The playoff picture is almost crystal clear heading into the final week of the regular season. In fact it’s so clear, the league didn’t have a game to flex to the Sunday night time slot. Any game they could have flexed into that slot could quickly turn into a meaningless game with one or both teams resting their starters and having nothing to gain with a win.
Several games were flexed into the late afternoon time slot, including all but 4 games with playoff implications. 13 total games will have playoff implications and two of the three games will determine the number two pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. 15 teams are still in playoff contention, including one team that hasn’t made the playoffs since Y2K was still a thing.
Here is team by team breakdown of everything that is on the line this week:
Minnesota Vikings- The Eagles win on Christmas Day dropped the Vikings to the number two seed. A win against the Bears or a Panthers loss gives them a first round bye and the number two seed. A loss and Panthers win drops them down the number 3 seed.
New England Patriots/Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers win on Christmas kept their hopes alive for home field advantage and the Jaguars loss last week clinch first round byes for both teams. The Patritos get HFA with a win, the Steelers get HFA with a win and Patriots loss.
Number 2 Pick in the Draft- The Browns have already locked up the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The second pick is still up in the air. If the Giants lose or the Colts win, the Giants pick second. The Colts can jump to the second overall pick if the Giants win and the Colts lose.
Baltimore Ravens- If the Ravens beat the Bengals then they are the 5th seed and will play Kansas City in the Wildcard Round. If the Ravens lose they need either a Bills or Titans loss to get in.
LA Chargers- The Chargers can get in with a win if either the Ravens win and the Titans lose or if the Ravens lose and the Titans and Bills lose. To make this sound so much simpler, the Chargers conference record sucks because they have 3 wins against NFC teams. They won’t win a tiebreaker against anyone against Buffalo, because they beat them head-to-head. They also won’t win any tiebreaker in a 3-way tie, even if it’s for 2 playoff spots. A Ravens win and the Bills result doesn’t matter, just the Tennessee one. If the Ravens lose, they fall to 9-7 and they need to be the only other 9-7 team left, meaning both Buffalo and Tennessee need to lose.
Tennessee Titans- The Titans are in with a win or they can still make it with a loss if the Chargers and Bills both lose as well.
Buffalo Bills- The Bills need to win to get in and also need either a Ravens and Titans loss or Ravens win, Chargers loss and Titans loss.
NFC South- The Saints win the South with a win or a Panthers loss. The Panthers win the South with a win and a Saints loss. Both teams have already clinched playoff spots.
Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons are in with a win or a Seattle loss. They are the 6 seed if either happens.
Seattle Seahawks- The Seahawks are in with a win and a Falcons loss. They are the 6 seed if both happen.
LA Rams- They have already clinched the NFC West, but can lock up the 3 seed with a win or both a Saints and Panthers loss if the Rams lose. The difference between a 3 or 4 seed may not matter to them and it’s entirely possible they just rest their starters this week and accept playing either the 5 or 6 seed.