The NFL regular season is over, which means the playoff picture is finally locked in. After a dramatic late afternoon of games, the dust is all settled and we know who’s playing who in the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
Before we get to the current playoff picture, let's review the qualification rules, which are the same for both the AFC and the NFC.
• The winners of each division—the North, South, East and West—qualify for the playoffs and earn the top four seeds. The team with the best record earns the No. 1 seed, the second-best earns the No. 2 seed, etc. If a team wins its division with a 7-9 record while another team qualifies as a Wild Card with an 11-5 record, the division winner will be seeded higher.
• The two teams with the best record that do not win their division qualify in the Wild Card spots, seeded fifth and sixth.
• If two teams in the same division finish with the same record, the first tiebreaker is their head-to-head record. If the teams split the two games played against each other, the next tiebreaker is the teams' record against teams within the division. If the in-division records are the same, the next tiebreaker is the teams' records in games against common opponents. If that too is is the same, the fourth tiebreaker is the teams' record against teams within the conference.
• If two teams in different divisions finish with the same record, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head matchup, if applicable. If the teams did not play each other, the next tiebreaker is the teams' record within the conference. If that too is the same, the third tiebreaker is the teams' record against common opponents.
• The top two teams in each conference receive first-round byes. Each conference's No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed, while the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed in the Wild Card Round.
• In every playoff game, the higher seed hosts the lower seed.
• After the Wild Card round comes the Divisional Round, during which the top seed in each conference plays the lowest remaining seed, while the No. 2 seed plays the higher-seeded team. There is no bracket as there is the NBA playoffs; matchups in the Divisional Round depend on the winners in the Wild Card round.
Now that the clerical stuff is out of the way, let's get to the playoff picture.
Note: (x) = clinched playoff berth | (y) = clinched division title | (z) = clinched first-round bye | (*) = clinched number one seed
Wild Card matchups
6. Bills at 3. Jaguars (Sunday Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET on CBS)
5. Titans at 4. Chiefs (Saturday Jan. 6, 4:35 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC)
1. Patriots, 2. Steelers have byes, will host Divisional Round games.
1. New England Patriots (13-3 | DIV: 5-1 | AFC: 10-2 | first place in AFC East)
Oh, nothing to see here: just the Patriot's ninth consecutive AFC East title and, yet again, all AFC roads lead through Foxborough. The Patriots handled the Jets easily on Sunday to clinch the AFC's number one seed and are just two home victories away from reaching a third super bowl in four seasons. New England escaped its last game of the season relatively injury-free and will feel good about their chances in the postseason.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3 | DIV: 6-0 | AFC: 10-2 | first place in AFC North)
That brutal Week 15 loss at home to New England, which was sealed by tight end Jesse James' touchdown-that-wasn't, turned out to be the difference betwen home-field advantage and a potential AFC Championship Game in New England. Pittsburgh did bounce back from that loss by beating the Texans then barely holding on to seal the Browns' winless season in a game where Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell were healthy scratches. The good news for Steelers fans is that Antonio Brown is expected to return from his calf injury for the Divisional Round.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6 | DIV: 4-2 | AFC: 10-2 | first place in AFC South)
Tennessee's loss to the Rams in Week 16 clinched the AFC South for the Jaguars and Jacksonville was locked into the three seed already, so Sunday’s loss to the Titans didn't mean much.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6 | DIV: 4-2 | AFC: 8-4 | first place AFC West)
When Kansas City had lost five in a row to drop to 6-6, the season that once looked so promising appeared to be slipping away. But the Chiefs deserve credit for righting the ship and putting together three straight wins, including a crucial one over the Chargers, to clinch the AFC West and return to the postseason. Kansas City, already locked into the fourth seed, beat the Broncos in their regular season final
5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6 | DIV: 3-2 | AFC: 7-4 | second place AFC North)
Remaining games: vs. Bengals
It wasn't pretty, but the Ravens managed to take care of business at home to beat the Colts. That win gets Joe Flacco & Co. on the brink of the postseason—all the Ravens need to do is beat the Bengals at home next week and they'll clinch a playoff berth. And even if they do lose, losses by the Bills and Titans mean the Ravens will get in if either of those teams lose next week. The defense is playing solid, and we all know what Flacco is capable of in the playoffs, so this is a team that no contender wants to see come January.
