As it turns out, the NFL playoff picture could get a little weird with a week (and a game) left. And yes, Jon Gruden can still make the playoffs.
Here’s what the current postseason picture looks like heading into Monday night’s game between the Packers and the Vikings…
1. Baltimore (13-2)
2. New England (12-3)
3. Kansas City (10-4)
4. Houston (10-5)
5. Buffalo (10-5)
6. Tennessee (8-7)
1. San Francisco (12-3)
2. New Orleans (12-3)
3. Green Bay (11-3)
4. Philadelphia (8-7)
5. Seattle (11-4)
6. Minnesota (10-4)
How did we get here? Allow us to get you caught up….
• The Ravens locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC after pummeling the Browns. Even if they lose next weekend against the Steelers and New England wins, Baltimore has the edge having beaten New England earlier this season.
• The Patriots beat the Bills on Saturday, which means there are two possible destinations for them: the No. 2 or the No. 3 seed. To lock down the second bye, New England must beat the Dolphins in the season finale or the Chiefs must lose to the Chargers at home. However if they lose to the Dolphins and watch the Chiefs beat the Chargers at home, that would push them to the No. 3 seed.
• The Chiefs beat the Bears on Sunday Night Football this week, and their pipe dream is the No. 2 seed, which, again, would come on the heels of a win over the Chargers and a massive Dolphins upset of the Patriots. They could also get upset by the Chargers and see the Texans beat the Titans, which would cause them to fall to the No. 4 seed.
• The Texans beat the Buccaneers on Saturday and clinched the AFC South. They can end up as high as the No. 3 seed if they beat the Titans and the Chiefs lose next week. A win by both the Texans and the Chiefs keeps their positions status quo (barring a Patriots loss).
• The Bills aren’t going anywhere. They’ll stay at No. 5 no matter what happens next week against the Jets.
• The Titans, despite losing to the Saints, crept into the playoffs following the Steelers’ stunning 16-10 loss to the Jets. They can hang on to the last spot in the playoffs with a win over division-rival Houston on Sunday.
The AFC teams are not yet settled, though. Two teams are still on the periphery with outside chances of breaking in. Here’s how Pittsburgh and Oakland could sneak in and nab the No. 6 seed (h/t NFL Playoff Scenarios):
OAKLAND IS IN IF… The Raiders manage to beat the Broncos on the road Sunday, Pittsburgh loses on the road at Baltimore (in what could very well be the RGIII game), Tennessee loses to Houston AND the Colts beat the Jaguars on the road.
PITTSBURGH IS IN IF… They beat the Ravens and the Titans lose to the Texans, they tie the Ravens and the Titans lose to the Texans, they lose to the Ravens, the Titans lose to the Texans, the Colts beat the Jaguars and the Raiders lose to or tie the Broncos.
The NFC is a little bit less complicated, though the seeding can alter significantly. The Eagles and Cowboys represent the biggest piece of this coming Sunday’s drama once again, and both teams will be playing in the 4 p.m. hour on Sunday. Let’s break it down...
• The 49ers can end up as the No. 1 seed in the NFC if they beat Seattle on Sunday Night Football next week. A loss knocks them down to the No. 5 seed.
• The Saints—deep breath—can wind up in a few places. Let’s boot up the playoff machine…
The No. 1 seed if the Packers lose to the Vikings on Monday Night Football, and the 49ers lose to Seattle next week on Sunday Night Football. The No. 2 seed if the Packers lose to the Vikings on Monday Night Football, the 49ers beat the Seahawks and the Saints beat the Panthers. Or, the Packers win out, the Saints beat the Panthers and the Seahawks beat the 49ers. Or, Green Bay beats the Vikings this week and somehow loses to the Lions next week. The No. 3 seed if the Packers win both of their games (Minnesota, Detroit) and the 49ers beat the Seahawks.
• The Packers—another deep breath—can also get weird. Green Bay will get the... (H/T to my pal Will Brinson on this one)
No. 1 seed, if they win out and the 49ers lose to the Seahawks. No. 2 seed, if they win out and the 49ers beat the Seahawks, or if they split the final two games and both the 49ers and Saints lose. No. 3 seed, if they split their remaining two games, the Saints beat the Panthers. The No. 6 seed is only in play if the Packers lose to both Detroit and Minnesota and the Vikings win on Monday night and beat the Bears at home next week.
• The Eagles are in the No. 4 spot with a win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium. They can also lose, and the Cowboys can tie or lose to Washington. If they lose and Dallas wins, Philadelphia is eliminated from the postseason.
• The Vikings still have a significant number of outcomes. The team will get the No. 3 seed if they could beat the Packers on Monday night and the Bears next week, and hope that somehow gravity, time and space contort into a black hole and the Lions beat the Packers next Sunday. Minnesota will be the No. 5 seed if they lose to Green Bay and beat the Bears the following week. And the No. 6 seed is in play if they lose their remaining games.
• The Seahawks could finish the season as the No. 1 seed with a win over the 49ers, a Packers split or two losses and a Saints loss against Carolina. They could also finish as the No. 2 seed, if they beat the 49ers and the Packers split or lose out. Seattle will be the No. 3 seed if the Packers and Saints both win their remaining games and the Seahawks beat the 49ers. The No. 5 seed, comes into play with a loss to the 49ers and at least one loss from the Vikings, and Seattle will be the No. 6 seed with a loss to San Francisco and two Minnesota wins.
DALLAS IS IN IF… They defeat Washington at home on Sunday and the Eagles lose to the Giants on the road.
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