The NFL unveiled the official playoff scenarios for the final weekend of the regular season, and as was mapped out here last night, none of the four teams still alive for the AFC’s second wild card are in complete control.
That being said, the Ravens have the best shot of making the playoffs among the glut of teams vying for the conference’s final berth.
Baltimore has five ways to make the postseason while Miami has four, San Diego has two and Pittsburgh has one. I’m going to skip outlining all the reasons why each team earns which tiebreaker because it was explained in detail here last night.
But here’s a quick, organized primer of the playoff scenarios for Week 17, as provided by the NFL:
BALTIMORE RAVENS (at Cin)
Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:
1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR
2) BAL win + MIA loss or tie OR
3) BAL tie + MIA loss + SD loss or tie OR
4) BAL tie + MIA tie + SD loss OR
5) MIA loss + SD loss + PIT loss or tie
MIAMI DOLPHINS (vs. NYJ)
Miami clinches a playoff spot with:
1) MIA win + BAL loss or tie OR
2) MIA win + SD win OR
3) MIA tie + BAL loss + SD loss or tie OR
4) MIA tie + BAL tie + SD tie
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (vs. KC)
San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:
1) SD win + MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
2) SD tie + MIA loss + BAL loss
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Cle)
Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:
1) PIT win + MIA loss + BAL loss + SD loss
Here’s how the rest of the AFC could play out as well:
* Denver,Â€Â“ AFC West and first-round bye
* New England, AFC East
* Cincinnati, AFC North
* Indianapolis, AFC South
* Kansas City, first wild card
DENVER BRONCOS (at Oak)
Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) DEN win or tie OR
2) NE loss or tie
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (vs. Buf)
New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1) NE win or tie OR
2) CIN loss or tie + IND loss or tie
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win + DEN loss
CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Bal)
Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:
1) CIN win + NE loss
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (vs. Jax)
Indianapolis clinches a first-round bye with:
1) IND win + NE loss + CIN loss or tie
So both the Bengals and Ravens have something to play for this week. The Ravens can make their path to the postseason easier by winning or tying Cincinnati while the Bengals can still claim a first-round bye.
The Chiefs, who face the Chargers, could opt to scale back and rest players as they’re locked into the AFC’s fifth seed. That could dampen the Ravens’ chances if the Chargers are given an easier path, but it’s also possible Kansas City plays its full lineup to help preserve the integrity of the race.
Should be a fascinating finish.