NFL Playoff Picture, Week 17: AFC West, NFC East in spotlight

Tuesday December 27th, 2011

Tony Romo and Eli Manning will square off in Week 17 for the NFC East title. (Matthew Emmons/US Presswire)

Three division titles and one wild-card spot remain up for grabs as the NFL reaches the end of its regular season.

The AFC North, AFC West and NFC East all will be decided in Week 17, as will the final playoff spot in the AFC. As things stand right now, the wild-card round playoff matchups would look like this: Cincinnati at Houston, Pittsburgh at Denver, Atlanta at New Orleans and Detroit at the Giants.

Not a single one of those matchups is set in stone, though, and of the potential playoff teams, only the Texans know their final seed (No. 3 in the AFC) for sure. The end of the regular season should be thrilling.

Here is the current playoff picture:


No. 1 seed: New England Patriots (12-3) — Remaining opponent: vs. Bills

No. 2 seed: Baltimore Ravens (11-4) — Remaining opponent: at Bengals

No. 3 seed: Houston Texans (10-5) — Remaining opponent: vs. Titans

No. 4 seed: Denver Broncos (8-7) — Remaining opponent: vs. Chiefs

No. 5 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) — Remaining opponent:  at Browns

No. 6 seed: Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) — Remaining opponent: vs. Ravens

On the bubble: Oakland Raiders (8-7), Tennessee Titans (8-7), New York Jets (8-7)

The AFC playoffs will run through Foxborough, if the Patriots can knock off Buffalo on Sunday. Otherwise, the AFC North winner will claim the No. 1 seed, provided either the Ravens or Steelers win.

Baltimore would wrap up its division with a victory at Cincinnati, but a loss by the Ravens plus a Steelers victory would flip-flop Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the playoff seedings.

Houston is locked in to the No. 3 spot, no matter what happens against Tennessee Sunday.

Denver can clinch the AFC West with a win or an Oakland loss (or tie). If Denver loses to Kyle Orton and Kansas City, however, the Raiders could claim the division crown by beating San Diego.

There's high drama surrounding the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot too, as Cincinnati controls its own destiny -- beat Baltimore and the Bengals head to the postseason. The Bengals can also survive and advance if the Jets and Raiders or Broncos lose.

Oakland actually remains in the best wild-card position if Cincinnati slips up. If the Raiders win (and don't take the AFC West because of a Broncos victory), a Tennessee loss or Jets win, coupled with a Bengals loss, would give the Raiders a wild-card spot.

The Jets and Titans each need to win and have Cincinnati lose to retain any hope. Even then, the scenarios are complicated -- the Jets also would need a Tennessee loss plus a loss by either Oakland or Denver; Tennessee would need a loss by the Jets plus wins by Oakland and Denver, or a Jets win plus a loss by either Oakland or Denver.

Got all that?


No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (14-1) — Remaining opponent: vs. Lions

No. 2 seed: San Francisco 49ers (12-3) — Remaining opponent: at Rams

No. 3 seed: New Orleans Saints (12-3) — Remaining opponent: vs. Panthers

No. 4 seed: New York Giants (8-7) — Remaining opponent: vs. Cowboys

No. 5 seed: Detroit Lions (10-5) — Remaining opponent: at Packers

No. 6 seed: Atlanta Falcons (9-6) — Remaining opponent: vs. Buccaneers

On the bubble: Dallas Cowboys (8-7)

Thankfully, things are a lot simpler in the NFC than in the AFC. Five of six playoff bids are filled, with the sixth reserved for the winner of Sunday's Giants-Cowboys game.

Green Bay will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, thanks to its win over Chicago on Christmas night. San Francisco still has the inside track on New Orleans for the No. 2 spot and a first-round bye -- if the 49ers beat the reeling Rams or the Saints lose to Carolina, the 49ers would clinch that position. A New Orleans win plus San Francisco loss would leapfrog the Saints past the 49ers.

The NFC East champion will take the No. 4 seed. The Giants tentatively hold that spot and will be at home for Sunday's big game. And just in case it comes to this, the Giants would win the division in the event of a Week 17 tie, based on their earlier victory in Dallas. Detroit and Atlanta are jostling for wild-card position, though both teams have clinched playoff spots. A Lions win or Falcons loss this week would give Detroit the No. 5 seed and a first-round trip to play the NFC East winner, while Atlanta would settle in as the No. 6 seed and play either San Francisco or New Orleans. If Detroit loses at Green Bay (where it hasn't won since 1991), and Atlanta beats Tampa Bay, the Falcons would take the five seed.

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