The NFL playoff picture gained a bit of clarity this weekend, but Week 17 will still be a fairly crazy week for a few teams. The NFC still has one playoff spot available, as well as three of the four divisions up for grabs. The AFC has two playoff spots and one division up for grabs. And this season's one tie between Carolina and Cincinnati has made for a slightly unusual situation in the AFC North.
Seattle pounded Arizona on Sunday, propelling them into a tie with the Cardinals. The Seahawks hold the tiebreaker advantage due to their head-to-head sweep. If the Seahawks beat the Rams, or the Cardinals lose to the 49ers in Week 17, Seattle claims the division. If the Seahawks beat the Rams, Seattle claims NFC home field advantage. If the Cardinals win and the Seahawks lose, Arizona would claim the division and home field throughout the playoffs.
Dallas clinched the NFC East with their thumping of Indianapolis. They can technically clinch home field through the NFC playoffs but it would requires losses by Seattle and Arizona, and then a Detroit-Green Bay tie. I would not hold my breath for that. If Dallas loses, or any of the above does not happen, the Cowboys are settled in at the No. 3 seed.
The NFC South is guaranteed at least a 6-win division winner, but in reality will likely have a 7-win team. The Carolina Panthers are in first place at 6-8-1. They face the 6-9 Atlanta Falcons, while the 6-9 New Orleans Saints face the 2-13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The winner of Carolina-Atlanta claims the division. If they were to tie and New Orleans were to win, I believe the Panthers would win the division, but I'm a little fuzzy on the math if they were to finish 6-8-2. A tie between Carolina and Atlanta would be a fitting end to the NFC South season.
On the AFC side of things, the Patriots clinched a first round bye due to the Colts loss in Dallas. If Denver wins on Monday Night Football, the Broncos and Patriots will remain tied atop the AFC at 12-3, with New England holding the tiebreaker.
Cincinnati is in a weird spot. They are 9-4-1, and still hold a percentage point lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, but the Bengals need a win to clinch a playoff berth of their own. Hosting Denver will make for an interesting matchup, and the Bengals-Steelers Week 17 matchup has been flexed into Sunday Night Football.
Finally, both wild card berths are up for grabs in the AFC. If the Bengals lose to the Broncos, they will hold one spot and San Diego will hold the other, with neither clinched. Baltimore sits at 9-6 as well, while Houston and Kansas City are still alive at 8-7. San Diego and Kansas City square off in Week 17. If the Chargers win, they are in the playoffs. If the Chiefs win, they need the Browns to beat the Ravens and the Jaguars to beat the Texans. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh, and needs a win depending on how the rest of the weekend shakes out. If the Bengals lost to Pittsburgh, they would still be in if San Diego and Baltimore both lose.