For the Patriots and Panthers, Week 17 is simple: Win, and you clinch home-field advantage.
For other teams, the playoff scenarios are more complex. The Cardinals can get home-field advantage, but only with help. The Broncos can get home-field advantage with help, but they could also be a wild card if things don’t go well on Sunday.
Here are the full playoff scenarios for Week 17, as distributed by the NFL today:
CLINCHED: New England – AFC East and a first-round bye, Cincinnati – AFC North, Denver – playoff berth, Kansas City – playoff berth.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (at Miami)
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a win or tie or a Denver loss or tie
DENVER BRONCOS (vs. San Diego)
Denver clinches the AFC West with a win or tie OR a Kansas City loss or tie.
Denver clinches a first-round bye with a win OR a tie and a Cincinnati loss or tie OR a Kansas City loss or tie and a Cincinnati loss.
Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win and a New England loss.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Baltimore)
Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with a win and a Denver loss or tie, OR a tie and a Denver loss, OR a Denver loss and Kansas City win.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (vs. Oakland)
Kansas City clinches the AFC West with a win and a Denver loss.
NEW YORK JETS (at Buffalo)
The New York Jets clinch a wild card with a win or tie OR a Pittsburgh loss or tie.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (at Cleveland)
Pittsburgh clinches a wild card with a win and a Jets loss.
HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Jacksonville)
Houston clinches the AFC South with a win or tie OR an Indianapolis loss or tie.
Houston can also clinch the AFC South by clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker or the strength of schedule tiebreaker over Indianapolis. Houston clinches the strength of victory tiebreaker over Indianapolis if one of the following teams wins or ties: Cincinnati, New England, New Orleans, the New York Jets or San Diego. Houston clinches the strength of schedule tiebreaker over Indianapolis if Kansas City wins or ties and Baltimore wins or ties as long as both teams don’t tie.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (vs. Tennessee)
Indianapolis clinches the AFC South with a win and a Houston loss if all of the following teams win: Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver and Miami AND Oakland and Pittsburgh either win or tie, but they don’t both tie.
If Houston and Indianapolis end up tied in strength of victory and tied in strength of schedule, the teams would then go to the next tiebreaker, which is best combined ranking among AFC teams in points scored and points allowed in all games. Houston would likely win that tiebreaker because Houston is currently 11th in points scored and sixth in points allowed in the AFC, while Indianapolis is currently 12th in points scored and 13th in points allowed in the AFC.
The bottom line on the AFC South is that although it is technically still in play, there is almost no chance that the Colts will win the tiebreaker with the Texans.
CLINCHED: Carolina – NFC South and a first-round bye, Arizona – NFC West and a first-round bye, Washington – NFC East and the No. 4 seed, Green Bay – playoff berth, Minnesota – playoff berth, Seattle – wild card.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (vs. Tampa Bay)
Carolina clinches home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win or tie OR an Arizona loss or tie.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (vs. Seattle)
Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and a Carolina loss.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs. Minnesota, Sunday night)
Green Bay clinches the NFC North with a win or tie.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (at Green Bay, Sunday night)
Minnesota clinches NFC North division with a win.