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NFL Playoff Picture, Explained: All The Different Seeding Possibilities

After a wild weekend of NFL football, the playoff picture is starting to get much clearer. But the last week of the season will still matter a great deal - especially when it comes to seeding.

First, let's go over what we already know:

  1. The AFC playoff field is set. The Dolphins, Chiefs, Steelers and Texans all clinched spots this past weekend.
  2. In the NFC, four of the spots are taken - by the Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks and Giants. The last two spots? The Lions, Packers, Redskins and Buccaneers are in the hunt.
  3. The Cowboys, despite having two games left, have clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

If the season ended today, we'd have:


  1. New England
  2. Oakland
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Kansas City
  6. Miami


  1. Dallas
  2. Atlanta
  3. Detroit
  4. Seattle
  5. New York Giants
  6. Green Bay

Let's take a look at the different options for each team heading into the final week of the season:


New England - The Patriots have clinched a first-round bye and can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over Miami next week.

Oakland - The Raiders can clinch the AFC West with a win over the Broncos next week. If the Raiders win and New England loses, the Raiders can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Raiders lose and the Chiefs win, the Raiders wind up as a wild card and get the 5-seed.

Pittsburgh - The Steelers have clinched the AFC North and will be the 3-seed.

Houston - The Texans have clinched the AFC South and will be the 4-seed.

Kansas City - The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win over San Diego coupled with an Oakland loss to Denver. A Kansas City win and an Oakland win lands the Chiefs the 5-seed. The Chiefs will get the 6-seed if they lose and Miami wins.

Miami - Miami is locked in the 6-seed unless it beats New England and has Kansas City lost to San Diego.


Dallas - Dallas has clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs despite having two games left.

Atlanta - The Falcons can lock up the 2-seed in the NFC with a win over the Saints next week. With a loss, they could either be the 3-seed or the 4-seed, depending upon how other games shake out.

Detroit - The Lions can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Dallas on Monday night. If the Lions lose that game and also lose to Green Bay, they won't make the playoffs. A win over Dallas on Monday night and a loss to Green Bay next week would likely net the Lions the 6-seed.

Seattle - The Seahawks have clinched the NFC West, but they could wind up as the 2-seed, the 3-seed or the 4-seed, depending upon how everything plays out.

New York Giants - the Giants are locked into the 5-seed in the NFC, regardless of what happens.

Green Bay - Green Bay needs to win its final game - against Detroit - to ensure it makes the playoffs. If it does, it'll either be the 3-seed or the 4-seed. Green Bay could lose and wind up in as the 6-seed, but only if Washington loses.

Washington - The Redskins need to beat the Giants next week to have any shot. The Redskins would sneak in as the 6-seed so long as both Detroit and Green Bay both don't wind up 10-6. So they need to avoid Detroit upsetting Dallas on Monday need and then Green Bay knocking off Detroit next week.

Tampa Bay - Ready for this insanity? The Buccaneers need nine different outcomes to happen to make the playoffs. Seriously. They are:

  • Tampa Bay beats Carolina
  • Dallas beats Detroit
  • Kansas City beats Denver
  • Detroit beats Green Bay
  • New York ties Washington
  • Dallas beats Philadelphia
  • San Francisco beats Seattle
  • Tennessee beats Houston
  • Indianapolis beats Jacksonville

In this insane scenario, Tampa Bay would get in over Green Bay based on strength of victory.

It should be an awesome final week.