 49ers have increased their leads and the Seahawks are inching closer to passing the Rams.
The Broncos now lead 28-3 over the Chiefs, the 49ers lead 17-6 over the Cardinals and the Seahawks trail 7-6 to the Rams.
6:11 p.m.: The Packers have apparently realized they’re still fighting for a first-round bye out in Minnesota. A five-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings leaves the Packers down 20-17 to the Vikings.
6:07 p.m.: The 49ers are slowly building a lead on the Cardinals. A 43-yard field goal from David Akers has pushed San Francisco to a 10-6 cusion over Arizona.
Akers’ troubles have continued on Sunday, though. He’s just one for three on field goal attempts.
5:55 p.m.: The Packers have added a field goal and now trail 20-10 to the Vikings at halftime. This game certainly means more for Minnesota, but Green Bay could use the first-round bye that comes with a win.
5:47 p.m.: Things are looking up for New England, Denver and Minnesota fans: all three teams scored touchdowns.
The Patriots now lead 21-0 on the way to the No. 2 seed, the Broncos lead 21-3 on the way to the No. 1 seed and the Vikings lead 20-7 and are on pace for a playoff berth. We’ll see if these scores hold up.
5:39 p.m.: The Packers won’t go down easy to the Vikings. They now trail 13-7. The Packers aren’t fighting for their division or a playoff spot, just seeding and a first-round bye.
The Seahawks now trail 7-3 to the Rams. With a win and a 49ers loss, the Seahawks would take their division.
5:23 p.m.: The 49ers have taken the lead 7-6 off a Michael Crabtree touchdown from Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers need a victory to win the NFC West.
5:21 p.m.: There was very little doubt that the Broncos could beat Kansas City in Denver. Peyton Manning and his Broncos now lead the Chiefs 14-3 after a Manning touchdown pass to Eric Decker.
5:15 p.m.: The Patriots have taken a 14-0 lead and are looking good for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
After New England lost to the 49ers in Week 15, it looked like all hope was lost for one of the top two spots in the AFC, but a late-season nosedive by the Texans has helped matters for the Patriots.
5:11 p.m.: The 49ers are down 6-0 to the Cardinals, while the Seahawks lead the Rams 3-0 and the Packers are down 13-0. If those leads hold up, the Seahawks would get the NFC West and the No. 2 seed.
5:02 p.m.: The Chiefs had a great opportunity to tie against the Broncos, taking a fumble back 64 yards to the Denver 12, but they could only get three points out of the possession. Denver now leads 7-3.
4:56 p.m.: It’s early, but the Cardinals lead 3-0 over the 49ers. If the 49ers lose and the Seahawks win, Seattle gets the NFC West. If the 49ers win, they win the division. A Packers loss would mean either Seattle or San Francisco could get the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
4:54 p.m.: The Patriots have taken the early lead over the Dolphins as Wes Welker grabs a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. If the Patriots win, they’re guaranteed a first-round bye.
4:51 p.m.: The Vikings are in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. They lead 10-0 over the Packers and need a win to grab a playoff berth and eliminate the Bears from contention. Rookie kicker Blair Walsh hit a 54-yarder and Adrian Peterson has a seven-yard touchdown run so far.
4:33 p.m.: The Broncos have gone up early on a three-yard touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno. All the Broncos need to do is win to clinch the No. 1 seed.
4:15 p.m.: With the Ravens-Bengals game now wrapping up, Baltimore is officially locked into the No. 4 seed. A win over Cincinnati and a Patriots loss would have given them the No. 3 seed and a rematch with the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs.
The Ravens chose to rest their starters against Cinci and now they’ll be facing the #CHUCKSTRONG Colts in the first round of the playoffs.
4:05 p.m.: The Giants are officially eliminated from the playoffs. They were great today, thumping the Eagles 42-7, but it was too little, too late.
Chicago, meanwhile, keeps its hopes alive with a gutsy win over the Lions. The Bears have to wait how their season wrapped up, but with a little more help, they’ll be playoff-bound.
4 p.m.: The No. 1 seed is going to Denver, kids! With Houston losing, the Broncos just need to get a nice, easy win today for home-field advantage and a first-round bye. The Patriots can get the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win of their own.
That was some game by the Colts, and now the Texans need to get their act together in one short week.
3:45 p.m.: It looks like we’re going to get a chance to see Jay Cutler show off his stuff today. The Lions have come back and are within two points, trailing 26-24 with just under seven minutes remaining.
