Neither the Dolphins nor the Ravens fully control their own destiny in Week 17. (Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)
Four teams remain in the running for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot. Here's what each team needs to happen in Week 17 to claim that berth:
Miami Dolphins (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win plus either a loss by Baltimore or win by San Diego.
• A tie plus losses by Baltimore and San Diego.
Not one of the quartet in the hunt fully controls its own destiny -- a bizarre twist added by the NFL's tiebreaker scenarios. Miami currently holds the edge on Baltimore because San Diego, a winner Sunday, created a three-team tie at 8-7. In that scenario, the Ravens' win over Miami is canceled out by Miami's win over San Diego, pushing the conference-record tiebreaker to the forefront. The Dolphins hold that edge on both the Ravens and Chargers.
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Baltimore Ravens (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win plus a loss by either Miami or San Diego.
• A loss plus losses by Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh.
That aforementioned three-team tiebreaker? Baltimore needs to break it in Week 17 to pull back into the No. 6 seed. The Ravens have to do that by winning, first of all, and then getting the Dolphins or Chargers to trip up. Head-to-head, Baltimore would hold the tiebreaker edge on either of those teams. In a three-team jumble where all three teams have the same record, the Ravens would miss out.
San Diego Chargers (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win or tie plus losses by Miami and Baltimore.
The Chargers are third in the pecking order. They would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami, the conference-record tiebreaker with Baltimore and would be No. 3 in the three-team tiebreaker. So, the Chargers' only hope is to get to 9-7 and hope for help.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) would clinch with:
• A win plus losses by Baltimore, Miami (vs. NY Jets) and San Diego.
Pretty straightforward for the Steelers, who no doubt feel fortunate just to get to Week 17 with a shot. The Jets' win over Cleveland was huge for them, despite neither of those teams having a postseason shot, because the Steelers need the Jets to get to 8-8 -- thus drawing even with the Dolphins.
Here again, we get into a sloppy tiebreaker scenario. The NFL breaks intra-divisional tiebreakers first, even in wild-card scenarios. So, an 8-8 Jets team would eliminate an 8-8 Dolphins team, preventing that Dolphins team from bouncing the Steelers.
Still following? Essentially, the Steelers need a five-way tie at 8-8 between themselves, the Ravens, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers. They'd then hold the edge on every team but Miami ... which New York would send packing.