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NFL Playoffs: Clinching Scenarios for Every Team

NFL Playoffs: Clinching Scenarios for Every Team

NFL Playoffs: Clinching Scenarios for Every Team

Week 17 of the NFL season is special for one big reason: the sheer amount of win-and-you're-in games.

Half of the 14 playoff spots have been claimed — including six of the eight divisions — and 14 teams have already been eliminated, but that leaves plenty of drama for the final weekend of the regular season.

With all 16 games held on Sunday, there are 11games on the slate with playoff implications, wrapping up with a "Sunday Night Football" matchup to determine which team with a losing record will win the NFC East.

Here's a rundown on how each of the remaining races can shake out on Jan. 3.

NFC's No. 1 seed

The Chiefs already clinched the AFC's top seed, but the NFC's race is still up in the air. With only one first-round bye available in each conference, the No. 1 seed means more than it ever has before.

The Green Bay Packers have the easiest path, with a one-game lead on the Seahawks and Saints. FiveThirtyEight's playoff odds give them a 79 percent chance of taking home the top seed because they just need to beat the Bears or the Seahawks lose or tie to the 49ers. It doesn't matter what the Saints do because the Packers have a head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to their Week 3 win.

The New Orleans Saints' only shot at a bye will require a three-way tie atop the standings. If the Saints beat the Panthers and the Seahawks win while the Bears upset the Packers, New Orleans will earn the tiebreaker at 12-4 because of the best conference winning percentage. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 17 percent chance of pulling that off.

The Seattle Seahawks have the toughest path to the top seed, and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 4 percent chance of threading the needle. They'll need to beat the 49ers while the Packers and Saints both lose on the road. Seattle has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Green Bay because of a superior record against common opponents.

NFC East

Washington's surprising home loss to Carolina last week clinched the fact that a team with a losing record will win the NFC East. But don't count out this division champ in the playoffs; remember that the 2010 NFC West 7-9 Seahawks and 2014 NFC South 7-8-1 champion Panthers each won their first playoff game thanks in part to home-field advantage.

Despite their loss last week, the Washington Football Team is still in the driver's seat with a tiebreaker over the Cowboys and a one-game lead over the Giants. All Washington needs to do is beat the Eagles on SNF — or have this and the Dallas-New York game both tie — which FiveThirtyEight gives WFT a 52 percent chance of doing. Perhaps those odds are a tad high considering how volatile the team's quarterback situation has been lately.

The Dallas Cowboys will need to beat or tie the Giants for a shot at the title, and then they'll have to wait to see if the Eagles can win. As slight favorites to win in MetLife Stadium, FiveThirtyEight gives the Cowboys a 26 percent chance of winning their fourth division title in seven years.

The New York Giants have almost the same path to the division title as the Cowboys. They'll need to win their 1 p.m. ET game and then keep their fingers crossed that Washington goes down in prime time — which has an estimated odds of 22 percent.

AFC South

Both the Titans and Colts are favored to make the playoffs, but winning the division will guarantee them at least one home game. Each team enters Week 17 at 10-5, and the Titans hold the tiebreaker because of a superior divisional record.

The Tennessee Titans have an easier path because of the tiebreaker, and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 73 percent chance of winning their first AFC South title since 2008. The Titans can clinch with a win over the Texans, a Colts loss to the Jaguars, or even a tie for both teams.

The Indianapolis Colts need a win and a Titans loss or tie, but at least the win should come easily. The Jaguars have lost 14 straight — although that lone win came in Week 1 against Indy. FiveThirtyEight gives the Colts a 27 percent chance of winning their second division title in three years.

NFC Wild Cards

The No. 6 and 7 seeds are up for grabs — Tampa Bay wrapped up the top wild-card spot with their dominating win last Saturday — and three teams still have a shot. It's even possible that the final playoff spot will go to a team with a .500 record.

The Los Angeles Rams have a one-game lead on the Bears and Cardinals and can clinch with a win or tie over the Cardinals. However, starting quarterback Jared Goff has a broken thumb on his throwing hand and is unlikely to play, leaving their playoff chances to backup John Wolford. The Rams can also advance if the Bears lose to the Packers, giving them an 81 percent chance of making the postseason.

The Chicago Bears have a tiebreaker over the Cardinals due to a superior record in common games. They can clinch with a win or Cardinals loss — or both games ending in a tie. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 63 percent chance of one of those scenarios playing out.

The Arizona Cardinals can advance to the postseason with a win over the Rams or with a tie and a Bears loss. Kyler Murray is expected to play but is banged up after suffering a lower leg injury. The Cardinals have a little better than a coin flip's chance, which FiveThirtyEight pegs at 55 percent.

AFC Wild Cards

Five AFC teams have a 10-5 record, and four will make the playoffs. One of them will be the AFC South champ, and the rest will advance as wild cards. The Colts are lowest on the totem pole but only need one of the other four teams to lose or tie to advance, creating a seemingly paradoxical scenario in which all five teams have a greater than 50 percent chance of making the postseason. Still, there are plenty of complicated scenarios beyond win-and-you're-in games for the top four teams.

The Tennessee Titans can still advance with a loss as long as one of the other four teams loses, and they can advance with a tie as long as one of the other four teams loses or ties. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 95 percent chance of making the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins hold a tiebreaker over the Ravens, Browns, and Colts, so they can advance to the playoffs even if they lose to the Bills if one of those three teams also loses. Same deal as above if the Dolphins tie, giving them a 69 percent chance of making the postseason.

The Baltimore Ravens can advance with a loss so long as the Browns and Colts do so as well. A tie gives them more flexibility, as any of the other four teams could lose. Of course, with a game against the beat-up Bengals, their chances in the playoffs may not be great if they can't win on Sunday. The Ravens have a 92 percent chance of making the postseason.

The Cleveland Browns have the longest shot of making the playoffs at 61 percent because they likely need to beat the 12-3 Steelers. They can also advance with a loss if the Colts also lose or if the Dolphins, Colts, and Ravens win but the Titans lose (shout out to their Week 5 win). You know the deal with ties; they could advance if any of the other four teams lose.

Finally, the Indianapolis Colts can claim a wild card with a win and a loss or tie from any of the other four teams, but they are officially out if they lose to the Jaguars. They could also tie and advance so long as one of the other four teams loses, giving them an 83 percent chance of making the playoffs.