With this being the second-to-last week of the regular season, the playoff scenarios are getting simpler, for the most part.
We'll start in the NFC, where only two teams have punched their post-season tickets thus far. One of them, the Atlanta Falcons, can clinch the NFC South and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs simply by winning against New Orleans on Monday night. The other, the Chicago Bears, can actually seal a first-round bye this week if they can beat the New York Jets and get losses from both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.
Speaking of the Eagles and Giants, they can both wrap up post-season spots with victories this weekend, too. As we know, the Eagles will be hosting the Vikings on Sunday night, and the Giants have to travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers.
We mentioned the New Orleans Saints earlier, and if they can knock off Atlanta on Monday night, it will give them a playoff spot and keep the outside chance they have at winning the NFC South alive.
The. . .whatever you want to call it. . .that is the NFC West will not be decided this weekend. That race is going to go all the way down to the final weekend of the season, but the winner of that division will be the #4 seed in the NFC playoffs.
So, to recap, Atlanta and Chicago are in, and Philadelphia, the Giants, and New Orleans can all get in with victories this weekend.
In the AFC, there are also two teams that have clinched, the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots will wrap up the AFC East and home-field advantage in the AFC with either a win or a loss by the New York Jets. With the Steelers having already won this week by shellacking Carolina on Thursday night, if they can get a loss from the Baltimore Ravens, they will secure the AFC North and the conference's other first-round bye.
The Kansas City Chiefs can wrap up the AFC West today. . .a scenario that seemed improbable back in the pre-season. . .today with a victory coupled with a San Diego loss. Much like we talked about with the NFC West earlier, the AFC South will go down to Week 17, as there is no scenario that will allow either the Indianapolis Colts or Jacksonville Jaguars to clinch the division today.
As far as the wild-card spots in the AFC, the Ravens can clinch one of them with a victory or any of the following combinations of losses:
-Kansas City loss and Indianapolis loss
-Kansas City loss and Jacksonville loss
-San Diego loss and Indianapolis loss
-San Diego loss and Jacksonville loss
The New York Jets can also clinch themselves a post-season berth today if they can knock off the Bears in Chicago or either Jacksonville or Indianapolis loses.
Lots of "win and you're in" scenarios in the NFC today, while the AFC is slightly more complicated. However it goes, the playoff picture is going to get much clearer today.
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