There is one final week left in the NFL season and there are still several things that need to be figured out before the playoffs begin on January 9. Here is what is known and what still needs to be decided going into Week 16’s Monday Night game and it gets very confusing to say the least especially in the case of the Indianapolis Colts.
In the AFC, the New England Patriots have clinched the AFC East and have a first-round bye. They need a win next week or a Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos loss to clinch homefield advantage through the playoff. Cincinnati can cinch homefield with wins in their final two games and a New England loss. They will get a bye in the first round with a win in either one of their final two games or a win next week plus a Denver Broncos loss.
Denver has a similar scenario with needing two wins plus a New England loss and can clinch a first-round bye with two wins or a Week 16 win, a Cincinnati Week 17 loss and a Kansas City Chiefs loss. It is a still possible that the Broncos miss the playoffs entirely if they lose their final two games but can clinch the AFC West with a win in either of their final two games and a Kansas City loss. A playoff berth is just a win away or a Pittsburgh Steelers loss away.
The Houston Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win by the Bengals in Week 16 or a Houston win itself in Week 17 or a loss by the Colts. They can also clinch the strength of victory over Indianapolis if Cincinnati wins, the New York Jets win, the New Orleans Saints win along with losses by the Broncos and Miami Dolphins. The strength of schedule can be clinched with a Kansas City win or a Pittsburgh loss. That’s not the most confusing clinching scenario.
The Colts need the doomsday scenario to play out to clinch the division. All of the following things must happen…..Indianapolis wins in Week 17, Cincinnati loses their final two games, Denver wins their final two games, the Jets, Saints and Chiefs lose and the Dolphins and Steelers win. Confused, yet?
The Chiefs clinch the AFC West with a win and a Denver loss or two Denver losses if Kansas City loses in Week 17 themselves. The Jets clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Pittsburgh loss or if Denver loses their final two games while the Steelers clinch with a win plus a Jets loss or a win and the Broncos losing their final two games.
The NFC is a much clearer picture with all six playoff spots already clinched. It’s just a matter of what seeds the teams will be. The Carolina Panthers have won the NFC South and have a first-round bye and can clinch homefield throughout with a win or an Arizona Cardinals loss. The Cardinals get homefield advantage if they win and the Panthers lose.
The winner of the Green Bay Packers–Minnesota Vikings game will win the NFC North and be locked into the No. 3 seed. Green Bay can also win the division if that game ends in a tie. The Washington Redskins are locked into the No. 4 seed while the Seattle Seahawks are also in the playoffs in the NFC. The Packers-Vikings loser will be the other wild card team along with Seattle.