Written by Pat Pryor, @PryorNFL
With the start of championship weekend, we mark the beginning of the holiday season, which means crunch time for NFL teams! Let’s start out with our clinching scenarios, straight @NFLScenarios on Twitter!
Kansas City has claimed the AFC West and can clinch the one seed with a win this week, paired with losses by both Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
Buffalo can clinch the AFC East for the first time since 1995 with a win on Saturday.
Pittsburgh can also take their division with a win this weekend, and they can also secure it through a Cleveland loss.
Tennessee can clinch their spot in the playoffs with a win of their own and a Baltimore loss.
As for the NFC, New Orleans can expand their claim of just a playoff berth to a division title with a win, or a Tampa Bay loss.
Seattle and Los Angeles can secure their spots in the dance with wins themselves.
Tampa Bay, Arizona, Cleveland, Miami, and Dallas, can all knock themselves out of the race for their divisions with losses or a win by their respective division leaders.
Denver, Carolina, Dallas, and New England can all be eliminated by their own losses.
There’s quite a bit more that can be found both on @NFLScenarios Twitter and the official NFL website, but this contains almost all the ways teams hold their own fates in their hands. Let’s head to recaps of last week:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Minnesota Vikings 14
In a game where the Vikings had a hot start to the game, 10 points left on the board thanks to their kicker, Dan Bailey, loomed large in their 12 point loss. Now, Minnesota has no opportunity to clinch a playoff spot this week and is back to the 8th seed. Now up against Chicago, they’re forced into a must-win situation to keep the Bears out of the hunt. As for the Buccaneers, they buy themselves some time in a race for the South that is out of control, but most importantly stays alive in the playoff race and are unlikely to be out of it anytime soon.
Indianapolis Colts 44, Las Vegas Raiders 27
The matchup started rather close until Kenny Moore came down with one of the most impressive interceptions we’ve ever seen. After that, it was all Colts, as they would win by 17. Indianapolis keeps Baltimore out of the playoffs for this week despite the latter’s electric win, and head into a matchup versus the Texans. As for Las Vegas, things couldn’t get any worse. After a bad loss in overtime this Thursday, they fall to 7-7 and have lost four of their past five. Now reeling from Thursday night, they are more likely than not too far behind to reach the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 15
We watched the very minute that the Steelers lost the number one seed to the Chiefs, and the Bills put their eyes on number two. Now the Bills have a much easier schedule remaining and should be able to take the second seed if the Steelers drop another during this tough period.
This week’s matchups:
Seattle Seahawks (9-4) at Washington Football Team (6-7), Sunday 1:00 PM
Every time an NFC East team is in here, it feels wrong, putting a team two games below .500 into this type of article. This week is different, however, as the Washington Football Team is on a tear, winning four straight to rip the East lead from the Giants. After starting 5-0, the Seahawks have gone 4-4, and are at high risk of falling too far behind to catch the Rams in the West. WFT has a chance to start running away with the division, being the first East team to have an even record since the Cowboys… in Week 2. With Washington looking great lately, they have a real chance to upset the Seahawks early on Sunday to begin cementing the playoff picture.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) at New Orleans Saints, Sunday 4:25 PM
The return of Drew Brees couldn’t come at a more important time. After being embarrassed by rookie Jalen Hurts in his first start, the Saints have lost the one seed and have the toughest possible matchup to try to take it back. With the Packers’ win over New Orleans in Week 3, they need a loss by Green Bay to try to fight. As for the Chiefs, even with a loss this week, they are unlikely to lose the one seed no matter what. Thanks to the conference percentage tiebreaker, it’s almost certain the Chiefs will have the number one seed with a win this week. It’s not mathematically guaranteed, but it’ll take a miracle for them to be upset for the bye. This game will put pressure on others, but neither of these teams has control over what happens afterward.
New England Patriots (6-7) at Miami Dolphins (8-5)
Due to a week lacking competitive matchups, we look at this game more for historical significance rather than playoff implications, although it doesn’t lack that entirely. With a loss, the Patriots will be eliminated from playoff contention for the third time since 2001, while the Dolphins will be further on the road to their fourth appearance since that same year. This doesn’t take into account the fact that with a win, the Dolphins can fly into the fifth seed. Both the Colts and the Browns can easily overtake them, but they stay in the playoffs and are one vital win ahead against the Ravens. After some rocky times, the Ravens have bounced back and are headed to a likely win against the Jaguars. A win by Miami would keep them ahead in the standings and give us some more form to the playoff picture.
It’s not the most exciting week, especially given some recent great games, but we do have some important games, mostly in the afternoon. After this week ends, it’s officially the week of Christmas! So from me to you, have a Happy Holidays, and we’ll meet again next week.