NFL fans around the country will be mathematicians on Dec. 29. Week 17 of the NFL season is when all the playoff scenarios, implications and possibilities finally pay off for some teams, or squeeze others out. As it turns out, more than half the NFL is working out these scenarios, as 17 teams will have their seeds or their very place in the postseason decided today.
Only the Kansas City Chiefs know they are in the playoffs and know where they are slated, as the AFC’s No. 5 seed. However, the Chiefs’ destination for the wild card round is still uncertain, as they can go anywhere from Cincinnati, Indianapolis or even to New England.
Some teams are already in the playoffs and are just playing for seeding, as they can go from the highest seed to the lowest -- as the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints can do. Others still need a win just to get in, as the Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears do. Still others need wins and a lot of help, as the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers do.
In some cases, these teams won’t need scoreboard watching, as the Eagles-Cowboys and Packers-Bears divisional title games will settle their fates without any outside help. For others like the Cardinals and all those fighting for the AFC’s final spot, they need just the right breaks even if they win their season finales.
While some of the playoff scenarios are quite complicated, even by NFL standards, the teams still know what they need to do and root for. The accompanying slideshow lists the best and worst case scenarios for all 17 clubs with something on the line today.