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NFL playoff scenarios: How the Giants, Falcons, Lions, Bucs, Titans, Ravens, and Dolphins could all make the postseason

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As of now, the Seahawks, Patriots, Cowboys, and yes, Raiders, are all in the playoffs. That includes two of the three best teams of the decade (I’m calling the Broncos the other team), Dallas making its second postseason appearance under Jason Garrett, and yes ... the Oakland Raiders.

On Thursday, the Cowboys clinched the NFC East and the number one seed with the Giants loss to the Eagles. Here are some other important clinching scenarios this weekend for teams:

  • New England can clinch the number one seed in the AFC with a win and an Oakland loss. (Despite how much we may fear the tie in 2016, I’m not including tie scenarios because I want to make this as clear and simple as possible.)
  • The Raiders can clinch a first round bye with a win and a Chiefs loss.
  • The Steelers can clinch the AFC North if they beat the Ravens on Sunday.
  • Kansas City can clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Broncos on Sunday.
  • The Texans can clinch the AFC South if they win and the Titans lose.
  • The Dolphins can clinch a wild card spot if they win and Denver loses.
  • The Seahawks can clinch a first round bye if they win and the Lions, Falcons both lose.
  • The Giants can clinch a wild card spot if any of these teams lose: Detroit, Atlanta, Green Bay, or Tampa Bay.
  • The Lions can clinch the NFC North if they win and the Packers lose.
  • The Lions can clinch a playoff spot if they win and the Bucs lose.
  • The Falcons can clinch the NFC South if they win and Tampa Bay loses.
  • Atlanta can clinch a playoff berth under a number of scenarios, including a win and a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Detroit, or Green Bay loses, or the Lions lose, or even if they don’t win, in certain scenarios they can clinch if Redskins and Packers lose.
  • Green Bay can clinch a playoff berth if they win, Redskins lose, Bucs lose, Falcons win, and Packers get strength-of-victory tiebreaker.
  • Bucs can clinch a playoff berth if they win, Packers, Lions, and Redskins all lose.

Got it?

As of now, we have four for-sure playoff teams, but there are four other teams who have a greater-than-93% chance to make the postseason, per 538: Giants, Steelers, Chiefs, Falcons.

The current favorites for the other playoff spots are the Lions (77%), Dolphins (55%), Texans (58%), and Packers (57%). That would mean the division winners are New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, Oakland, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, and Seattle, and the wild cards would be Kansas City, Miami, New York, and Green Bay.

But using 538’s tools, I tinkered around with the last two weeks and without too much in the way of “crazy upsets” or unbelievable scenarios, came up with a different playoff field:

New England, Oakland, Dallas, Detroit, and Seattle still won their divisions, but Baltimore, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay won the other three. Atlanta still made the playoffs as a wild card, as did New York, Miami, and Kansas City.

For the Ravens to win the NFC North in this case, they’d obviously have to beat the Steelers this week, then the Bengals in Week 17. That puts Pittsburgh out of the playoffs here even when they beat the Browns in the finale.

For the Titans to win the AFC South, they’d just need to win this week against Jacksonville and then next week against the Texans. (In my scenario I had Houston losing this weekend to the Bengals, but switching that to a win didn’t matter.)

I have the Chiefs as a wild card even with a loss to Denver this weekend. They would then go on to beat the Chargers next week. I have Miami beating the Bills this weekend and losing to the Patriots next weekend, but you could even reverse that; with Ryan Tannehill out, I could definitely see them losing to the Bills, and then beating New England next week after the Patriots have clinched homefield advantage.

In the NFC, Dallas’ seeding is done, while the Giants are all but in as a wild card.

I have Detroit losing to the Cowboys this week, but beating the Packers in Week 17, knocking them out of the postseason. That’s even with a Green Bay win over the Vikings this weekend.

In the South, the Falcons could lose to the Panthers this weekend, drop out of the lead in the division, but win in the finale against the Saints to earn a wild card. Meanwhile, Tampa wins out vs New Orleans and Carolina.

And that’s it. That’s how the Raiders, Lions, Bucs, Titans, Dolphins all make postseason appearances this year after so many years of frustration. Of course, some combination of these teams will get in, some already are, and it didn’t take anything too wild to get there. I just have Baltimore in there because I think they’re a better team than their record shows, and it would be interesting to see them in. The first step would obviously be if they win this weekend, that’s the huge hill to get over.

For Seahawks fans, the big thing is just winning the next two, or clinching a first round bye this weekend. Then by the divisional round of the playoffs, they could be hosting the Giants or Bucs or Falcons or Packers or Lions.

It’s been a crazy year. This weekend shouldn’t put the crazy on hiatus.