Time To Gamble: Final Weekend For NFL Playoff Hopefuls
This weekend, the NFL will officially enter uncharted waters. It will be the first time in NFL history that teams will play a 17th game on their respective regular season schedules. Yes, times are changing in the NFL, and that’s a good thing for football fans and sports bettors.
What hasn’t changed is the significance of the last week of the NFL regular season. There are still games on the week’s schedule that will have a significant impact on the NFL playoffs. By conference, let’s take a look at teams that still have a shot at making the playoffs and some possible seedings.
AFC Playoff Picture
In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Cincinnati Bengals have already clinched their division titles. In the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots are deadlocked with a record of 10-6. The good news for their respective fans is both teams have clinched a playoff spot.
The division title comes down to the final week when the Bills will be playing the New York Jets at home while the Patriots will travel to play the Miami Dolphins. The advantage goes to Buffalo in a scenario where one team wins and the other team loses. Should both teams win or lose, the division winner will be decided by a tie-breaking system.
The first tiebreaker is head to head competition (both teams won one game). Since both teams have a win, that moves things to the second tiebreaker, which is division record. As of now, the Bills have the better record at 4-1-0 while the Pats sit at 3-2-0 with both teams playing division foes this week. It is possible the tiebreakers could run all the way to the 4th tiebreaker. If that were to happen, New England wins the division with a better conference record.
As far as seedings and wild card positioning, no one has clinched home-field advantage. Should the Titans and Chiefs both win this weekend, they would each host an AFC semi-final game with the Chiefs clinching home-field advantage. Otherwise, there are too many scenarios to consider before the final game of the season is over. As a guess, it looks like there is a real possibility the Bills and Patriots could meet again in one AFC Wild Card game with the other Wild Card participants being the Titans and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Other teams still fighting for postseason play include the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers. But they are more reliant on other results going their way.
NFC Playoff Picture
In the NFC, 6 of the 7 playoff spots are accounted for. The Green Bay Packers have officially won the NFC North and secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. Other division winners include the Dallas Cowboys (NFC East) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (South).
In the NFC West, the division is still up for grabs. The Los Angeles Rams are leading the division at 12-4-0 followed by the Arizona Cardinals at 11-5-0. The Rams will be playing at home against the San Francisco 49ers while the Cardinals will host the Seattle Seahawks. If both teams win or lose, the Rams win the division. If the Rams lose and the Cardinals win, the Cardinals would win the division with a better division record serving as the tiebreaker.
NFC Wild Cards
As far as the Wild Card games are concerned, the Philadelphia Eagles will definitely be playing next Sunday. If the Rams win, the Cardinals will be Wild Card bound. Should all of the top teams win or lose this weekend, Tampa Bay and Dallas will both host Wild Card games and be joined by Philadelphia and Arizona. Of course, there are a few results that could shake things up a bit. If things come down to tie-breakers between the Cowboys, Rams, Buccaneers, and or the Cardinals, there are still about five or six different scenarios that could play out.
What we know for sure about this year’s NFL playoffs is one thing: The Packers will be playing at Lambeau Field in two weeks. The rest is still a great unknown heading into the last week of the season. Perhaps, that is exactly the way things should be.