The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals “Monday Night Football” matchup will have some very far-reaching playoff implications, not only for the two AFC powers playing, but for many other teams hoping to sneak into the postseason.
And while those two squads wrap up Week 16, next week’s matchups will decide both the AFC and NFC’s No. 1 seeds, as well as the three vacant berths in the AFC.
The NFC has already decided the six teams that will appear in at least one postseason round, however the matchups for wild-card weekend are still undecided.
The NFL’s tie-breaking procedures may play a significant role in the final week of the regular season. Should a tiebreaker be necessary within a division it starts with head-to-head record, followed by division record, common games record, conference record, then strength of victory (SOV) and strength of schedule (SOS).
The order changes slightly when snapping a tie in the Wild Card race. It goes head-to-head, then conference record, common games record, SOV, then SOS.
Here are the full playoff scenarios for the remaining postseason contenders.
Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings
One of the oldest and bitterest rivalries in NFL history will decide the NFC North title. The winner of Sunday’s regular season finale at Lambeau Field will take the division and the No. 3 seed for playoff home game, loser gets bumped back to the Wild Card. Though the Wild Card might be more preferable since the No. 3 seed will likely have to host defending NFC champ Seattle.
However, the Packers and Vikings could meet again in Wild Card weekend. If current No. 6 seed Seattle beats Arizona and the Vikings lose, than Minnesota slips to the No. 6 and Seattle overtakes No. 5 because of the Seahawks Week 13 win over the Vikings. The Packers have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle based off their Week 2 win over the Seahawks.
Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals
A win for Carolina and a loss by Arizona, sews up the No. 1 seed for the Panthers. But if Arizona wins and Carolina loses, the Cardinals division record would improve to 5-1 and Carolina’s would slip to 4-2 and Arizona has the top seed and home field throughout.
New England Patriots
The No. 1 overall seed belongs to New England if they beat Miami in Week 17 or if the Bengals and Broncos lose at least one game. Otherwise the Patriots will be the No. 2 if they lose and the Bengals or Broncos win out.
The Bengals require two more wins and another New England loss to Miami for the No. 1 seed. Cincinnati already clinched a top four postseason berth and the AFC North after Pittsburgh lost in Week 16, and they can’t fall lower than the No. 3 seed because of its current three-game advantage over Houston.
Winning out, which includes Monday night’s matchup with Cincinnati, affords Denver the No. 2 seed. Winning out and another loss by New England to Miami and Cincinnati losing at home to Baltimore moves Denver into No. 1 because of their victory over the Patriots earlier this season.
The Broncos could, however, miss the playoffs entirely. If they lose their last games and Pittsburgh beats Cleveland in Week 17, then the Steelers overtake them in the Wild Card due to their head-to-head victory.
All Houston needs is a win over Jacksonville next week and the AFC South is there’s. However, they could also claim the division if Cincinnati beats Denver, which would give the Texans the fifth tiebreaker (SOV) due to the New York Jets win over New England in Week 16.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have already wrapped up a postseason berth, but are in play for the AFC West crown and a much higher seed. A victory over Oakland in Week 17 improves the Chiefs division record to 5-1 and a loss by Denver to Cincinnati and or to San Diego puts the division title in play. Kansas City and Denver split their season series, so the division record tiebreaker gives the Chiefs the AFC West.
New York Jets
Pull off a victory or just plain tie former head coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 and the Jets are in. However, even if New York loses there’s hope. Should they fall to the Bills and the Steelers lose or the Broncos drop their last two games than the Jets make it because of a stronger conference record.
A Jets loss coupled with wins by both Pittsburgh and Denver eliminates New York from contention.
Week 16’s surprising letdown to Baltimore really mucked things up for Pittsburgh. It now needs to beat Cleveland in Week 17 and the Jets to lose to Buffalo for a wild card berth. The Steelers could also creep in if they beat Cleveland and Denver drops its last two.
So much of the Colts’ postseason hopes rest on everyone else but them. Essentially the Colts need to force the sixth tiebreaker (SOS) into play in order to make the playoffs, according to ESPN. Indianapolis requires a victory of its own and a Houston loss, followed by Denver beating Cincinnati, and then the Bengals, the Jets, Saints losing and Miami and Denver each winning in Week 17.