The Ravens have everything to play for as they could go anywhere from 1st place to 5th place. A win for them with a Patriots loss could land them home field advantage. Joe Flacco and the Ravens seem to be a different team on the road losing to much weaker teams in Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego. An 8-0 home record could not give Baltimore any more reason not to try for home field advantage. If the Ravens lose on the other hand and the Steelers win, they drop to 5th place and may very well play the rest of the playoffs on the road. They hold the tie-breaker over the Steelers so as long as they can mimic their result; the Ravens will clinch a first round bye. Their destiny is in their hands.
Baltimore can clinch the AFC North division title and a first-round bye with:
1) BAL win
2) BAL tie + PIT loss or tie
3) PIT loss
Baltimore can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with:
1) BAL win + NE loss
Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North division title and a first-round bye with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie
2) PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie + NE loss
On the other hand, the Texans have nothing to play for regardless of who wins the AFC North. Assuming they beat the Titans, they would lose the tie-breaker to Baltimore due to head-to-head. If the Steelers win the division, they would get the bye with a better overall record. With a pretty banged up Texans side, this could be an early Christmas gift as they can rest their players next week to prepare for their first ever playoff game.
For the Patriots, it’s simple with the division and first round bye already clinched. A win against the Bills gives them home field advantage in the AFC which would be crucial knowing how good they are at home (6-1).
New England can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
The Broncos have put themselves in a difficult position after losing two straight games. They have failed to put away the division but they still have one more shot to do it; a win and their in. A loss combined with a Raider win would put Denver out of a playoff spot. The Chargers and the Chiefs were both eliminated in the playoff race after losing to the Lions and Raiders respectively. Both these teams will try to play spoilers against their division rivals with San Diego playing Oakland and Kansas City playing Denver. This division has been quite unpredictable all year long and it may just end up with a surprise finish.
Denver can clinch the AFC West division title with:
1) DEN win
2) DEN tie + OAK loss or tie
3) OAK loss
Oakland can clinch the AFC West division title with:
1) OAK win + DEN loss or tie
2) OAK tie + DEN loss
For the first wildcard spot, the situation is quite simple. Whoever doesn’t win the AFC North between Baltimore and Pittsburgh will get the 5th seed. Pittsburgh would love to get the bye with Big Ben nursing an injury.
For the 6th seed, we have 5 teams in the Bengals, Jets, Titans, Broncos and Raiders battling it out. The Bengals have the upper hand controlling their own destiny with a game over the other 3 teams going into the final week. If the Bengals lose, they would be at a disadvantage at getting the wildcard in a tie-breaker situation due to the other teams having a better conference record than them. As for the other teams, assuming the Bengals lose, the Raiders have the best shot at the wildcard due a high strength of victory. After the Raiders, the Titans have the next best chance and the Jets would need the most help out of all the teams. Currently, the Jets, Titans and Raiders have the exact same conference record and assuming they all win, the tie-breaker situation could get a bit interesting.
Cincinnati can clinch a wild card spot with:
1) CIN win or tie
2) NYJ loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
3) NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
Oakland can clinch a wild card spot with:
1) OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie
2) OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win
Tennessee can clinch a wild card spot with:
1) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + OAK loss or tie
2) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + DEN loss or tie
3) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ loss or tie + OAK win + DEN win
New York Jets can clinch a wild card spot with:
1) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
2) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
The Packers have already clinched the division title, a first round bye and home field advantage. There will be no incentive to win coming into the final week as the Packers failed to maintain their undefeated record against the Chiefs 2 weeks ago. Don’t be surprised if we see most of the starters sitting on the sideline next week.
The Saints have clinched the division after sweeping the Falcons twice this season. We all remember Seattle upsetting New Orleans last year in the first round of the playoffs. If the Saints don’t wish to put themselves in a position like that again, they should win next week and hope that they get the help they need to get the first round bye.
New Orleans can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) NO win + SF loss or tie
2) NO tie + SF loss
With the Dream Team finally put to bed, the Giants and Cowboys will battle it out in a sudden death type match. Winner wins the NFC east, loser goes golfing. It doesn’t get better than that. The Giants beat the Cowboys few weeks ago in Dallas and should be feeling good now playing at home.
New York Giants can clinch the NFC East division title with:
1) NYG win or tie
Dallas can clinch the NFC East division title with:
1) DAL win
The 49ers are making a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and seem to be a force to reckon with. The 49ers can’t get home field advantage but will still have to fight for a first-round bye. A win or a New Orleans loss would secure that. The Niners were one of the first ones to clinch their division competing in a fairly weak division. Ever since, the first-round bye has been on their mind and even after struggling lately, they are one win away from getting it.
San Francisco can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) SF win
2) SF tie + NO loss or tie
3) NO loss
Detroit already holds the first wildcard spot sitting at 10-5 and their final games versus the Packers could mean very little for both teams as a win or loss would only affect who the Lions will be facing come playoff. If I were Detroit I’d try my best to avoid playing in the Superdome or Candlestick Park in January and a win would help that cause.
The team who holds the other wildcard spot is Atlanta. If they want the higher seed, they need to win and hope Detroit loses. The team who ends up getting the 5th seed will face the NFC east division winner, a division that has looked quite weak compared to previous years. Detroit has already beaten Dallas this year and I know they wouldn’t mind finishing in the top wildcard spot for a potential rematch with them. With the two positions locked up, the only thing these two teams are fighting for is positioning.
Detroit can get 5th seed with a:
1) DET win
Atlanta can get 5th seed with a:
1) ATL win + DET loss