Each N.F.L. Team’s Playoff Path: Week 17


Two games remain for each N.F.L. team, and although the postseason picture for many teams may seem wide open, there’s no need to guess about their chances.

Below, a team-by-team guide for every team not yet eliminated. We’ll describe their postseason probabilities conditional on the results of their next two games: if they win both, win one or win none. All this will point back to our playoff simulator, where you can explore the scenarios to your heart’s content.

Table of Contents

N.F.C. East

Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Remaining games: Cardinals, at Eagles

The Cowboys have clinched the N.F.C. East and share the N.F.C.’s second-best record with the Rams and the Buccaneers. They can still earn the No. 1 seed and the bye week that comes with it, but they’ll most likely need to win both their remaining games.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)

Remaining games: at Football Team, Cowboys

The Eagles are playing for a wild-card berth. Winning both games will guarantee it. Winning one will probably be enough. Losing both will very likely eliminate them.

Washington Football Team (6-9)

Remaining games: Eagles, at Giants

Washington must win its remaining games to be mathematically viable for the postseason, but even then, it would need a lot of help to get a wild-card berth. Washington fans should root for the Bills, Texans, Panthers and Packers to win their games this week.

N.F.C. North

Green Bay Packers (12-3)

Remaining games: Vikings, at Lions

The Packers, with the best record in football, have already clinched the N.F.C. North. They are playing to ensure their chances of retaining the No. 1 seed in the N.F.C. and the bye week that comes with it. Two wins will guarantee it. One win makes it likelier than not, but they’d need the Cowboys to lose one of their remaining games.

Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Remaining games: at Packers, Bears

Realistically, the Vikings need to win their last two games, starting Sunday night in Green Bay against the 12-3 Packers. But even two wins would make their postseason chances only slightly better than a coin flip. Before the Vikings take the field at Lambeau, their fans should be rooting against the Eagles and the Saints.

N.F.C. South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)

Remaining games: at Jets, Panthers

The Buccaneers clinched the top spot in the N.F.C. South, but their poor conference record (all four of their losses came against N.F.C. teams) hurts their chances of getting the No. 1 seed. Two Bucs wins, two Packers losses and at least one loss from the Rams would do it. But in the most likely scenario, the Bucs host a wild-card team in the first round.

New Orleans Saints (7-8)

Remaining games: Panthers, at Falcons

The Saints are one of six teams fighting over two available wild-card spots in the N.F.C., with the third spot going to whichever team loses the N.F.C. West battle between the Cardinals and the Rams. The Saints probably need wins in both their final games. If they can do that, they’ll have a solid chance to make the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons (7-8)

Remaining games: at Bills, Saints

The Falcons are still technically in the hunt for a wild-card spot, but losses to the Eagles and the 49ers earlier in the season make things difficult. The Falcons will need back-to-back wins in addition to some stumbles from the other teams in the wild-card chase to make the playoffs.

N.F.C. West

Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

Remaining games: at Ravens, 49ers

The Rams have clinched a postseason berth but face a range of possibilities. Winning both their remaining games would guarantee a division title and leave an outside chance at the No. 1 seed. Winning just one game — it doesn’t matter which — would be enough to win the division as long as the Cardinals also lost one of their remaining games.

Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

Remaining games: at Cowboys, Seahawks

The Cardinals have clinched a postseason berth but trail the Rams (11-4) by a game in the N.F.C. West. They can win the division if they win one more game than the Rams do.

San Francisco 49ers (8-7)

Remaining games: Texans, at Rams

The 49ers are in good shape considering they’re third in their division. Two wins would guarantee a playoff berth, and two losses would not necessarily eliminate them. Their Week 18 game, against the Rams, is the more important of the two for their playoff chances.

A.F.C. East

Buffalo Bills (9-6)

Remaining games: Falcons, Jets

The Bills lead the A.F.C. East and are very likely to make the playoffs. If they beat the Falcons (7-8) in Week 17, they’re almost certain to clinch a playoff spot; if they beat the lowly Jets (4-11) in Week 18, they are guaranteed to do so. If they were to lose both games, however, a 9-8 record would likely keep them out of the postseason. The Bills also have a very, very narrow path to the No. 1 seed.

New England Patriots (9-6)

Remaining games: Jaguars, at Dolphins

The Patriots are second in the A.F.C. East and share the Bills’ 9-6 record. And, like the Bills, the Patriots face relatively weak opponents in their remaining games. Their most likely postseason outcome is as a wild-card team, but the division title is still a possibility if the Bills drop a game.

Miami Dolphins (8-7)

Remaining games: at Titans, Patriots

For a third-place team in their division, the Dolphins have quite reasonable postseason prospects. If they win their remaining games, they’ll be in the postseason, most likely as a wild-card team. (There’s an outside chance they could win the division, but don’t bet on it.) If the Dolphins can win just one of their remaining games, their Week 18 matchup against the Patriots is the more important of the two. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, both their opponents are likely playoff teams.

A.F.C. North

Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

Remaining games: Chiefs, at Browns

The Bengals are atop the A.F.C. North, and face a wide range of postseason outcomes. If they win their remaining games, they could finish first in the A.F.C. at 11-6 and get the bye week that comes with it. A win in either of their remaining games would bring them their first division title since 2015.

But it’s also possible they miss the playoffs altogether. The Bengals host the A.F.C.-leading Chiefs on Sunday and visit the Browns in Week 18. If they lose both games, a 9-8 record would make a postseason berth uncertain.

Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

Remaining games: Rams, Steelers

A realistic way to think about the Ravens’ postseason chances: Two wins should probably be enough, and one win will probably not be enough. Ravens fans should root against the Bengals, Raiders and Dolphins in Week 17.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)

Remaining games: Browns, at Ravens

The Steelers must win their remaining games for a chance at the postseason.

Cleveland Browns (7-8)

Remaining games: at Steelers, Bengals

Like the Steelers, the Browns must win their remaining games for a chance at the postseason. But a 9-8 record would just as likely keep them out of the playoffs as in them.

A.F.C. South

Tennessee Titans (10-5)

Remaining games: Dolphins, at Texans

The Titans lead the A.F.C. South and are very likely to make the playoffs, probably as the division champion. The No. 1 seed in the A.F.C remains possible. If the Titans win their remaining games, they’d just need the Chiefs to lose one of their remaining two games.

Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

Remaining games: Raiders, at Jaguars

The Colts are a game behind the Titans in the A.F.C. South but are likely to make the playoffs as a wild-card team. A win on Sunday against the Raiders (8-7) would clinch a postseason berth.

A.F.C. West

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Remaining games: at Bengals, at Broncos

The Chiefs have the best record in the A.F.C. and have already clinched a postseason berth and their sixth consecutive division title. Their remaining games will determine whether they are the No. 1 seed, with a bye week and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, or if they host a wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs. Two wins would guarantee the No. 1 seed. One win would do it as long as the Titans also lose a game.

Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

Remaining games: Broncos, at Raiders

Realistically, the Chargers must win their remaining games for a postseason berth. A loss in either game would make that prospect unlikely.

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)

Remaining games: at Colts, Chargers

The Raiders are in third place in the A.F.C. West, but their postseason prospects are in their control. If they win their remaining games, they will make the playoffs. If they can win only one, the Week 18 matchup against the Chargers is the more important of the two.

Denver Broncos (7-8)

Remaining games: at Chargers, Chiefs

The Broncos are all but mathematically eliminated. Even a 9-8 record would make a postseason berth very, very unlikely (but not impossible).

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