For many years, Week 17 was the end of the road, but in 2021, it’s just the beginning.
There are still eight playoff spots to be decided entering Week 17 — six in the AFC, two in the NFC — and a bunch of teams still mathematically alive to make it to the NFL postseason. This is the dream scenario for the NFL: Anything goes heading into the new year, with Week 18 potentially giving teams a last chance to make it to the big dance once again.
Entering Week 17, just four divisions across the league have been settled, with more clinching scenarios possible this weekend.
Here’s how things stand entering Week 17:
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NFL playoff picture: AFC projections
- No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Games remaining: at Bengals, vs. Broncos
*Extremely Andy Reid voice.* How ’bout those Chiiiiiiefs? Patrick Mahomes and the offense is alive and well, ripping off eight straight wins and demolishing defenses in the process. They’re zeroing in on the top seed, and with games vs. the Bengals and Broncos remaining, they may lock it down.
- No. 2 seed: Tennesee Titans (10-5)
Games remaining: vs. Dolphins, at Texans
The Titans can clicnh the AFC South in Week 17 either by way of win or Colts loss. They can also regain the No. 1 seed in the conference with a win and a Chiefs loss, and can clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC in Week 18 with the same scenario.
- No. 3 seed: Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
Game remaining: vs. Chiefs, at Browns
The Bengals hold a one-game lead in the wacky and confusing AFC North, and handed the Ravens a thrashing in Week 16. The division isn’t quite wrapped up, though: They face the Chiefs in Week 17, while facing AFC North rival Cleveland on the road in
- No. 4 seed: Buffalo Bills (9-6)
Games remaining: vs. Falcons, vs. Jets
The Bills notched a big win over the Patriots, putting them in the driver’s seat for the AFC East entering the final two weeks of the season. They have it easy, too: They face both the Falcons and the Jets at home to close out their 2021 season.
- No. 5 seed: Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
Games remaining: vs. Raiders, at Jaguars
It’s easy for Indy: Win and in this weekend. It’s also not so easy for Indy: With quarterback Carson Wentz potentially out for the game this weekend, sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger could get the call to start vs. Vegas.
- No. 6 seed: New England Patriots (9-6)
Games remaining: vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins
The Patriots are hanging on in the AFC, but have had to navigate Mac Jones’ rookie struggles in recent weeks. With losses to the Colts and Bills, the former No. 2 seed slipped all the way down to No. 6. Their odds are still in their favor, though.
- No. 7 seed: Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Games remaining: at Titans, vs. Patriots
Three of the four teams in the AFC East have an opportunity to make the playoffs. Sorry, Jets fans.
NFL playoff picture: NFC projections
- No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (12-3)
Games remaining: vs. Vikings, at Lions
The Packers can lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference with wins vs. the Vikings and Lions to end the season. The Cowboys do own the conference percentage tiebreaker in the event
- No. 2 seed: Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
Games remaining: vs. Cardinals, at Eagles
The league’s top offense still has a shot at the top overall seed entering the finals weeks of the season, even after Dak Prescott looked human for a number of weeks. Dallas has already won the NFC East.
- No. 3 seed: Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
Games remaining: at Ravens, vs. 49ers
The Rams are on the charge, winners of four in a row and officially in the playoffs. They’re heading east to face Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday afternoon, a tough task. They’ll need better a better effort than what Matthew Stafford showed vs. the Vikings in the Week 16 nail-biter if they want to lock down the NFC West in the last two weeks.
- No. 4 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
Games remaining: at Jets, vs. Panthers
Tom Brady faces a familiar foe on Sunday, as the Buccaneers head north to face the Jets. With a win on Sunday over the NFC South is now locked up, their first division crown since 2007.
- No. 5 seed: Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
Games remaining: at Dallas, vs. Seahawks
Hey, remember the Cardinals? The team du jour who looked like world beaters and a shoe-in for the No. 1 seed? They’re now losers of three in a row and have two tough matchups to end the season: they visit Dallas and face the division-rival Seahawks at home.
- No. 6 seed: San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
Games remaining: vs. Texans, at Rams
It’s pretty simple for San Fran: With a win and a Saints loss, they’re in. If not, wins over the Texans and Rams to end the year also secures their spot in the dance. With Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with an injured thumb, things get a bit more difficult.
- No. 7 seed: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
Games remaining: at Football Team, vs. Cowboys
What a strange season it’s been for Nick Sirianni and the Eagles. While no one expected the Eagles to be outwardly awful, there were questions surrounding Jalen Hurts and the team’s general playoff viability. Now, they’re a win (and some help) away from making the playoffs on Sunday. Wild.
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Current NFL playoff picture
Here’s how the standings in both conferences break down entering Week 15, along with the other teams that are still in the playoff hunt.
|1.||Kansas City Chiefs||11-4||Yes. (AFC West champions.)|
|6.||New England Patriots||9-6||N/a|
In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (8-7), Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), Las Vegas Raiders (8-7), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1), Cleveland Browns (7-8), Denver Broncos (7-8)
|1.||Green Bay Packers||12-3||Yes. (NFC North champions.)|
|2.||Dallas Cowboys||11-4||Yes. (NFC East champions.)|
|3.||Los Angeles Rams||11-4||Yes. (Clinched playoff berth.)|
|4.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11-4||Yes. (NFC South champions.)|
|5.||Arizona Cardinals||10-5||Yes. (Clinched playoff berth.)|
|6.||San Francisco 49ers||8-7||N/a|
In the hunt: Minnesota Vikings (7-8), Atlanta Falcons (7-8), New Orleans Saints (7-8), Washington Football Team (6-9)