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I thought I’d try to get this up before the Thursday night game just in case anybody was curious (as I was) about who has clinched a playoff spot, who has been eliminated from the playoffs and what everyone else needs to have happen to make it in. But first I must give a disclaimer: I am not 100% sure about all of this. There might be more ways for a team to clinch a playoff spot than the ways I’ve listed, but as far as I can tell, and by using the NFL’s tiebreaking procedures, this is what I have come up with.
On the NFC side of things the Giants and Cardinals have clinched the East and West divisions respectively. The Lions, Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Packers and Saints have all been eliminated from the playoffs. Here’s how things can play out for the NFC:
New York Giants
The Giants clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage with a win over the Panthers they can also clinch a first-round bye if the Vikings lose or tie.
The Panthers clinch the NFC South with a win over (or tie with) the Giants or if both the Buccaneers and the Falcons lose or tie.
The Panthers clinches a first-round bye with a win over over (or tie with) the Giants and they clinch home-field advantage with a win.
The Panthers clinches a playoff spot if the Cowboys lose or tie or if the Falcons lose or tie or if the Buccaneers lose or tie.
The Vikings clinch the NFC North with a win over the Falcons or if the tie with the Falcons and the Bears lose or tie, or if the Bears lose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Chargers and the Falcons lose and either the Eagles or Cowboys lose or tie.
The Cowboys clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Ravens and the Bears, Buccaneers and Falcons all lose. They can also clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Ravens and the Eagles lose (or tie) and the Bears lose (or tie) and either the Falcons or Buccaneers lose or tie. The final way (I think) that they can clinch a playoff spot is if they beat the Ravens and the Eagles lose (or tie) and the Falcons lose and they clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over the Bears.
The Falcons clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Vikings and a Buccaneers loss and one of the following four things happen:
In the AFC the Titans and Steelers have clinched the South and North divisions respectively and both have also clinched first-round byes. The Bengals, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders, and Bills have all been eliminated from the playoffs. Here’s how things can play out in the AFC:
The Titans clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a win over the Steelers.
The Broncos clinch the AFC West with a win over (or tie with) the Bills or if the Chargers lose or tie.
Now for the teams that can’t clinch anything this week, but can still make the playoffs.
The Eagles need to win both of their remaining game and either the Buccaneers or Falcons need to lose one of their remaining games.
The Redskins are all but eliminated. They need to win their remaining two games and have both the Buccaneers or Falcons lose their remaining two games, and have Dallas lose their remaining two games and have the Bears lose at least one of their remaining two games. Then and only then will the Redskins be in the post season.
The Cardinals have already clinched the NFC West and are currently in place to have the fourth seed in the NFC, and are unable to clinch the first or second seed, and thus, are unable to clinch a first round bye. They can however clinch the third seed if they win their remaining two games and the Vikings must lose both of their remaining games.
The Bears need to win both of their remaining games and have the Vikings lose to the Falcons in order to clinch the NFC North. However they can still get a wild-card spot even if they do not win the division. This however seems even less likely than the Redskins chances. They would still need to win both of their remaining games and have a lot of help. The Buccaneers, Falcons, Cowboys and Eagles would all need to lose at least one of their remaining games.
New York Jets
The Jets will clinch the AFC East if they win their two remaining games.
The Dolphins will clinch the AFC East if they win their two remaining games.
New England Patriots
The Patriots can clinch the AFC East if they win their remaining two games and either the Dolphins or Jets lose this week.
San Diego Chargers
In order for the Chargers to make the playoffs the Broncos need to lose this week to the Bills and the Chargers must beat the Buccaneers this week and then the Chargers must beat the Broncos in the final game of the season to clinch the division.
If the Ravens win their remaining two games they will clinch one of the two wild-card spots.
As mentioned before the Steelers have already clinched the AFC North and a first round bye, but they can clinch home-field advantage if they win their remaining two games, or if they best the Titans this week and the Titans also lose their final game of the season to the Colts.
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