Playoff implications in the final week of the NFL regular season


Three division titles -- the AFC West and South and the NFC North -- are up for grabs while the final two AFC playoff spots will be claimed on the final weekend of the NFL regular season.

While only two games -- the Seattle Seahawks at the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings at the Green Bay Packers -- involve teams that already clinched a playoff berth, several other games will affect seeding as only the NFC East champion Washington Redskins, who are locked into the No. 4 seed, know their spot in the pecking order.

The New England Patriots (12-3) have clinched a first-round bye, but can lock up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win over the Miami Dolphins (5-10). 

The Carolina Panthers and the Cardinals are the top two seeds in the NFC, but Arizona (13-2) will claim the top seed and home-field edge with a win over the Seahawks (9-6) and an unlikely home loss by the Panthers (14-1) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9).

While the NFC teams are set, the seeding is not and the two games at Lambeau Field and University of Phoenix Stadium will determine how half of the NFC playoff field shakes out.

The Packers (10-5) play host to the Vikings (10-5) on Sunday and the winner will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC while the loser could be the No. 6 seed if the Seahawks beat the Cardinals. 

The Vikings-Packers loser will be either the 5 or 6 seed depending on what the Seahawks do. 

A Seattle loss makes the two-time defending NFC champs the lowest-seeded NFC playoff team. But if the Seahawks win, it will be the No. 5 seed if the Vikings lose and both teams finish 10-6 because of Seattle's earlier win. A loss by the Packers, who beat the Seahawks in Week 2, will make Seattle the No. 6 seed regardless of their outcome in Arizona. 

Either the Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans will win the AFC South. The other will miss the postseason. 

The Kansas City Chiefs clinched a playoff spot last week, but can win the AFC West if they beat the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers pull off an upset against the Denver Broncos. 

As for the final AFC wild-card spot, that will belong to either the New York Jets or Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets are facing a win-and-in situation at the Buffalo Bills while the Steelers need to win and hope Rex Ryan's new team can beat his old club at Ralph Wilson Stadium. 

For the Texans (8-7), it's pretty easy -- beat the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) and win the AFC South. Should the Jags spring the upset, the Colts (7-8) could sneak in, but they need a lot of help with a myriad of things that must go their way. 

First, the Colts have to beat the visiting Tennessee Titans (3-12). That's the simple part. They then need the Texans to lose, but if both teams are 8-8 after splitting the season series and holding potential 4-4 division records, the tiebreaker then falls to strength of schedule.

The Colts need the Atlanta Falcons (8-7) to beat the New Orleans Saints (6-9), the Baltimore Ravens (5-10) to knock off the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals (11-4), the Bills (7-8) to beat the Jets (10-5), the Broncos (11-4) to win at home against the Chargers (4-11), the Dolphins to upset the Patriots; the Raiders (7-8) to stop the nine-game losing streak of the Chiefs (10-5) and the Steelers (9-6) to beat the Cleveland Browns (3-12). 

As Lloyd Christmas would say: "So, you're telling me there's a chance?"