Just two weeks remain in the 2013 NFL season and the numerous and always exciting playoff scenarios are heating up.
First up is the number of spots left, with five up for grabs in the NFC, and three left to be decided in the AFC. Ahead of Week 16’s matchups, the Seattle Seahawks are the only NFC team to clinch a playoff spot amongst a very crowded field.
The Denver Broncos clinched, as did the Kansas City Chiefs, but they are still technically duking it out for the AFC West crown. The Indianapolis Colts are the only team to clinch their division, and can still move up to a first-round bye.
There’s plenty of wiggle room with all four bye-week and home-field slots up for grabs, with pivotal games between the Chiefs and Colts, Dallas at Washington, Carolina at New Orleans, Arizona at Seattle, New England at Baltimore, and Chicago at Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Week 16 figures to be one of the most wild and crucial of the season, and the scenarios below could quickly be shaken up before the final week.
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1.Seattle Seahawks 12-2
One more win will wrap up the NFC’s top seed and NFC West. Splitting their last two games or losing both and another San Francisco loss won’t complicate Seattle’s hopes either. They own head-to-head tiebreakers over New Orleans and Seattle, but dropping Arizona on Sunday solidifies their standing and keeps the 49ers at bay.
2.New Orleans Saints 10-4
Two losses in the last three weeks have probably nixed a shot at the No. 1 seed, but a victory over Carolina clinches the division and a first-round bye. Home field advantage throughout would’ve been key, considering how poor Drew Brees has played at Seattle and on the road in general this season.
3.Philadelphia Eagles 8-6
Letting up 48 points to lowly Minnesota didn’t hurt too much thanks to Dallas’s debacle of a loss. Another Cowboys loss before the Sunday night game and Philly takes the NFC East. Should Dallas win, Philly will need to topple rising Chicago to hold on to the No. 3 spot, then drop the Cowboys in Week 17 in order to sew up the division and have at least one home game in the wild card round. Should New Orleans lose two more (that’ll put them at 4-2 in NFC South), and Philadelphia run the table, a tie will come down to win percentage against common opponents.
4.Chicago Bears 8-6
If the Bear and Packers win on Sunday, the Lions are out. The Bears can clinch the division with a win, a Green Bay loss, and a loss or tie by Detroit. But if Green Bay wins, then they’ll play for the NFC North in Week 17.
5.Carolina Panthers 10-4
Even with 10 wins and an incredible defense, the Panthers can’t move up unless they wrangle the division from Carolina, making Sunday’s matchup all the more critical. They can clinch the division and the No. 2 seed with a win over New Orleans, and then either a win over Atlanta next week or a loss by New Orleans.
6.San Francisco 49ers 10-4
San Francisco could lock up a playoff berth before taking a snap, should Seattle drop Arizona. If the Cardinals pull off the upset, then the 49ers can also have a shot at the NFC West title.
Arizona Cardinals 9-5
Arizona has put itself in this position with victories in six of its last seven games, but need two more wins at Seattle and San Francisco. They also need Atlanta to upset the 49ers for even an outside shot.
Green Bay Packers 7-6
Even with Aaron Rodgers out since Week Nine, the Packers have a very simple formula. Beat Pittsburgh and Chicago at Soldier Field, and they take the division for the third straight year and host a playoff game.
Detroit Lions 7-7
Losing four of the last five should submarine any team’s chances, but Detroit can still make the playoffs by winning out and need both Chicago and Green Bay to lose one of their last two.
Dallas Cowboys 7-7
The debilitating loss to Green Bay makes things difficult, but Dallas still needs to win two more and they clinch the NFC East and a home playoff game.
1.Denver Broncos 11-3
Thankfully New England also lost in Week 15, otherwise the Broncos would likely be forced east if they advanced to the AFC title game. They’ll need a win over Houston and a Kansas City loss to win the division.
2.New England Patriots 10-4
Should they win out, and Denver loses one more the Patriots will have home field advantage throughout. The Patriots can also clinch a fifth consecutive AFC East title with a victory over Baltimore.
3.Cincinnati Bengals 9-5
Ending the season with two straight at home, the Bengals can lock up the AFC North with a victory, or a Baltimore loss or tie to New England.
4.Indianapolis Colts 9-5
With the AFC South already locked up, Andrew Luck and the Colts can move up to a first-round bye if they win out, and if Baltimore can beat both New England and Cincinnati.
5.Kansas City Chiefs 11-3
To be safe they must win out, and need Denver to lose at least one more. A loss to Indianapolis on Sunday could stick them with a road Wild Card game after K.C. began the season 9-0. The two losses to Denver really hurt their standing.
6.Baltimore Ravens 8-6
They’ve won four straight and another win over New England can guarantee a playoff berth for the sixth straight year. Should the Bengals lose, and Baltimore win, the AFC North title is up for grabs when they meet in Cincinnati next week.
Miami Dolphins 8-6
Miami’s loss to Baltimore in Week Five puts them just outside the playoff picture, but two straight wins puts them in the postseason. They could clinch in Week 16 with a win over Buffalo, and losses by Baltimore and Cincinnati.
San Diego Chargers 7-7
They’ve put together some impressive wins, including last week’s terrific upset of Denver, but need several things to fall their way for the postseason. San Diego will have to close the season with two straight wins, and need Baltimore and Miami to lose, knotting all three teams at 8-7 heading into the final week of the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-8
They’ll need lots of help with two more wins over Green Bay and Cleveland, then for Miami, New York, San Diego, and Baltimore to finish 8-8 for the tiebreakers to fall in their favor.