The final weekend of the NFL regular season is upon us. First off, it’s great that we even made it here. COVID tried to tear us down numerous times but we pulled through and here we are. NFL week 17. As sad as it is that the regular season is coming to an end, that means playoff football is right around the corner. Matchups sure to provide immense entertainment across the league. But some teams haven’t nestled into their spots yet, and some won’t make it at all. So what do you need to know?
Well here it is. Laid out in full.
Let’s Start With the AFC Picture
The AFC, lead out by the Chiefs, is still wide open for playoff spots. Only three teams have solidified their place in the playoffs. The Chiefs wrapped up the 1 seed at 14-1. They can’t be caught. That’s a lock. The Bills run out in second and the Steelers in third. Both teams are 12-3, however the Bills head to head victory against the Steelers gives them the edge.
Neither the Bills nor the Steelers can be caught by the rest of the division, they will both remain numbers 2 and 3. What’s up for grabs is in which order. The 2 seed is guaranteed home field advantage for 2 games. Where as the 3 seed is only guaranteed this for the first round, because should both win, the 3 seed would travel to the 2 seed in the divisional round. With me so far?
So both the Bills and the Steelers have something to play for, despite locking up a spot in the top 3, and home field advantage for the wild card round. Once we go below that, it’s all up for grabs. Spots 4 to 7 in the playoffs are wide open. There’s 5 teams in the hunt, and only 4 spots available. So let’s figure that out…
AFC playoff clinching scenarios:
Five teams sit on 10-5. The AFC is very competitive this season, and 10 wins doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the playoffs, while over in the NFC, the Giants, Cowboys or Washington could make the playoffs with 6 or 7 wins.
The Cleveland Browns shot themselves in the face with a double barrel shotgun last week, losing on the road to the 1-13 Jets. They did of course also shoot the Jets in the face and give Jacksonville fans a reason to celebrate, as the Jets win over the Browns cemented the number 1 pick in the draft as belonging to the Jaguars.
The loss however, means that Cleveland find themselves fighting it out with the Dolphins, Colts, Titans and Ravens for one of those four final spots.
Four of these teams simply need to win to make the playoffs next weekend. Those are:
Dolphins @ Bills
The Bills of course still want to win, and Josh Allen and many of the starters will likely still play, as that double home field advantage will come in handy for Buffalo down the stretch. SB Nation reported that the Bills would be playing ‘many key guys’, as they shoot for that 2 seed spot. The Dolphins however, will have it all to do on the road, and without a safety net of Ryan Fitzmagic, who tested positive for COVID and won’t travel with the team. So the biggest game of Tua’s professional career so far. The media have had a field day this week with the fact that he’s never played in the snow before. We’ll see how he does.
Titans @ Texans
The Titans only need to win to clinch their division and the number 4 seed. The AFC South is the only division yet to have a confirmed winner in the AFC, as both the Titans and the Colts sit on 10-5. The Titans lead on head to head, so if they simply win against the Texans, who are eliminated and currently 4-11, then the division is theirs. If they don’t win? We’ll get to that.
Ravens @ Bengals
The Ravens travel to Cincinnati, and while their division is already wrapped up by PIttsburgh, a simple win here against the Bengals and back up quarterback Ryan Finley. The Bengals are on a two game winning stretch, and it’s in their hands today to host the Ravens and put on the ultimate spoiler party.
Browns vs Steelers
The Browns host the Steelers at home, and Pittsburgh have confirmed that Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback. Now try and find me a more MOTIVATED man than Mason Rudolph going into this game. We all know the history, helmet gate, the rivalry that these two teams have had for centuries. It’s in Mason Rudolph’s hands to go out and spoil the party on the Browns home turf. Imagine the scenes… Certainly going to be a chippy game and I can’t wait.
The Dolphins most definitely have the hardest game of the four, while the other three either face already eliminated opponents, or back up quarterbacks like Mason Rudolph… no further comment.
