The NFL playoff picture usually doesn’t start to take shape until December, but the 10-0 Patriots and 10-0 Panthers both have the opportunity to clinch playoff berths on Sunday.
The Patriots clinch the AFC East if they beat the Broncos on Sunday night and the Jets lose to the Dolphins. And the Patriots could even clinch the AFC East before Sunday night’s kickoff, if the Jets lose to the Dolphins and the Bills lose to the Chiefs.
If the Jets beat the Dolphins the Patriots can’t clinch the division, but the Patriots can still clinch a playoff berth if they win and the Chiefs lose, or the Patriots win and both the Steelers and Bengals lose.
The Panthers can’t clinch their division this week, but they can clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and one of the following three things happens:
1. The Seahawks and Buccaneers lose, or
2. The Seahawks and Falcons lose, or
3. The Buccaneers, Vikings and Cardinals all lose.
There are also some clinching scenarios that involve tie games this week, but those are too unlikely to bother with here. Bottom line, the Patriots and Panthers are close to the postseason, and may get there officially this weekend.