3:40 p.m.: Vontae Davis could get himself some free drinks in New England tonight. He just hooked up with Matt Schaub again — which, as a reminder, is bad because Schaub is Houston‘s quarterback — and the Colts are ready to wrap up this win.
With freshly fallen snow in Foxboro, everything is pointing in the right direction for the Patriots taking one of the top seeds in the AFC. Bill Belichick will start to see what kind of team he has tonight.
3:30 p.m.: Oh boy, Texans. Oh boy.
T.Y. Hilton just cleaned out the Houston defense on 3rd-and-23. That 70-yard catch puts the Colts up 28-16, but it’s got to be worse for the Texans, who have gone from the most dominant team in the NFL to one that is either spectacular or a stinker from week to week.
At this point, maybe Houston needs to concentrate on getting its house in order so it survives in the playoffs. The Broncos and Patriots are looking good for the top two seeds in the AFC.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Bears are doing the best they can to put the nail in this one. They’ve got another field goal and now lead 26-17.
For those still interested, New York leads Philadelphia 42-7. Hey Giants — no one cares!
3:10 p.m.: The Colts aren’t giving this one away just yet. Deji Karim just went all of 101 yards on the kick return, and the Colts are back in front, 21-16.
Put that helmet on, Gronk!
3:05 p.m.: Just like that, and the Texans are back in the driver’s seat — and not a moment too soon.
Arian Foster has no quit in him, and he showed it with a 39-yard run on that drive. Houston couldn’t punch it into the end zone, but a field goal puts them in front, 16-14.
The Texans couldn’t pick a better time to get going — but maybe trailing for a bit was a good idea. The early news out of Foxboro is that the Patriots are suiting up all their big guns. Rob Gronkowski, Aqib Talib and Jermaine Cunningham, who were all questionable and were dealing with pretty serious injuries coming into today, have been ruled active.
The Patriots won’t have to fully use those players, of course, but the reasoning goes that those guys should be available in case the Texans fold and the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds are available.
2:55 p.m.: Arian Foster has made good on Andre Johnson’s mistake; the Texans are now within 14-13.
The good news for the Eagles: The Giants haven’t scored yet. The bad news: Philadelphia has the ball.
2:50 p.m.: Andre Johnson may also be playing for the Patriots. That’s a pretty bad whiff for an All-Pro receiver, and it takes away six guaranteed points as the Texans try to fight back against the Colts and take the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
2:30 p.m.: It’s halftime all around.
We have a late push in Detroit, where the Lions got back in it on a Matthew Stafford pass to Kris Durham. The Bears tacked on a field goal, though, so Chicago is still up 20-10.
The Giants have kept their foot on the gas pedal. Eli Manning has four touchdown passes to put New York up 35-7.
Indianapolis leads Houston 14-7, but the Texans will get the ball to start the second half.
2:20 p.m.: Tyrod Taylor has entered the Ravens-Bengals game in Cincinnati. What does this mean? Well, for those of you not up on your Tyrod Taylor news, he is the Ravens’ backup quarterback. Joe Flacco has been pulled after going 4-for-8 for 34 yards. The Ravens lead 7-0.
It’s been a messy game in Cincinnati so far, with Baltimore doing much of its work on the ground so far. It looks like the Ravens may be able to get Flacco some rest and win the game the way things are going there, which is likely the hope.
The Ravens have the No. 4 seed right now and can only move up if the Patriots lose.
2:10 p.m.: The Colts are giving their old AFC rivals the Patriots a nice hand in Indianapolis.
The Indy defense has been just fine in this game against division champ Houston, and a Vontae Davis interception with just over four minutes remaining in the first half has further helped the Colts’ 7-6 lead. Houston is going to have to dig in to ward off the Colts and recovering coach Chuck Pagano as the Texans try to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Bears, meanwhile, lead the Lions 17-3 as halftime approaches in Detroit. This time it was Matt Forte on the ground as Chicago looks to take one of the final playoff spots.
If Chicago wins, it’s over for New York. But the Giants are still trying to make it happen, and for good reason. The Giants have had incredible … let’s call it good fortune … when they’ve been able to sneak into the playoffs. Both of their recent Super Bowls have come after they got hot at the right time and just made it in.
