The NFL added one more playoff team Saturday evening, as Washington defeated the Philadelphia Eagles and clinched the NFC East. Washington became the seventh team to clinch a playoff berth, and the fifth team in the NFC.
The NFL could see all twelve playoff berths locked up before the end of Monday. On the NFC side, Minnesota currently holds the final wild card spot with a two-game lead over the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings can clinch the final wild card berth with a win, or a New York Giants loss, or a Seattle Seahawks win.
On the AFC side, the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals are the only two teams to secure playoff berths. The Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Pittsburgh Steelers could all clinch playoff berths under the following circumstances
- Broncos: Clinch AFC West with win + Chiefs loss; clinch playoff berth with win + Jets OR Steelers loss
- Texans: Clinch AFC South with win + Colts loss OR clinching strength of victory tiebreaker over IND
- Chiefs: Clinch playoff berth with win + Jets OR Steelers loss
- Steelers: Clinch playoff berth with win + Jets loss
We could be looking at a lot of players getting benched or getting limited playing time in Week 17. There will likely be some things left to play for, but there will be plenty of games that are tough to predict. For example, Washington clinched the NFC East and cannot rise above the No. 4 seed. This means next week's road game against the Dallas Cowboys no longer can impact anything. I think Dallas would give Washington trouble even if the game meant something, but will we see Washington try and keep their momentum going, or do they bench some of their starters? And even if they play their starters, will they keep things pretty vanilla? This could be of huge impact to the 49ers own draft order position.
Another example would involve the Denver Broncos. The Cincinnati Bengals have clinched the AFC North and a first round bye with a win over the Broncos. If that happens, Denver would potentially be in a situation next week where they have to win at home against San Diego just to get a playoff spot. Maybe the Chargers get up for this game a bit more.
There is plenty to deal with just trying to figure out draft viewing interests, so I won't get too crazy with this, but it's still interesting to consider the potential implications.