In the AFC, all six postseason spots have been clinched. But teams are still battling for playoff position. The four division winners are the Houston Texans (AFC South), Denver Broncos (AFC West), New England Patriots (AFC East) and Baltimore Ravens (AFC North). The Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals have locked up the Wild Card berths.
Houston and Denver are tied for the best record in the AFC at 12-3 with the Texans holding the edge based on the team’s head-to-head victory over the Broncos in Week 3. Houston will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or losses by Denver and New England. The Broncos will seize the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win and a Texans loss. And the 11-4 New England Patriots will capture the top seed in the conference with a win and losses by both Houston and Denver. Those three teams are also battling for a first-round bye with Houston and Denver in control.
In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons have won the NFC South and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We wanted to make the playoffs and then try to play our games at home,” says Falcons quarterback MATT RYAN. “To accomplish that is perfect.”
The Green Bay Packers are the NFC North division champions and are in control for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Packers will lock up the No. 2 seed with a win or losses by San Francisco and Seattle.
The NFC West will come down to the San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) and Seattle Seahawks (10-5). Both teams have clinched at least a playoff berth. With a win or a Seattle loss, the 49ers will win the division. Seattle will clinch the NFC West with a win and a San Francisco loss. The NFC West winner will clinch a first-round bye with a victory and a Green Bay loss.
The NFC East division title will be on the line in Week 17 when the Washington Redskins (9-6) host the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) on Sunday night (NBC, 8:20 PM ET). The winner claims the NFC East.
“It’s amazing how you play every week and you don’t think about what’s ahead but your opponent,” says Cowboys quarterback TONY ROMO. “But, in a lot of ways, the only reason you play is to get your team into that position and to get in the playoffs so you have a chance. When you get in, anything can happen.”
In the running for the final Wild Card spot are the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Redskins. The Vikings are in control and can qualify for the postseason with a victory. Some of the key games with playoff implications:
HOUSTON TEXANS (12-3) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-5) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)Both teams are in. The Texans have won the AFC South and the Colts have secured a Wild Card berth.
Houston is in control for home-field advantage. With a win, the Texans will secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Houston can also clinch home-field with losses by Denver and New England. If the Texans fail to get the No. 1 seed, they can still gain a first-round bye with a Denver loss or a New England loss.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-8) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-4) (Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)The Patriots have won the AFC East and are battling for a first-round bye and home-field advantage. New England will gain the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win and losses by Houston and Denver. The Patriots will have a first-round bye if they win on Sunday and either Houston or Denver loses.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-13) at DENVER BRONCOS (12-3) (Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)Denver has won the AFC West and is currently tied with Houston for the best record in the AFC. The Broncos are in control for a first-round bye and will earn it with a victory or a New England loss. If Denver wins and Houston loses, the Broncos will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
“Our goal is just to keep winning,” says Denver wide receiver DEMARYIUS THOMAS about the team’s current 10-game winning streak. “That’s what we’ve done. We’ve won all 10 as a team. That’s all that matters.”
CHICAGO BEARS (9-6) at DETROIT LIONS (4-11) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)The Bears remain in the mix for a playoff berth. Chicago can advance to the postseason with a win on Sunday combined with a Minnesota loss.
“All we can do is control what we can control,” says Bears wide receiver BRANDON MARSHALL, who has set team records with 113 catches and 1,466 yards. “We do need help. If we could get that help, that would be good.”
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-11) at NEW YORK GIANTS (8-7) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)The defending Super Bowl champion Giants can still qualify for the postseason but will also need help to get in. New York needs a win against Philadelphia and losses by Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-4) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-6) (Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)Green Bay has clinched the NFC North and is in line for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Packers will lock up the bye with a win or losses by both San Francisco and Seattle.
The Vikings are in control for a playoff spot. With a victory, Minnesota will advance to the postseason as a Wild Card. The Vikings can also advance to the playoffs with losses by Chicago, Dallas and the New York Giants.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-10) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (10-4-1) (Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)The 49ers, who have already secured a playoff berth, currently lead the NFC West and can clinch the division with a victory or a Seattle loss. San Francisco can also secure a first-round bye with a win over Arizona and a Green Bay loss.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-7-1) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-5) (Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)Seattle has clinched a playoff berth but is still in contention for the NFC West division title. The Seahawks can claim the division with a victory and a San Francisco loss. If Seattle wins and both San Francisco and Green Bay lose, the Seahawks will clinch the NFC West and secure a first-round bye.
“It’s been coming together for us,” says Seattle head coach PETE CARROLL. “We’re getting better and you can just feel it and see it. It’s coming to life for us.”
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-7) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (9-6) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)The NFC East title will be on the line on Sunday night in primetime.
“It will be pandemonium at FedExField,” says Washington cornerback DE ANGELO HALL. “The way you like it. It’s definitely going to be a playoff atmosphere. We want to be the only show on TV. That’s a good feeling. Primetime, baby.”
The victor of the Dallas-Washington matchup will win the division title and move into the playoffs. The Cowboys can only advance to the postseason as the NFC East champion. The Redskins can get in as either a division winner or Wild Card.
“We’ve got to move forward,” says Cowboys tight end JASON WITTEN, who last week set the single-season record for catches by a tight end with 103. “We have an opportunity to go to the playoffs. Regardless, we’ve got to go play the Redskins, play them tough and see where it falls.”
NFL FACTOID: Detroit wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON had 11 catches for 225 yards in Week 16, his NFL-record eighth consecutive 100-yard game. Johnson, who tied the NFL record with 11 100-yard games in a season (MICHAEL IRVIN, 1995), has 1,892 receiving yards and passed JERRY RICE (1,848 in 1995) for the most in a single season in NFL history. Johnson needs 108 yards in Week 17 to be the first in NFL history with 2,000 receiving yards in a season.
release courtesy NFL Media