AFC South Title
Unfortunately for the Colts, a win on its’ own won’t quite be enough, they’re the only team who also rely on another team losing in order to make it. Fortunately, they face the worst team in the league. The Colts need to go out and get it done against the 1-14 Jacksonville Jags, and then pray on the rest of the results to go their way.
If the Colts win, and the Titans lose, they clinch the division and they’re in. But if they both win, it’ll come down to either the Ravens, Browns or Dolphins needing to lose for the Colts to make it.
ALL scenarios for the AFC race:
- Titans: Win OR Baltimore loss OR Indianapolis loss OR Miami loss.
- Dolphins: Win OR Baltimore loss OR Cleveland loss OR Indianapolis loss.
- Ravens: Win OR Cleveland loss OR Indianapolis loss.
- Browns: Win OR Indianapolis loss OR Tennessee loss plus Baltimore win plus Indianapolis win plus Miami win.
- Colts: Win AND one of the following: Tennessee loss/Baltimore loss/Cleveland loss/Miami loss.
Race for the AFC South title
Complicated right? Don’t worry. Stick redzone on, and let Scott Hansen walk you through it as we go. What a hero.
How about the NFC?
On the other side of the bracket, four teams have already clinched their spots in the playoffs. The Packers, Saints and Seahawks have all clinched the division and therefore a playoff berth. However the number 1 seed is still up for grabs. The Packers are currently 12-3, and clinch the 1 seed and first round bye with a win. The Saints and Seahawks would then make up the 2 and 3 seeds, currently both 11-4.
Then the Bucs, on a 10-5 record, also can’t be eliminated. So the 4 seed needs to be sorted in the struggling NFC East, and the 5, 6 and 7 seeds will consist of the Bucs and one of the following:
Rams, Bears & Cardinals. Those three teams can punch themselves a ticket with the following scenarios.
Race for the NFC wild-card spots
- Rams clinch with win OR Bears loss.
- Bears clinch with win OR Cardinals loss.
- Cardinals clinch with win
The interesting thing here, is that the Rams and Cardinals are playing EACHOTHER. While the Bears host the Packers. All eyes on that Rams Cardinals game this weekend as the slug it out against eachother to creep in.
The Bears will be routing for the Rams, as a Rams win means the Bears also land a playoff spot, somehow, after a seriously turbulent season and the backwards and forwards quarterback situation all season long. If the Cardinals win, the Bears will also need to win, and the Rams will miss out.
So that bit is easy enough. Then miraculously, the 4 seed will go to one of these three teams:
Washington, Giants, or Cowboys.
Race for the NFC East
- Washington Football Team clinches with win.
- Cowboys clinch with win plus Washington loss.
- Giants clinch with win plus Washington loss.
Only one of these teams can make the playoffs, and they will be the number four seed regardless. The ONLY reason any of these teams is able to make it is because the rest of their division is worse than they are.
The division is in Washingtons hands, they currently sit in the driving seat at 6-9… sigh. If they win, they win the division and they’re in. Only problem there is that they currently have Taylor Heinecke as their starting quarterback, against an Eagles team that started to find its’ groove with the QB switch to Jalen Hurts. I’d favour the Eagles going into the game.
If Washington lose, they’re out, and the entire division will rest on the Cowboys vs Giants game in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The winner of the game would then clinch the division and the available playoff spot that goes with it.
Something interested to note here. Whoever wins out of these three, will go from having a top 11 pick in the draft, to the 19th pick AT BEST. The Giants, currently with the number 8 pick, could make the playoffs, but immediately slide 11 spots in the draft, likely missing out on a receiver like Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. Certainly an interesting idea for a team likely to get pummelled in the first round of the playoffs anyway…
All to play for in week 17, keep yourself glued to the TV, and most definitely keep an eye on the Giants vs Cowboys game, and the Rams Cardinals game, as those two teams are going to be battering each other to try and scramble their way into the playoffs last minute. The final regular season, I think I covered everything! Enjoy the games boys and girls. Then it’s playoff time.
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