NFL Playoff Picture: Postseason Scenarios For AFC, NFC Entering Week 17

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December 24, 2018

The NFL playoff picture shifted in a big way this weekend, but we’re still far from settled when it comes to the postseason field.

The biggest shake-up came in the AFC, where the five-loss New England Patriots have maneuvered their way back into the No. 2 seed, thanks in large to Nick Foles, the backup quarterback who beat them in Super Bowl LII.

Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles knocked off the Houston Texans, while the Patriots sleep-walked through a win over the hapless Buffalo Bills to set themselves up for a ninth consecutive first-round bye. All New England has to do is win next Sunday (again at home) against another hapless division rival, the New York Jets.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is very much on life support. After losing a heart-breaker in New Orleans, the Steelers must beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 and have the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cleveland Browns in order to secure a playoff spot. Yuck.

Oh, and we now have a winner-take-all matchup Sunday between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts for a wild-card spot.

As you’ll see, things are far more clear-cut in the NFC.

Here’s how the playoff picture looks entering Week 17.

AFC
First-round byes
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
2. New England Patriots (10-5)

Wild-card round
No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers at No. 4 Baltimore Ravens
No. 6 Indianapolis Colts at No. 3 Houston Texans

Notes: As mentioned, the Colts and Titans were flexed to Sunday night in Week 17, and the winner gets the second wild card. … Pittsburgh technically can still secure a wild-card spot. All that needs to happen for that to occur is the Steelers beat the Bengals and Colts-Texans ends in a tie. Good luck. … There’s still a path for the Patriots to get the No. 1 seed, but it’s going to take a lot of help.

NFC
First-round byes
1. New Orleans Saints (13-2)
2. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)

Wild-card round
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 4 Dallas Cowboys
No. 6 Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 Chicago Bears

Notes: The Saints secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC and won’t have to play outside again, including the Super Bowl if they make it that far. … The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles are still alive, but they need to beat the Redskins in Week 17 and then have the Bears knock off the Vikings. Might be a tall task, as the Bears — who are locked into the No. 3 seed — don’t have anything to play for in Week 17.

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