NFL Week 17 is coming up fast and finally the playoff brackets for the 2020 season will be set when the games end on Sunday. In their infinite quest to grab every dollar the league expanded the playoffs to seven teams from each conference. This means only the top seeds in the AFC and NFC will receive the bonus of a first round bye.
Surprisingly only one seed has been clinched already heading into this weekend. The Kansas City Chiefs, with their league best 14-1 record, have already claimed the top seed in the AFC and a first round bye. Three teams in the NFC can still lay claim to that conference's #1 seed.
Although nearly all seedings have yet to be determined, several teams in each conference have already claimed a playoff spot. In the AFC the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers are in by virtue of winning their respective divisions.
In the NFC the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks each won their respective divisions and are in the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have clinched one of the three available Wild Card spots.
So what's left up for grabs? In the AFC the South Division and three Wild Card spots are still available. In the NFC the East Division and two Wild Card spots, as well as the #1 seed, are still waiting to be claimed.
So here are the scenarios in which teams can nab one of the remaining playoff positions, as well as the top spot in the NFC. I'm only going to cover the wins and/or losses, when you factor in ties the math is wild enough to make my computer explode.
AFC South Division
Tennessee Titans clinch with a win or a loss by the Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts clinch with a win plus a loss by the Tennessee Titans
Simple scenarios here. The Titans win and they are in, the Colts need help. The Titans are 7.5 point favorites to win against the Houston Texans, who they have already defeated once this season. However that game did go to overtime in Tennessee, this game is in Houston. Yet Houston lost at home to the Bengals last week so that doesn't say anything good about their "home-field" advantage.
The Colts have an even sweeter matchup as 13.5 point favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags are 1-14. Who were the suckers that lost to this dumpster fire? Oh yea, it was the Colts all the way back in Week 1. Ouch.
No matter which team wins the division, the other still has a shot at a Wild Card spot.
AFC Wild Card
If the Titans fail to win the division, they will clinch a Wild Card if either the Baltimore Ravens or the Miami Dolphins lose
If the Colts fail to win the division, they will clinch a Wild Card if they win and either the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, or Cleveland Browns lose
Baltimore Ravens clinch with a win or a loss by either the Cleveland Browns or the Indianapolis Colts
Miami Dolphins clinch with a win or a loss by either the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns or Indianapolis Colts
Cleveland Browns clinch with a win or an Indianapolis Colts loss or a loss by the Tennessee Titans plus wins by the Colts, Ravens and Dolphins
The Colts are in the most dire position here. If all the other teams win they are out whether they win or lose against the Jaguars. Every other team can claim a spot by simply winning.
The Ravens are 11.5 point favorites over the Bengals. Baltimore already clubbed Cincy once this season and that was when Joe Burrow was still their QB. The Dolphins are 4.5 point underdogs against the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo beat Miami back in Week 2. The Browns are 8.5 point favorites over the Steelers since Pittsburgh has already claimed the division and have announced they will rest starters. Pittsburgh beat up the Browns earlier this season.
My AFC Predictions
I think the Titans will win the AFC South while the Ravens, Browns and Colts will claim the three Wild Card spots. The Browns aren't as good as the Steelers, but with Pittsburgh resting guys they should pull out the win. The Dolphins have the toughest matchup and will be without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have little faith in Tua so I figure the Dolphins will lose.
NFC # 1 Seed
Green Bay Packers clinch with win or Seattle Seahawks loss
New Orleans Saints clinch with win plus Green Bay Packers loss plus Seattle Seahawks win
Seattle Seahawks clinch with win plus losses by both the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints
If all three teams lose, the Green Bay Packers win the #1 seed
The Packers have the easiest scenario, but the toughest Week 17 matchup. They are 5.5 point favorites against the Bears in Chicago. They beat the Bears on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Seahawks are 6 point favorites against the beat up San Francisco 49ers. They beat the Niners on November 1st. The Saints are 7 point favorites against the Carolina Panthers. They beat the Panthers back in October.
NFC East Division
Washington No-Names clinch with a win
Dallas Cowboys clinch with win plus Washington loss
New York Giants clinch with win plus Washington loss
Pretty cut and dried in the NFC East since the Cowboys and Giants face each other this week in New York. The Cowboys are 3 point favorites and beat the Giants in the game where Dak Prescott had his ankle dislocated and broken.
The No-Names are 3 point favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles. That means Las Vegas thinks Alex Smith will be able to play at QB. If Smith is out the game is probably a toss up. The No-Names beat the Eagles in Week 1.
NFC Wild Card
Los Angeles Rams clinch with win or Chicago Bears loss
Chicago Bears clinch with win or Arizona Cardinals loss
Arizona Cardinals clinch with win
Another cut and dried scenario since the Cardinals and Rams face each other in Los Angeles this week. The Cardinals are 3 point favorites primarily because Rams QB Jared Goff will be out with a thumb injury. The Rams beat Arizona in Week 13.
The Bears have that brutal matchup against the Packers. The Packers are playing for a bye week so they aren't resting anybody.
My NFC Predictions
I think the Packers will claim the #1 seed, the No-Names will win the NFC East and the Cardinals and Rams grab the final two Wild Card Spots.
Green Bay is probably the best team in the NFC, I don't see them losing to Chicago with so much on the line. Chicago would have to hope for a Cardinals loss, but without Jared Goff I think Arizona wins.
The NFC East is a joke and nobody in that division deserves a playoff spot. However the NFL insists the winner gets one. OK. The Eagles have already thrown in the towel for their season, I don't expect much effort out of them on Sunday. If Alex Smith is good to go Washington should beat them easily.
If Smith can't play it might be interesting since Washington will be starting practice squad QB Taylor Heinicke. In that case who knows what will happen with such a lack of talent from both teams.
For what it's worth I think my Cowboys will beat the Giants, but the win will be moot. That's alright, they've disappointed me enough this season.
So there you have it, the 2020 Week 17 playoff scenarios with my predictions thrown in as a bonus. You're welcome.
Who do you think will make the playoffs? Feel free to let me know in the comments below and as always thanks for reading.