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NFL Playoff Picture: What to Watch for, What’s at Stake in Week 17

Sixteen games, 12 playoff spots, one Sunday. A handful of teams are locked into their current postseason seeds (Baltimore, Buffalo and Minnesota), but everything else is up for grabs. How could it all unfold?
Jadeveon Clowney, Jimmy Garoppolo

Jadeveon Clowney and the Seahawks handed the 49ers their first loss of the season back in Week 10.

There are only three teams going into Sunday who can do absolutely nothing about their playoff seeding: Baltimore is the No. 1 seed in the AFC with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Buffalo is the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Minnesota is the No. 6 seed in the NFC.

Everything else, including the top seed in the NFC, the winner of the NFC West and the winner of the NFC East are still up for grabs.

Here’s your guide to Sunday’s most important games:

New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.

The Patriots have a chance to lock in the No. 2 seed, but could dip as low as the No. 3 seed. From Monday’s look at the playoff picture

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.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Kansas City could wind up anywhere from the No. 2 seed (with a win and a Patriots loss) to the No. 4 seed should they lose this game and the Texans beat the Titans.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.

There are plenty of places the Packers could end up here, including the top seed in the NFC. Though after their win over Minnesota on Monday, the No. 6 seed is no longer in play. From Monday’s post:

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.

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.

The Saints also have a crack at the No. 1 seed if they win, the 49ers lose and the Packers lose. The rest of their potential movement (from Monday): No. 2 seed if 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 remaining game (Detroit) and the 49ers beat the Seahawks.

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.

The 4:25 hour begins The Weird. Oakland kicks off at the same time as each of the teams who need to help them along the way. The Raiders need a victory against the surging Broncos, the Steelers need to lose to the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens, the Titans need to lose to the Texans and the Colts need to beat the Jaguars.

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Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m.

The Eagles can win and they’re in. If they lose and Dallas loses to Washington at home, they can also remain in the playoffs. If they lose and Dallas wins, they’re out of the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:25 p.m.

The Colts need to win in order to keep the Raiders alive. A Colts victory also factors into a scenario for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A colts loss helps the Titans.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 4:25 p.m.

The Titans, currently the No. 6 seed in the AFC, can beat their division rivals and punch a ticket to the playoffs. They can also tie and have the Steelers tie or lose. They can also lose and have both the Steelers and Colts lose. Houston is in an interesting spot. If the Chiefs win during the 1 p.m. hour, they may decide to pull back on their starters’ minutes knowing that they are cemented into the four seed.

Washington at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.

Dallas needs to win and pray. They can only enter the playoffs via a divisional win, which would involve the Eagles losing to the Giants. While it sounds unlikely, don’t count out Pat Shurmur coaching for his job and some recent strong play from Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 p.m.

The Ravens aren’t going anywhere and will rest their starters. The Steelers need to win this game and have the Titans fall to the Texans, which, as we noted above, could get interesting. If the Steelers lose, they could also sneak in with a Titans loss, Colts win and Raiders loss or tie.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m.

Woah, Sunday night. The division is on the line and in a wild world Seattle could still lock down the No. 1 seed with a Packers loss to the Lions and a Saints loss to the Panthers (unlikely, we know). Here is our outlook for both teams from our Monday post, updated after the Packers-Vikings game…


(No. 1 seed scenario above). They could also finish as the No. 2 seed, if they beat the 49ers and the Packers lose to Detroit and the Saints beat Carolina. 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.

San Francisco:

A win and the 49ers lock down the No. 1 seed and the division title. A loss, and they’re the No. 5 seed.

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