Most of the time, the Super Bowl winner comes from the group of four teams that start the playoffs with a bye week. This year, those four teams will include the Ravens, who have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and three teams still to be determined.
A total of seven teams — the Patriots and Chiefs in the AFC, the 49ers, Seahawks, Saints, Packers and Vikings in the NFC — still have a chance to earn one of the three remaining byes.
The AFC picture is clear: If the Patriots beat the Dolphins on Sunday, they’re the No. 2 seed. If the Patriots lose to the Dolphins while the Chiefs beat the Chargers, then the Chiefs get the No. 2 seed and the bye.
In the NFC there are more possibilities. The team with the clearest path is the 49ers: If they beat the Seahawks on Sunday night, they win home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
The Packers earn a bye if they win out, beating the Vikings tonight and the Lions next week.
The Saints earn a bye if they beat the Panthers on Sunday and if either the 49ers or the Packers lose a game.
The Seahawks earn a bye if they beat the 49ers and the Packers lose a game.
The Vikings have the hardest path to a bye: They have to beat the Packers tonight and the Bears next week, the Packers have to lose to the Lions next week, and the Saints have to lose to the Panthers next week.
If all the favored teams win, the three teams joining the Ravens with a week of rest in the wild card round will be the Patriots, Saints and 49ers. In this NFL season, however, that’s a big “if.”