We are 75 percent of the way through the 2017 NFL season, which means some teams — come on down, Browns — have nothing left to play for. Several more, however, are battling for their postseason lives heading into the final four games of the year.
Seven franchises can punch their tickets to January’s playoffs this weekend, with the candidates ranging from the typical (New England, Pittsburgh) to the more surprising (Philadelphia, Minnesota, Jacksonville). Some just need to win — or wait for a rival to lose — to qualify. Others need a series of unlikely events to unfold to make it with the first wave of celebrators.
So who can clinch a playoff spot in Week 14?
The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Vikings can all lock down their respective division titles with victories this week. For the Jaguars, playoff redemption can only come with a little help across the league. They will have to win their game and then hope their conference rivals stumble in very specific ways to firm up their postseason plans. The Saints also needed a win and some help, but they lost to the Falcons on Thursday night. That loss also meant the Rams wouldn’t be able to clinch this weekend.
Who has the simplest path to some bonus football?
Well, the Patriots, Eagles, and Vikings can all lose and still clinch their divisions this weekend. Here’s what they’re looking at in Week 14:
New England Patriots win the AFC East with:
Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC East with:
Minnesota Vikings win the NFC North with:
- a win or tie against the Panthers OR
- a Lions loss or tie to the Buccaneers AND a Packers loss or tie to the Browns
The Steelers can lose to the Ravens and also secure a postseason spot — but not the AFC North title — with a little help as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers win the AFC North with:
- a win or tie against the Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers clinch a playoff spot with:
- a loss to the Ravens AND a Bills loss or tie to the Colts
Seems simple enough, but what about the teams who need WAY more help to secure their spot Sunday?
Three teams looking to break playoff droughts could earn that satisfaction, but it’s going to be complicated. The Rams, Saints, and Jaguars all face tough opponents in Week 14. Even if they win, they’ll need a handful of rivals to stumble in order to pop the champagne Sunday evening.
Update: The Saints fell to the Falcons, so they can’t clinch this week. The Saints’ loss also cost the Rams, who could have only punched their ticket if the following had happened: a win against the Eagles AND the Panthers lose to the Vikings AND the Falcons lose to the Saints AND the Packers lose to/tie the Browns AND the Lions lose to/tie the Buccaneers AND the Cowboys lose to/tie the Giants
Jacksonville Jaguars clinch a playoff spot with:
- a win against the Seahawks AND the Bills lose to the Colts AND the Dolphins lose to/tie the Patriots AND the Chargers lose to/tie Washington AND the Jets lose to/tie the Broncos
Are there any other teams who can significantly raise their playoff stock in Week 14?
Sure are! The Titans can make Week 15 a clinching scenario with a win over the Cardinals. The Ravens can keep their AFC North hopes alive by derailing the Steelers and earning an eighth win — a number that will keep them in a weak AFC playoff hunt through Week 17. The Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders will each have a chance to stake their claim to the AFC West’s top spot.
Things are more complicated in the NFC, which boasts a bevy of competitive teams in 2017. The Seahawks can claim the lead in the West (via tiebreaker) with a victory over the Jaguars and a Rams loss. The Panthers can pull even with the Saints record-wise with a win over the Vikings — though New Orleans would own the tiebreaker there by virtue of its two wins against Carolina. That last scenario would also help rile things in the NFC North, where the Lions and Packers still have a slim chance of catching the streaking Vikings.
If the playoffs began today, who would be in?
Here’s what the AFC and NFC seedings would look like. Remember, the top two seeds in each conference get a first-round bye, and the top seed earns home-field advantage up until the Super Bowl.
If the season ended today, here are the six teams from the NFC that would get in:
- Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
- New Orleans Saints (9-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
- Carolina Panthers (8-4)
And here’s the AFC:
- Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)
- New England Patriots (10-2)
- Tennessee Titans (8-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
- Baltimore Ravens (7-5)