The Panthers can’t clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs for another week, but they can clinch a first-round bye as soon as this weekend.
Of course, that’s #math, since they’re 12-0, and only one other team in the NFC has fewer than four losses, but the league has published the clinching scenarios for this week, and the Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Patriots and Broncos can each secure something this week.
The Panthers have already secured the NFC South title and a playoff spot, and can clinch one of the top two seeds with either a win over the Falcons or a combination of a loss or tie by both the Vikings and the Packers.
The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West title with a win over the Vikings Thursday and a Seahawks loss or tie, or a tie and a Seahawks loss. The Cards can clinch at least a playoff spot with a win or a tie, combinations of losses or ties by the Falcons and Buccaneers.
On the AFC side, the Bengals can clinch the North division title with a win or a tie against the Steelers, and can secure a playoff berth with a loss by either the Jets or Chiefs.
The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Jets loss or tie (among another few permutations), and can lock up a playoff berth with a win over the Texans or losses by the Steelers and Jets, or a tie and a Chiefs loss.
The Broncos can clinch the AFC West title with a win over the Raiders and a Chiefs loss or tie, or a tie and a Chiefs loss. They can also wrap up their playoff spot with a win and losses or ties by the Jets or Chiefs.