Are you ready for some football? I hope so, because we are set up for a wild finish to an unpredictable and crazy 2014 season, with 10 of the 16 games in Week 17 having some sort of playoff implications.
It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we were still waiting for the first team to punch its ticket to the postseason and now the playoff field is nearly all set as we enter the final week. Even though there are only two spots still up for grabs, there is plenty at stake and much to decide on the final Sunday of the regular season.
Here is what we know in the AFC: Five of the six spots have been decided and three of the four division champions have been crowned. There are four teams in contention for the final wild card spot -- San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs -- but only the Chargers control their own destiny.
However, clinching that berth won't be easy for San Diego, which faces a desperate Chiefs team at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Six of our eight experts are predicting a win by the home team, leaving the door open for the Ravens, Texans or Chiefs to slip into that final playoff position.
NFL Playoff picture
AFC, NFC playoff seeding cheat sheet
The playoff picture is getting clearer, but it's still a little confusing with all the possible outcomes for seeding ahead of the season's final week. Thankfully, someone created a few handy charts to explain.
NFL Playoff picture
The AFC North will be decided in a primetime, winner-take-all showdown at Heinz Field between the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) and Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1). Our expert panel is predicting that the Steelers will clinch their first division title since 2010, with six of the eight guys picking Pittsburgh to roll at home in Week 17.
Over in the NFC, we have a similar scenario with five of the six playoff teams already determined, but only one of the divisions is settled. The final spot goes to the NFC South champ and it will be decided in dramatic fashion -- a win-or-go-home matchup at the Georgia Dome between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. The road team has all the momentum heading into this showdown riding a three-game win streak, but our experts are slightly favoring the Falcons as NFC South champs.
The third head-to-head matchup in Week 17 with a division title on the line is at Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers (11-4) and Detroit Lions (11-4). This is the first time in more than 20 years that two teams with 11 or more wins will face off in the regular-season finale to determine the division champion. The last such game was between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants on Jan. 2, 1994, for the NFC East crown. Given Green Bay's dominance at home this season, it should be no surprise that seven of our eight experts are picking the Packers to win their fourth straight division title.
The race to claim those final two playoff spots is not the only one that will be determined in Week 17. We've also got a heated battle at the bottom of the standings between the Tennessee Titans (2-13) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13) to decide who gets the coveted No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Both teams are unanimous picks by our expert panel to lose their final games, which would result in the Bucs securing the top pick by virtue of having played an easier schedule.
As a reminder, these are picks to win the game (not against the spread), so choose wisely and do your research before making your own predictions this week:
|Week 17||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||PFT Commenter||Matt Ufford||OddsShark Computer|
|CAR @ ATL||ATL||CAR||CAR||ATL||ATL||CAR||ATL||ATL|
|CLE @ BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL||BAL|
|DAL @ WAS||DAL||DAL||DAL||DAL||DAL||WAS||DAL||DAL|
|IND @ TEN||IND||IND||IND||IND||IND||IND||IND||IND|
|DET @ GB||DET||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB|
|JAX @ HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU|
|SD @ KC||SD||KC||KC||KC||SD||KC||KC||KC|
|NYJ @ MIA||NYJ||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA|
|CHI @ MIN||MIN||MIN||CHI||CHI||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN|
|BUF @ NE||BUF||NE||NE||BUF||NE||NE||NE||NE|
|PHI @ NYG||NYG||NYG||PHI||PHI||NYG||PHI||PHI||PHI|
|CIN @ PIT||CIN||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||CIN||PIT|
|NO @ TB||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO|
|OAK @ DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN|
|ARZ @ SF||ARZ||SF||ARZ||ARZ||SF||ARZ||SF||ARZ|
|STL @ SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA|
Our panel consists of: David Fucillo, SB Nation's fantasy guru; Danny Kelly, SB Nation NFL contributor; PFT Commenter, SB Nation's hot takes expert; Joel Thorman, SB Nation NFL blogs manager; Matt Ufford, editorial producer, SB Nation studios; Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation's NFL editor; and Stephen White, retired NFL defensive end and SB Nation NFL contributor.
Our panel's record last week and for the season: