The Colts have already clinched the AFC South, and the Broncos and Seahawks have both clinched playoff berths. Those three teams can be joined by as many as six others on Sunday.
The NFL has released this week’s playoff scenarios, and they show that the Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals, Saints, Panthers and 49ers all have the ability to clinch playoff berths this week. Here’s a look at what each team has to do:
Chiefs: Clinch playoff berth with a win, or a loss by either the Dolphins or Ravens.
Patriots: Clinch the AFC East with a win. Can also clinch at least a wild card if they lose and the Ravens lose.
Bengals: Clinch the AFC North with a win and a Ravens loss.
Saints: Clinch a playoff berth with a win. Can also clinch a playoff berth if they lose and the Cardinals and either the Cowboys or Eagles lose.
Panthers: Clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses by both the Cardinals and 49ers, plus a loss by either the Cowboys or the Eagles.
49ers: Clinch a playoff spot with a win, a Cardinals loss and either a Cowboys or Eagles loss.
The Broncos can also clinch the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss, and they can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win and losses by both the Chiefs and the Bengals. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye with a win and a 49ers loss, and they can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and losses by both the 49ers and the Saints.
In just about every realistic scenario, five of the AFC playoff spots will go to the Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals and Colts, and four of the NFC playoff spots will go to the Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers and Saints. The remaining battles are for the final AFC wild card spot (Baltimore and Miami are currently tied at 7-6), for the NFC East (Eagles or Cowboys) and NFC North (Lions, Bears or Packers).
If you’re a fan of one of the teams that can clinch, that’s obviously what you’re hoping for. Otherwise, hope for the teams that can clinch to lose. The more teams are still fighting for playoff berths, the more fun we’ll have in the final weeks of the season.