They’re making a good case today for a similar story. The Eagles don’t appear to be super interested in giving Andy Reid a nice sendoff (if he is indeed fired), and the Giants are leading 28-7 as halftime nears in East Rutherford.
1:40 p.m.: Chicago is in front, with Detroit’s impeccable defense to thank. Cutler connected with Earl Bennett on a 60-yard touchdown pass, and a fumble on the kickoff right after put the ball back in Cutler’s hands. The Bears stalled on third down, but Olindo Mare punched a field goal through to put Chicago up 10-3.
The Giants, meanwhile, are up 21-0 against Philadelphia in a game that is getting out of hand quickly. The Giants need to do well this week to get into the playoffs, but where was this during the last few games? Michael Vick threw an interception to help the Giants’ defense, and Eli Manning has three touchdown passes already.
1:15 p.m.: Jay Cutler looked hot in Chicago (time for a Smokin’ Jay Cutler reference?), but his 55-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery was for naught. The Bears have punted.
The Colts, meanwhile, have a 7-0 lead on the Texans, who are hoping for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Giants are also up 7-0, on the Eagles.
1 p.m.: It’s that time we’ve been waiting for all day. Giants-Eagles and Bears-Lions are kicking off now, with playoff implications on the line. The coaching carousel can take a minute to rest.
As we detailed below, the Giants need a ton of help to get into the playoffs, but it starts with them winning. The Bears also need to win first, although they need only the Vikings to fall to help them sneak in.
We’ll keep you updated as it goes.
12:45 p.m.: It should be old news at this point that Tony Sparano will not be the offensive coordinator of the Jets just as soon as New York ends its miserable season against the Bills, but Adam Schefter of ESPN says he’s confirmed the speculation.
The Jets were 30th in offense this year (not bad — they beat two teams!).
Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, general manager Gene Smith is likely out, although coach Mike Mularkey may be hanging on, also per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
And in a final bit of coach-related Schefter-reported news, Andy Reid is likely not the choice for the Chargers when they go head coach hunting, despite Reid’s connections to the area.
12 p.m.: Jon Gruden rumors!
The biggest target of the NFL coaches free agent class (is there such a thing?) has popped up in another report. This time, it’s Dan Pompei of National Football Post, who says that many NFL people think Gruden is spoiling to return to coaching this year.
Pompei says Gruden wants to get back to coaching as soon as possible since he’s been gone for four years now, and getting back into the NFL is increasingly difficult the longer coaches are gone.
Pompei also said most people think Gruden will land with the Eagles.
11:55 p.m.: Chris Mortensen’s complete story on the Jim Schwartz situation is out, and he’s citing league sources, noting that team officials have not commented on the matter. So, it looks like a lot of people have thoughts, but there are few conclusions on knowing what will happen with the people actually calling the shots.
Mortensen says Schwartz’s leadership style and somewhat rocky relationship with general manager Martin Mayhew is what is causing his job status to be in question.
11:40 a.m.: And we thought all the Lions were going to be doing today was spoiling the Bears’ playoff chances and chasing some records.
It turns out Jim Schwartz, who was thought to be safe in Detroit thanks to a contract extension that runs through 2015, may be on the outs in the Motor City. Chris Mortensen of ESPN says the Ford family is unhappy with the way the franchise has gone this year — both its 4-11 record and the “culture” of the team beyond the field. The owners are reportedly willing to eat whatever contract extension Schwartz got so the organization can change direction.
That’s all well and good, except for a couple of wrinkles here. First of all, ESPN’s own Adam Schefter was reporting just last week that Schwartz was given the contract through 2015 as a vote of confidence, and that he would be around through at least 2013.
Schefter followed up his reporting today after Mortensen’s comments and seemed to find that the climate surrounding Schwartz may be changing.
What’s most interesting, though, is that Schwartz is by far the most successful coach in Detroit in recent years. While this season was a letdown and well below expectations, the way the offense has thrived and the Lions have made noise in the NFC North seemed to indicate a long-term rebound for the franchise. If Schwartz were to go now, the team would have to start over.
10:50 a.m.: While the playoff picture and the record chases will get most of the attention Sunday, it’s also the final week for players to make their MVP impressions.
The Denver Post contacted 18 of the 50 people who vote for the NFL MVP award, and the Broncos’ Peyton Manning netted nine of the initial votes. Adrian Peterson, who is challenging Eric Dickerson’s single-season rush record, got three votes, and the other voters wanted to see how the games played out.