5. Tennessee Titans (9-7 | DIV: 4-2 | AFC: 8-4 | second place in AFC South)
By beating the Jags on Sunday, Tennessee clinched a playoff spot. The Ravens’ loss allowed the Titans to slide up to the No. 5 seed.
6. Buffalo Bills (9-7 | DIV: 3-3 | AFC: 7-5 | second place in AFC East)
Buffalo took care of business in beating the Dolphins on Sunday but still needed help in order to make the playoffs. Baltimore’s loss to the Bengals was just was the Bills needed.
Outside looking in
Baltimore Ravens (9-7 | DIV: 3-3 | AFC: 7-5 | second place AFC North)
The Ravens could have sealed a playoff berth with a win over the lowly Bengals but it wasn’t in the cards. Andy Dalton’s late touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd ruined that party.
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7 | DIV: 3-3 | AFC: 6-6)
A win over the Chiefs in Week 16 would have put the Chargers in the driver’s seat in the AFC West but Kansas City won and won the division. A Los Angeles win over the Raiders in the final week wasn’t enough to get the Chargers in the playoffs.
9. Oakland Raiders (6-10) | 10. Miami Dolphins (6-10) | 12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9) | 11. New York Jets (5-11) | 13. Denver Broncos (5-11) | 14. Indianapolis Colts (4-12) | 15. Houston Texans (4-12) | 16. Cleveland Browns (0-16)
Current Wild Card Round matchups
6. Falcons at 3. Rams (Saturday Jan. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC)
5. Panthers at 4. Saints (Sunday Jan. 7, 4:40 p.m. ET on Fox
1. Eagles, 2. Vikings have byes, will host Divisional Round games.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3 | DIV: 5-1 | NFC: 10-2 | first place in NFC East)
The Eagles came out on the wrong end of the lowest scoring game of the NFC season, losing 6-0 to the Cowboys in an extremely dreary game in Philly. It's not an ideal way to head into the playoffs, but Nate Sudfeld took the majority of snaps at quarterback and Jay Ajayi did not play. The Eagles already locked up the NFC's top seed before the game.
2. Minnesota Vikings (13-3 | DIV: 5-1 | NFC: 10-2 | first place in NFC North)
The Vikings's Week 17 matchup with the Bears didn't have any bearing on their playoff seeding, but it's always nice to beat a division rival, and that's what the Vikings did on Sunday. Minnesota's 13 wins are the most by a team that plays in same stadium that will host that year's Super Bowl, and the Vikings are just two wins away from becoming the first franchise ever to play a home Super Bowl.
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-5 | DIV: 4-2 | NFC: 7-5 | first place in NFC West)
Thanks to another other worldly performance from Todd Gurley in Week 16, the Rams clinched their first NFC West title since 2003. First-year head coach Sean McVay has to be the favorite for coach of the year, as he's turn around a moribund offense into one of the league's most dynamic units. They were already locked into the No. 3 seed and thus decided to rest their starters in the finale against the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco got the win.
4. New Orleans Saints (11-5 | DIV: 4-2 | NFC: 8-4 | first place in NFC South)
The Saints lost to the Bucs on Sunday but it didn’t matter. They won the AFC South because the Panthers also lost.
5. Carolina Panthers (11-5 | DIV: 3-3 | NFC: 7-5 | second place in NFC South)
The Panthers could have won the NFC South with a win in Week 17 and a Saints loss. The Saints lost, but so did Carolina, and so the Panthers are the fifth seed, traveling to New Orleans instead of hosting a first-round game.
6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6 | DIV: 4-2 | NFC: 9-3 | third place in NFC South)
The Falcons just needed to win to get in, and win they did. They’ll play the Rams in the first round.
Outside looking in
7. Seattle Seahawks (9-7 | DIV: 4-2 | NFC: 7-5 | second place in NFC West)
The Seahawks had a chance to get in the playoffs but lost to the Cardinals. It was a moot point anyway, though, because the Falcons won.
8. Dallas Cowboys (9-7) | 9. Detroit Lions (9-7) | 10. Green Bay Packers (7-9) | 11. Washington Redskins (7-9) | 12. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) | 13. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) | 14. Chicago Bears (5-11) | 15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) | 16. New York Giants (3-13)