LOS ANGELES: With 16 weeks of the 2018 NFL regular season in the history books, Week 17 is upon us. This is the week where football jargon not used for 358 days is said repeatedly. We learn who controls their own destiny and who needs help to make the playoffs. Some years it seems almost everybody has a shot at the playoffs. This year several teams have a wide range of possibilities.
Seven of the eight AFC Week 17 games have playoff implications.
In the AFC, only one of four divisions have already been clinched. Virtually everything is up for grabs. Four teams have a shot at the top seed. Five teams have a shot at a first-round bye. One team can go anywhere from the top seed to the bottom seed.
The NFC playoff picture is another matter entirely.
Here is the AFC playoff picture.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs (11-4):
The Chiefs have clinched a playoff birth but not the AFC West. They are currently the top seed, but they have locked up nothing beyond a Wildcard. If the Chiefs win next week, they clinch their division and home field throughout the playoffs. Should the Chiefs lose, they can still be the top seed if New England, Houston and the Chargers also all lose.
If the Chiefs lose and either New England or Houston wins, the Chiefs fall to the two seed. They would have a first round bye but not home field throughout. If the Chiefs lose and New England and Houston both win, the Chiefs fall to the three seed. If the Chiefs lose and the Chargers win, The Chiefs tumble all the way to the five seed Wildcard and would play their playoff games on the road regardless of what happens in any other games.
2.) New England Patriots (10-5):
The Patriots have clinched the AFC East and right now are the two seed, but they have not locked it up. If the Patriots win next week, they are at worst the two seed with a first-round bye. Patriots win and Kansas City loses, the Patriots become the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs. If the Patriots lose, they can remain the two seed only if Houston and Baltimore both lose.
Should Houston or Baltimore win, and the Pats lose, the Patriots fall to the three seed. If the Patriots lose and Houston and Baltimore both win, the Patriots fall to the four seed.
3.) Houston Texans (10-5):
The Texans are clinging to the three seed. They have clinched a Wildcard spot but have not clinched the AFC South. They have a wide range of possibilities. If they win next week, they clinch the AFC South and are at worst the three seed. They would play a Wildcard game at home. If the Texans win and New England loses or Kansas City and the Chargers both lose, the Texans move up to the two seed and a first-round bye. With a win and if the New England, Kansas City and the Chargers all lose, the Texans rocket all the way to the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. If Houston loses, they lose the AFC South and tumble all the way to the six seed and will travel on the road to play a Wildcard game.
4.) Baltimore Ravens (9-6):
The Ravens, at this moment, lead the AFC North and are the four seed. They have not clinched the division and only lead it by 1/2 a game. They can only make the playoffs as a division winner, not as a Wildcard. If Baltimore wins next week, they are in the playoffs as the four seed. Baltimore wins and either Houston or New England loses, the Ravens can move up to the three seed. If the Ravens win and both Houston and New England lose, the Ravens would unbelievably jump all the way up to the two seed and a first-round bye. The top seed is out of reach. The Ravens can lose and still make the playoffs as a four seed as long as Pittsburgh also loses. If Baltimore loses and Pittsburgh wins, the Ravens are out.
5.) Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) —
Right now the Chargers are the five seed as the top Wildcard. They would travel on the road during the Wildcard round. There are only two possibilities for the Chargers. If they and Kansas City both win or both lose, the Chargers remain the five seed. The Chargers win and Kansas City loses, then the Chargers win the AFC West and vault all the way to the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. None of the other games affect their seeding.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (9-6) —
Right now they are the lowest Wildcard team as the six seed. They play Tennessee next week in the season finale. The winner gets the six seed. The loser is out. The winner can also win the AFC South and the three seed if Houston loses.
7.) Tennessee Titans (9-6):
Technically they are on in the outside looking in, but not really. They control their own destiny. If the Titans beat Indianapolis in the season finale they are in as the six seed. Should they lose, they are out. If the Titans win and Houston loses, they win the AFC South and host a Wildcard game as the three seed.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1):
They are on the outside looking in. They cannot make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Their only scenario is winning next week and having Baltimore lose. That would vault the Steelers into the AFC North crown by 1/2 a game and the four seed.
Here are the AFC games with playoff implications:
Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Indianapolis Colts (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-6)
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Houston Texans (10-5)
Oakland Raiders (3-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
New York Jets (4-11) at New England Patriots (10-5)
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) at Denver Broncos (6-8)
1.) Chiefs 12-4
2.) Patriots 11-5
3.) Texans 11-5
4.) Ravens 10-6
5.) Chargers 11-5
6.) Colts 10-6
Out — Steelers 9-6-1 and Titans 9-7.
The Chiefs, Patriots, and Texans are all at home against bad teams. Baltimore has a tougher matchup against a surging Cleveland team, but Baltimore is at home. Their defense will prevail. Assuming the Chiefs win easily early, the Chargers would have nothing to play for when their late game starts. They may rest their starters. Although the Colts are on the road in a do or die matchup with Tennessee, the Colts are 8-1 in their last nine games.
Trust Andrew Luck over Marcus Mariota.
6.) Colts at 3.) Texans, 5.) Chargers at 4.) Ravens
The Chiefs and Patriots have the bye week.
Divisional Round: 6.) Colts at 1.) Chiefs, 4.) Ravens at 2.) Patriots
AFC Title Game:
4.) Baltimore Ravens at 1.) Kansas City Chiefs
Normally the Chiefs would be a very safe pick to reach the Super Bowl, but the one team nobody would want to play is Baltimore. They have the league’s top defense. The Chief’s won two Super Bowls in 2000 and 2012 by going on the road and physically beating up high-powered offenses. They went into Kansas City and gave the Chiefs fits before finally succumbing 24-17. The Chiefs normally choke every year, but this team is different. Patrick Mahomes is the difference. However, the Ravens have the experience. They know how to win playoff games. They know how to beat up New England in New England. The Ravens will shock everyone and win the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy to reach the Super Bowl.
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