Tom Brady has received some chatter after beating the Texans, and Aaron Rodgers has looked hot as the season winds down. Several defensive players, like Houston’s J.J. Watt, have made comments about wanting to be in the MVP discussion. But pretty much everyone knows it’s down to the two comeback players of the year in Manning and Peterson.
What happens Sunday could be the final tipping point. While Manning and the Broncos have a creampuff opponent in the Chiefs, a loss there — and possible loss of the No. 1 or No. 2 seed — could damage Manning’s MVP hopes.
Even more is riding on Peterson, though. If he breaks the record and carries the Vikings into the playoffs, it would be hard to argue against his value. If Minnesota fails to make the postseason, though, even a 2,000-yard rushing effort for the season may not be enough.
10:10 a.m.: So much for that early-season vote of confidence. Chan Gailey may not be safe after all.
The Bills are reportedly up for a “full house-cleaning” after Sunday’s game against the Jets, according to Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. That would include not only Gailey but also general manager Buddy Nix.
The Bills have always had the bad luck of playing in the AFC East with the Patriots, but this season they seemed to recede even more. At 5-10, they’re assured of last place in the division, and their performance against the equally hapless Jets this Sunday could go a long way toward telling whether this team should stick with its current leadership situation.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Titans fans should get used to the idea of Mike Munchak on the sidelines. The Tennessean reports that he’s likely to return for another year.
You know who doesn’t have to worry about a coach? The Saints. That new contract with Sean Payton is reportedly worth more than $8 million a year, according to ESPN. Yikes.
9:50 a.m.: Andy Reid has been game-planning this week for the Giants, who still have a chance at the playoffs if a bazillion things go their way (see below). But maybe he should have been spending some time taking care of his coaching future.
While many people consider Reid the most likely of NFL coaches to find a new job if he is indeed fired within the next few days, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that it may not be that easy. Reid isn’t necessarily a shoo-in, and all those rumors floating around about where he may land may be the product of his spinmaster agent.
Reid not getting another coaching job right away would be a surprise, considering his success in Philadelphia. Also surprising would be if anyone survives in Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer gives us the scoop on this one, and basically, new ownership is quite ready to turn over a new leaf.
One team that isn’t ready to move on, though, is reportedly Kansas City. That’s bad news for Chiefs fans, who have several bad years under their belt with Scott Pioli running the show. Kansas City fans spent much of the year calling for Pioli’s head, but the Chiefs may be interested in keeping Pioli and getting rid of head coach Romeo Crennel instead, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. That would give Pioli the chance to hire a head coach of his choosing after already seeing Todd Haley and Crennel flop under his watch.
This is just our two cents, but good riddance. Is it really the coach’s fault at this point? Kansas City could see a serious revolt from its fans if Crennel or Pioli remain, but if given the choice, most fans would definitely prefer Pioli to go. This one is a head-scratcher.
9 a.m.: While the playoff picture is obviously what’s getting plenty of attention today, let’s not forget that we’re also quickly approaching Black Monday.
Tomorrow is expected to be a pink slip holiday all across the NFL with as many as 12 teams unhappy with their current head coaches.
The catch is that, with so many head coaches on the hot seat, teams have to be very careful if and when they fire. For example, while it makes sense for San Diego to kick Norv Turner to the curbside at last, the Chargers need to make sure they have a replacement lined up. (That’s how Turner has kept his job this long, after all.)
While plenty of teams have reasons to sack their head coaches tomorrow — or after games today — whether they’ll be able to bring in a suitable replacement will likely be the determining factor, and we could see less coaches go than we expect.
The teams that are considered unhappy with their current head coaches are the Browns, Cardinals, Panthers, Titans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Bills and Jets.
The Bills said earlier this year that Chan Gailey’s job is safe, and Jason Garrett is reportedly OK in Dallas, too.
In Philadelphia and New York, Andy Reid and Rex Ryan will probably have to go, even if they’re the best thing that’s happened to their respective teams. In a similar vein, Turner in San Diego and Lovie Smith in Chicago have hard cases to make for sticking around (although the Bears still have a shot at the playoffs).
Romeo Crennel is a tough man to fire after what he’s done for the Chiefs this year, but that team needs new leadership. And as for the Browns — well, that housecleaning started earlier this fall. Those guys may not make it to the end of the game.
We’ll keep you updated on the coaching news, too, as the playoff matchups play out today.
