Week 17 N.F.L. Playoff Picture Preview: A Team-by-Team Guide

Just two weeks remain in the N.F.L. season, and the playoff picture, while somewhat clearer, remains open.

In the N.F.C., just four teams have been eliminated, leaving eight teams vying for three postseason spots. The wild-card slots in particular are not yet settled; the Packers, Giants, Commanders, Lions and Seahawks are all hoping for a postseason berth. Only two will get one.

In the A.F.C., things are not much more settled. Only two of the four division titles have been claimed. And as in the N.F.C., only four teams have been eliminated.

Below, as we did last week, we’ve created a team-by-team guide for every team not yet eliminated. We’ll describe their postseason probabilities conditional on the results of their next games (if they have two remaining): if they win both, win one or lose both. All this will point back to our playoff simulator, where you can explore the scenarios to your heart’s content.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills (12-3)

Remaining games: at Bengals, Patriots

The Bills are the A.F.C. East champions. 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 possibly the No. 2 or even the No. 3 seed. Their next game, at Cincinnati on Monday night, is by far the more important of the two.

If the Bills beat the Bengals, they can do no worse than the No. 2 seed and would be in a strong position for the No. 1 seed, even if they lose at home to the Patriots in their final game.

Miami Dolphins (8-7)

Remaining games: at Patriots, Jets

The Dolphins have a clear path to the postseason as a wild-card team. If they win their remaining games, they are in, probably as the No. 7 seed, visiting the Bengals, Chiefs or Bills.

Winning just one game still leaves them with a decent chance of making the playoffs at 9-8. Of their final two games, the game in Week 18, hosting the Jets, is more important.

New England Patriots (7-8)

Remaining games: Dolphins, at Bills

The Patriots are in a surprisingly strong position given their record. Winning out will guarantee them the last spot in the A.F.C. A loss this week, when they host the Dolphins, would eliminate them.

New York Jets (7-8)

Remaining games: at Seahawks, at Dolphins

The Jets share the same record as the Patriots, at 7-8, but have worse prospects. They too are hoping for the No. 7 seed — the last spot in the A.F.C. — but winning two games would be no guarantee. A loss eliminates them.

The Jets’ best Week 17 scenario is a win and a Patriots loss. That would put them in a position to clinch a playoff berth with a win in Week 18.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Remaining games: Bills, Ravens

The Bengals are in the playoffs but could still end the season in a variety of places, including as the coveted No. 1 seed, but also possibly as low as the No. 6 seed. Their game on Monday night, hosting the Bills, is crucial. If they win that, they can still get the No. 1 seed. But for winning the division, it’s their last game, hosting the Ravens, that matters more. As long as they win that game, they will win the A.F.C. North, probably as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.

Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

Remaining games: Steelers, at Bengals

The Ravens are in the playoffs. Their remaining games will determine if they are the division champion, most likely as the No. 3 seed, or a wild-card team, probably as the No. 5 or No. 6 seed. Of their two remaining games, it’s the last one that matters more. If they win that, they have a decent chance of winning the division, even if they lose Sunday against the Steelers. Two wins would guarantee the division title.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

Remaining games: at Ravens, Browns

The Steelers are not likely to make the playoffs. A loss in either of their remaining games would eliminate them. Even if they win their remaining games, they have less than a 1-in-10 chance of advancing. But if fans want to remain optimistic, Pittsburgh’s best outcome in Week 17 is a win accompanied by Dolphins and Jets losses.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8)

Remaining games: at Texans, Titans

The Jaguars have an interesting pair of games ahead. What happens on Sunday, against the Texans, barely affects their playoff chances. As long as they win in Week 18 against the Titans, the Jaguars are in with the No. 4 seed, hosting the No. 5 seed — probably the Ravens or Chargers.

Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Remaining game: at Jaguars

The Titans lost decisively to the Cowboys on Thursday night, but it was meaningless in regard to their postseason prospects. The only game that matters for them is in Week 18 in Jacksonville. If they win that, they will win the division. If they lose, they are out.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)

Remaining games: Broncos, at Raiders

Not much has changed since Week 16 for the Chiefs: They have clinched the A.F.C. West and can do no worse than a No. 3 seed, but their loss to the Bills in October puts them at a disadvantage in the race for the No. 1 spot. The Chiefs need the Bills to drop a game. If the Chiefs win and the Bills lose to the Bengals this week — a realistic outcome — the Chiefs will clinch the No. 1 seed if they win in Week 18.

Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)

Remaining games: Rams, at Broncos

The Chargers are in the playoffs as a wild-card team no matter what happens. The only thing their remaining games will determine will be their seed — it could be No. 5, No. 6 or No 7.

Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)

Remaining games: 49ers, Chiefs

The Raiders are alive, but mostly in a mathematical sense. A loss eliminates them, and they host the 49ers (11-4) on Sunday.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

Remaining games: Saints, Giants

The Eagles have the N.F.L.’s best record, and a win in either of their remaining games will clinch the No. 1 seed. That said, they are coming off a loss and are likely to be playing both games without their injured star quarterback, Jalen Hurts. The worst-case scenario for the Eagles? Two losses could mean the Cowboys take the division, with the Eagles potentially falling as low as the No. 5 seed and visiting the Bucs, Panthers or Saints in the wild-card round.

Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Remaining game: at Commanders

The Cowboys beat the Titans in Week 17 and have kept their hopes alive to win the division, narrow as they may be. They have clinched a playoff berth and are realistically vying for the best possible seed for a wild-card team: No. 5. That is quite a reward, considering it would probably mean visiting the champions of a miserable N.F.C. South: the Bucs, Saints or Panthers.

Ahead of Week 17’s weekend games, the Cowboys could still win the division, and, yes, even get the No. 1 seed.

New York Giants (8-6-1)

Remaining games: Colts, at Eagles

The Giants are a likely playoff team, and one more win would guarantee a playoff berth as the No. 6 seed. They would visit the No. 2 seed — probably Minnesota or San Francisco — in the wild-card round. With two losses, they could miss the playoffs altogether, or make it as the No. 6 or No. 7 seed, in which case they would also probably visit Minnesota or San Francisco.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

Remaining games: at Packers, at Bears

The Vikings are realistically playing for the No. 2 seed, as they trail the Eagles (13-2) by a game and would lose the tiebreaker if both teams finished with the same record. Their only path to the No. 1 seed is to win out and have the Eagles lose out. Barring that, 49ers losses are good for the Vikings. A 49ers loss and a Vikings win would mean the Vikings could do no worse than No. 2.

Green Bay Packers (7-8)

Remaining games: Vikings, Lions

The Packers have a path, but not an easy one, and they need help. Realistically, they must win their remaining games, starting with a win against the division-champion Vikings at Lambeau Field on Sunday. They do have a path to the postseason if they lose, but it’s quite narrow.

The Packers’ best-case scenario in Week 17 is a win accompanied by Commanders and Giants losses.

Detroit Lions (7-8)

Remaining games: Bears, at Packers

The Lions share the Packers’ 7-8 record but face a narrower path to the playoffs. Perhaps their only consolation is that they have an easier Week 17 opponent, facing the 3-12 Bears instead of the 12-3 Vikings (the Packers’ opponent). A win on Sunday would give them a fighting chance.

Best-case scenario in Week 17: Lions win; Giants, Commanders, Seahawks and Packers lose. That would put them in position to clinch with a win in Week 18.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (6-9)

Remaining games: at Eagles, Panthers

The Saints are not likely to make the playoffs. They must win their final two games and get a lot of help; a loss eliminates them. Unfortunately for them, their next game is in Philadelphia against the Eagles.

Carolina Panthers (6-9)

Remaining games: at Buccaneers, at Saints

The Panthers may be 6-9 but they will win the division if they win their remaining games, starting with an eminently winnable one against the Bucs on Sunday. If they lose that, they are eliminated. If they win, they could afford to lose in Week 18 with some help elsewhere.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers (11-4)

Remaining games: at Raiders, Cardinals

The 49ers have won the N.F.C. West. As with the Vikings, their remaining games will probably determine only whether they are the No. 2 seed or No. 3 seed.

Seattle Seahawks (7-8)

Remaining games: Jets, Rams

The Seawhawks’ only hope for a playoff berth is as a wild-card team, most likely as the No. 7 seed visiting the No. 2 seed (probably the Vikings or 49ers). But even two wins would be no guarantee.

In Week 17, Seahawks fans should hope for a win and losses by the Packers, Commanders and Giants. That would put them in a position to advance with a win in Week 18.

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