The NFL playoff picture is starting to get some clarity. Actually, it's not. A total of four teams have clinched a playoff berth. Another handful of teams are trying to lock down postseason tickets this weekend with more playoff scenarios than Thomas Pynchon could imagine.
For a few teams, clinching this weekend is straight forward enough. The Houston Texans, already assured of a spot in the playoffs, can wrap up the AFC South with a win over the Colts this weekend. A Colts win would guarantee Andrew Luck a postseason spot thanks in no small part to his rookie efforts.
Baltimore can wipe the slate from two straight losses with a win this weekend over the Broncos. That would give the Ravens the top spot in the AFC North. A loss by the Steelers or Bengals is all the Ravens need to clinch a playoff spot.
Over in the NFC, the surging Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Bears this week. Losing to the Bears means Green Bay has to wait another week to sew up a fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
If the 49ers can beat the visiting Patriots, it would give head coach Jim Harbaugh his second postseason appearance in his two seasons at the helm. A 49ers win and a Seattle loss, the Seahawks are in Buffalo, would make San Francisco the NFC West champs again.
The Atlanta Falcons have already made good on Matt Bryant's invitation to the Carolina Panthers to watch the NFC South winners play in January. Atlanta can go one step further clinching a first-round bye or even home-field advantage with a win over the Giants and some losses elsewhere in the NFC.
The chart below, courtesy of Cincy Jungle, outlines the mind-numbing playoff possibilities for Week 15:
|New England||AFC East|
|Clinch AFC North||Win OR|
|Tie plus Steelers loss (or tie) AND Bengals loss (or tie) OR|
|Steelers loss AND Bengals loss|
|Clinch Postseason Berth||Tie OR|
|Bengals loss (or tie) OR|
|Steelers loss (or tie)|
|Clinches AFC South||Win|
|Clinches First-Round Bye||Win plus loss by Broncos AND Patriots (or tie)|
|Clinch Postseason Berth||Win OR|
|Tie plus Bengals loss (or tie) OR|
|Tie plus Steelers loss (or tie) OR|
|Tie plus Ravens win OR|
|NYJ loss or tie plus Bengals loss OR|
|NYJ loss (or tie) plus Ravens win plus Bengals tie plus Steelers tie|
|Clinches First-Round Bye||Win plus Packers loss (or tie) OR|
|Win plus 49ers loss OR|
|Tie plus Packers loss|
|Clinches Homefield Adv.||Win plus Packers loss (or tie) plus 49ers loss|
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
|Clinches NFC West||Win plus Seahawks loss|
|Clinches Postseason Berth||Win OR|
|Tie plus Cowboys loss (or tie) plus Redskins loss (or tie) plus Vikings loss (or tie) OR|
|Tie plus Cowboys loss (or tie) plus Redskins loss (or tie) plus Packers/Bears does not in tie OR|
|Tie plus Cowboys loss (or tie) plus Vikings loss (or tie) plus Bears loss OR|
|Tie plus Giants loss plus Vikings loss (or tie) plus Bears loss OR|
|Vikings loss plus Cowboys loss plus Redskins loss plus Seahawks loss (or tie)|
GREEN BAY PACKERS
|Clinches NFC North||Win|
|Clinches Postseason Berth||Tie plus Cowboys loss plus Redskins loss plus Rams/Vikings tie OR|
|Tie plus Cowboys loss plus Redskins loss plus Vikings loss plus 49ers win (or tie) OR|
|Tie plus Cowboys loss plus Redskins loss plus Vikings loss plus Seahawks not ending in tie|