- (12-3) New England Patriots
- (12-3) Pittsburgh Steelers
- (10-5) Jacksonville Jaguars
- (9-6) Kansas City Chiefs
- (9-6) Baltimore Ravens
- (8-7) Tennessee Titans
- (13-2) Philadelphia Eagles
- (12-3) Minnesota Vikings
- (11-4) Los Angeles Rams
- (11-4) New Orleans Saints
- (11-4) Carolina Panthers
- (9-6) Atlanta Falcons
In the hunt: (9-6) Seattle Seahawks
With one week left in the NFL season, some teams are already looking ahead towards the draft, while others are still jockeying for playoff seeding. The New England Patriots host the New York Jets in the 2017 regular season finale and the two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Patriots need to win to clinch homefield advantage in the AFC since they will be playing at the same time as the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will host the Cleveland Browns; a Patriots loss almost assuredly hands the #1 seed in the conference to the Steelers.
While the Jets sit at 5-10 without anything to play for. A loss could earn New York a top 5 draft pick; a win could drop them outside of the top 10. The Jets benched their big-money defensive star Muhammad Wilkerson as a coaching decision and are starting sophomore quarterback Bryce Petty since starting quarterback Josh McCown is on the injured reserve; Petty is a career 53% passer with a 55.1 passer rating, the worst passer rating of the 47 quarterbacks with 200+ attempts over the past two years.
So these two teams are trending in different directions as Bernd notes that the Patriots will not be able to rest any of their starters in the finale until the game is fully decided.
Meanwhile, the other AFC seeds are almost decided. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs clinched their divisions and are locked into the third and fourth seed, respectively. The Patriots and Steelers have first round byes and are just determining who gets to host the possible rematch in the AFC Championship Game (they cannot meet before then).
Even the NFC is almost decided. The Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Los Angeles Rams already clinched their divisions, too. The Eagles have homefield advantage and the Vikings are heavy favorites for the other bye week since the only way they don’t clinch is if the Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Rams all lose, while the Carolina Panthers win.
It is really just the NFC South and the wild card seeds that are still to be determined.
The Saints and Panthers are both 11-4 and finish the season on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. The Saints have the inside lane and just need a victory to clinch the division, while the Panthers need the Saints to lose to have a chance at winning the NFC South.
The wild card seeds are a little more complicated.
The second-place finisher in the NFC South will be the #5 seed, while the Falcons and Seattle Seahawks are jockeying for that final wild card spot. If the Falcons defeat the Panthers, they get the final playoff spot, while the Seahawks will get it with a win at home over the Arizona Cardinals and a Falcons loss.
The AFC has four teams fighting for the two open wild card seeds. The Baltimore Ravens (home against the Cincinnati Bengals) and Tennessee Titans (home against the Jaguars) can win and clinch a playoff berth. The Los Angeles Chargers (home against the Oakland Raiders) can clinch if they pick up a game on the Titans and either the Ravens clinch the #5 seed or the Buffalo Bills lose (on the road against the Miami Dolphins).
The Bills can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Ravens loss because they have the tiebreaker edge. Buffalo would clinch with the three- or four-way tiebreaker against the Ravens, Titans, and Chargers, too, because of conference record eliminating Los Angeles.
However, if the Ravens win, the Bills need to gain a game on the Titans and Chargers because the Titans have the edge in conference record over both teams and the Chargers have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So Buffalo needs a lot of help to reach their first postseason since 1999.