In the NFC, Week 17 will have a pair of division championship games. In the AFC, the primary excitement comes from a four-team game of one-seat musical chairs.
And each of the four candidates needs help in order to nail down the No. 6 seed in the conference.
Here’s what it will take for the Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, and Steelers to acquire a seat at the table, and in turn a chance to run the table.
The 8-7 Ravens secure the spot with a win over the Bengals in Cincinnati plus a Dolphins loss at home to the Jets or a loss by the Chargers at home to the Chiefs. Baltimore wins a two-team tiebreaker with Miami or San Diego, but loses a three-team tie.
The 8-7 Dolphins win the No. 6 seed with a win over the Jets and a Ravens loss or a Chargers win. A win by all three teams would result in a three-team tie, which would go to the Dolphins based on won-loss record in conference games (8-4 for Miami vs. 7-5 for Baltimore vs. 6-6 for San Diego).
The 8-7 Chargers get the berth with a win over the Chiefs and losses by the Ravens and Dolphins, since San Diego would be the only 9-7 team in the conference.
The 7-8 Steelers get in with a win over the Browns in Cleveland plus losses by the Ravens, Dolphins, and Chargers. That would result in a five-team tie at 8-8. Since the rules require ties in the division to be resolved first, the Jets would knock out the Dolphins based on division record (4-2 vs. 3-3), the Steelers would trump Baltimore via division record (4-2 vs. 3-3), and then the Steelers would win the three-team tiebreaker with the Jets and Chargers based on conference record (6-6 vs. 5-7 and 5-7).
If all four teams lose, the Dolphins would win the three-team tiebreaker between Miami, Baltimore, and San Diego via a superior conference record (7-5 for Miami vs. 6-6 for Baltimore vs. 5-7 for San Diego).
Three of the games (Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, Steelers-Browns begin at 1:00 p.m. ET). The final piece of the puzzle comes when Chiefs-Chargers kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
For more on which of the four teams still viable for the No. 6 seed is the most likely to make it and the most likely to make noise in the postseason, here’s Peter King of TheMMQB.com and yours truly from the set of NBC’s Football Night in America.