On the surface, it’s easy to shrug at Sunday’s slate of games, given the sense that only a few postseason loose ends remain. But as our good friend Ricky Diamond, producer extraordinaire at NBC Sports, points out, all but three of the games have meaning.
Unfortunately for FOX, all three of the meaningless games — Redskins-Eagles, Bears-Vikings, Seahawks-Cardinals — will be televised on its network.
Here are the implications of each of the other games.
Bills at Patriots: New England clinches the top seed in the AFC with a win. A loss combined with a win by the Steelers or Ravens would push the Pats to No. 2.
Jets at Dolphins: New York remains alive for the second wild-card berth in the AFC.
Titans at Texans: Ditto for the Titans.
Colts at Jaguars: The Colts secure the No. 1 pick if they lose; if they win (and if the Rams lose to the 49ers), the pick goes to St. Louis.
Ravens at Bengals: The Ravens need a win to clinch the AFC North and the No. 2 seed. The Bengals must win to secure the second wild-card berth in the AFC.
Steelers at Browns: A Steelers win plus a Ravens loss gives Pittsburgh the AFC North title and the No. 2 seed. Throw in a Patriots loss, and the Steelers emerge with the No. 1 seed.
Chiefs at Broncos: Denver clinches the AFC West with a victory.
Chargers at Raiders: Oakland takes the AFC West with a victory and a loss by the Broncos. The Raiders with a win also have a shot at the second AFC wild-card berth.
Panthers at Saints: The Saints can capture the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win and a 49ers loss.
Buccaneers at Falcons: With a Falcons win and a Lions loss, Atlanta secures the No. 5 seed in the NFC, avoiding a potential return trip to New Orleans.
Lions at Packers: With a win, the Lions clinch the fifth seed, avoiding the Saints in the wild-card round.
49ers at Rams: A win by San Fran nails down the No. 2 seed; a loss by the Rams could deliver the top pick in the draft, if the Colts beat the Jaguars.
Cowboys at Giants: A true playoff play-in game, the winner takes the NFC East. The loser goes home.
And so be sure to ring in the New Year by keeping your eyes on every NFL game on Sunday. (Except the three that don’t matter.) We’ll be watching them all — including the three that don’t matter — and bringing you all the pertinent information right here.