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NFL playoff scenarios, Week 17: Last chances

The NFL playoff picture is almost set ... almost.

Christian Petersen

The end of the regular season is finally here. For some teams, it's been mostly a futile effort since the first week of the season. Heck, if Gene Smith is your GM, it's been futile since April. There are a handful of teams that still have something left to play for this week, trying to secure the best possible seeding in the playoff picture. Let's take a quick look.


Houston Texans

It's simple, beat the Colts this week to sew up the top spot. Houston has a couple other options too. Remember, the Texans beat Denver earlier in the season to give them an edge in the tiebreaker.

A loss and wins by the Broncos and Patriots would drop the Texans to the third seed.

Denver Broncos

A win over the Chiefs would be the first step toward locking up a second seed, which seems like the most probable outcome. A Patriots loss -- they're playing the Dolphins, so don't get your hopes up -- would also secure the second seed for Denver, regardless of the outcome against the Chiefs.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have an outside shot at the top seed, but Brady and Co. need losses from the Broncos and Texans for that to happen. A win combined with either a Houston or Denver loss would give New England the second seed. A win or a Ravens loss would make the Patriots third. A loss and a Ravens' win would drop the Patriots to the fourth spot.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are just about locked in as the fourth seed because of their record and having clinched the AFC North. A win over the Bengals this week combined with a Patriots loss would put them in the third spot.

Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals

These two teams are locked in as the two Wild Cards in the AFC.


Atlanta Falcons

The road to the Super Bowl goes through Atlanta. The Falcons locked up the top seed last week.

Green Bay Packers

Right now, the Packers are sitting in the second seed, but that could change with a game against a hungry Minnesota team this week. A win clinches the second spot for Green Bay. A loss and a 49ers win drops Green Bay to the third seed, and San Francisco into the second spot.

San Francisco 49ers

Jim Harbaugh's team had the second seed all to itself for a long time, but last week's loss to Seattle dropped the Niners down the seeding order. The 49ers need to beat the Cardinals this week and hope for a Green Bay loss to get back to that spot.

Washington Redskins

Obviously, you know the stakes around this week's prime time game against the Cowboys. A win secures the NFC East title. If Washington loses, there's still a way to the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Vikings and Bears would both need to lose for that to happen.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks clinched last week. There's a chance to move up to the third seed and win the NFC West, with a win over the Rams and a 49ers loss to the Cardinals.

Minnesota Vikings

Is there anything Adrian Peterson can't do? Maybe. The Vikings need the star running back to run like the wind this week, carrying the team to the playoffs. Minnesota really needs to win, but losses (or ties) by the Bears, Cowboys and Giants would do the trick too.

Chicago Bears

The Bears can avoid an ugly footnote of being the second team to start 7-1 and miss the playoffs with a win this week over the Lions. Chicago also needs Green Bay to beat the Vikings.

Dallas Cowboys

Simple, beat the Redskins, win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Lose the game and go home for another season of awkward speculation over Jason Garrett and Tony Romo's future.

New York Giants

There is a chance, however slight, that the Giants could land in the postseason. They need to beat the Eagles this week and see losses by the Bears, Cowboys and Vikings.