8 a.m. ET: While the NFL has handed out plenty of pretty presents so far this season, it truly saved the best for last.
Tucked away in Week 17 like that extra present hidden under the couch, the NFL’s final set of games may have the most intrigue of any time so far this year. As well as a load of divisional matchups and some games that promise to make the most of impending winter storms, the playoff picture is still very much up in the air for a good number of teams — well, in one conference, at least.
The AFC got its business done early, and its six spots are all sewn up going into the final week, although several battles remain among the heavyweights for playoff seeding.
In the NFC, plenty of fun awaits. Nine teams still qualify for the six playoff spots, and although some of the higher spots are taken care of, the tussle for the final wild card berths will come down to the final game of the evening.
This live blog is the place to be throughout the day to see how the playoff picture is evolving. The scenarios will start to unfold at 1 p.m. when Bears-Lions and Giants-Eagles kick off, but we’ll keep you updated throughout the day as injuries, weather patterns and performances both naughty and nice determine the fate of many an NFL team.
Here’s a primer before we get going. (Also, we have an awesome slideshow, if you prefer pictures with your playoff scenarios.)
The AFC is set as to who is in the playoffs. What matters now is the seeding at the top.
While the Colts are assured the No. 5 seed and the Bengals the No. 6, the Texans, Broncos and Patriots are all vying for the top three spots. The Ravens can also move up to the third seed.
Here’s how it works: If the Texans and Broncos win, they get the top two spots. If they both lose and the Patriots win, the Patriots get the top seed (and home-field advantage). If one loses and the Patriots win, the Patriots get the No. 2 seed, with the other winner getting the No. 1. If the Patriots lose and the Ravens win, Baltimore gets the third seed, and the Patriots are fourth.
The No. 4 team will host the Colts, and the No. 3 will host the Bengals. (Could we see some Bill Belichick trickery to get a favored opponent?)
When to watch:
Houston-Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Baltimore-Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
New England-Miami, 4:25 p.m.
Denver-Kansas City, 4:25 p.m.
We’re going to go team-by-team here, because this is pretty tricky. Let’s leave seeding aside and just talk about who can get into the playoffs. Also, we apologize that we had to include the tie scenarios. They are obnoxious, but some NFC teams have had problems getting it done within regulation and an extra 15 minutes this year, so it could happen again. Side note: Atlanta is already in and has locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage.
Giants. They must win, and then they must have their NFC counterparts do some bad losing. Minnesota, Dallas and Chicago all need to fall for New York to slip in (and then get hot and win another Super Bowl?).
When to watch: 1 p.m., against Eagles
Bears. Chicago faces an uphill battle. The Bears need to not only win but also have the Vikings lose or tie. Chicago could also tie and advance with a Minnesota loss.
When to watch: 1 p.m., against Lions
Vikings. This one is complicated. A win does wonders. A tie is still good, if Chicago loses or ties. But if the Vikings lose, they need Dallas to lose or tie, the New York Giants to lose or tie, and Chicago to lose to get into the playoffs. Yeah. Run hard, Adrian Peterson.
When to watch: 4:25 p.m., against Packers
Packers. Green Bay is in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage. If the Packers win, they’ve got it. Otherwise, they have to count on the 49ers to lose. If they tie, they still get the No. 2 seed with a San Francisco loss or tie. If they lose and the 49ers lose, they also need Seattle to lose or tie to get home-field advantage.
When to watch: 4:25 p.m., against Minnesota
49ers. San Francisco needs Green Bay to comply to get the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage. If the 49ers win, a Green Bay loss or tie gets the 49ers in. If they tie, they can get it with a Green Bay loss. They have a playoff spot regardless.
When to watch: 4:25 p.m., against Cardinals
Seahawks. These surprise kids can snag the No. 2 seed if they win and the 49ers and Packers both lose. Otherwise, they have a playoff spot assured.
When to watch: 4:25 p.m., against Rams
Redskins. Their division only gets one spot this year thanks to poor records all around. So, Washington needs to win or tie for the easy path. If not, it must count on the Bears and Vikings losing to slip in via the wild card.
When to watch: 8:20 p.m., against Cowboys
Cowboys. Their way into the playoffs is simple: Beat the Redskins; win the division.
When to watch: 8:20 p.m., against Redskins
We’ll also be keeping track of the many NFL records up for grabs today, if that strikes your fancy. Check out our record chase live blog for those.
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