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Week 17 NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios

Which NFL teams can clinch playoff berths, division titles, and byes in the 2021 regular season’s penultimate week? You have questions, Boardroom has answers.

For the first time ever, the NFL is experiencing a Week 17 that isn’t actually the end of the regular season — and because of that, the math we do in our heads about who’s in and who’s out goes more or less entirely out the window.

10-6 used to mean your ticket was punched about 90% of the time. These days? 8-7 could mean you’re a virtual lock heading into Week 18. It could also mean you’re practically dead in the water.

Loud and clear, we’ve never had an ecosystem of NFL playoff clinching scenarios quite like this. With only six teams officially headed to the postseason as things stand, let’s dive in.

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Can Clinch Playoff Berth in Week 17

Buffalo Bills

Record: 9-6
Current seed: No. 4
Can clinch
: Playoff berth
Condition: Win vs. Falcons AND Falcons loss vs. Rams

The Bills would surely admit that they’ve gotten more than they bargained for from the division rival Patriots this year. Even so, they’ll be AFC East champs if they win their last two and finish at 11-6.

Indianapolis Colts

Record: 9-6
Current seed: No. 5
Can clinch
: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Raiders

For Indy, it’s as simple as it gets: Win and they’re in.

They’re not entirely out of the race for the AFC South title, though they’ll need a major stumble from the Titans to make that happen. Fortunately, they have an all-important head-to-head seeding tiebreaker over the Patriots, who notably cannot clinch a berth this weekend without some help.

New England Patriots

Record: 9-6
Current seed: No. 6
Can clinch
: Playoff berth
Condition: Win vs. Jaguars AND Dolphins loss or tie vs. Titans; OR win vs. Jaguars AND Raiders loss or tie vs. Colts

How did the Pats keep hanging around this year? With chances still very much alive for an AFC East title, we may be looking at Bill Belichick’s single best bit of work — and that’s saying something.

Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 8-7
Current seed: No. 7
Can clinch
: NFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Washington AND Vikings loss or tie vs. Packers AND Saints loss or tie vs. Panthers; OR win vs. Washington AND Vikings loss or tie vs. Packers AND 49ers win or tie vs. Texans

Is the NFC East one of the battiest divisions in football basically every year? Yes, it is. And despite it all, the Eagles have something like 2-1 odds to make the postseason.

San Francisco 49ers

Record: 8-7
Current seed: No. 6
Can clinch
: NFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Texans AND Saints loss vs. Panthers; OR tie vs. Texans AND Saints loss vs. Panthers AND Vikings loss or tie vs. Packers AND Falcons loss or tie vs. Bills

The NFC West is looking like a three-bid division. The Niners need some significant help if they want to clinch before the season’s final week, but they fully control their own destiny.

Can Clinch Division Title in Week 17

Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 9-6
Current seed
: No. 3
Can clinch
: AFC North
Condition: Win vs. Chiefs; OR tie vs. Chiefs AND Ravens loss or tie vs. Rams; OR Browns tie vs. Steelers AND Ravens loss vs. Rams

Who saw this season coming from the Bengals? In the notoriously tough AFC North, Joe Burrow and the Bengals need just one win to seal things up in the Rust Belt — but standing in their way are none other than the surging Kansas City Chiefs.

Notably, Cincy owns a tiebreaker over the similarly 9-6 Buffalo Bills due to their superior win percentage against AFC opponents.

Los Angeles Rams (already clinched playoff berth)

Record: 10-5
Current seed
: No. 3
Can clinch
: NFC West
Condition: Win vs. Ravens AND Cardinals loss or tie vs. Cowboys; OR tie vs. Ravens AND Cardinals loss vs. Cowboys

Thanks to some late-season faltering by the Cardinals, the Rams have a division title and the No. 3 seed within reach — and they own a handy head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buccaneers.

Tennessee Titans

Record: 10-5
Current seed: No. 2
Can clinch: AFC South
Condition: Win vs. Dolphins; OR tie vs. Dolphins AND Colts tie vs. Raiders; OR Colts loss vs. Raiders

The Titans missed out on clinching the AFC South thanks to the second-place Colts’ three-game winning streak, but one more victory this weekend punches their ticket.

Can Clinch Playoff Bye in Week 17

Green Bay Packers (NFC North champs)

Record: 12-3
Current seed
: No. 1
Can clinch
: NFC No. 1 seed
Condition
: Win vs Vikings AND Cowboys loss vs. Cardinals

The Packers have somehow found a way to block out the drama and take pole position in the NFC. They need a Cowboys loss to snag the No. 1 seed, but that special distinction is within reach as the division rival Vikings head to Lambeau.

Kansas City Chiefs (AFC North champs)

Record: 11-4
Current seed
: No. 1
Can clinch
: AFC No. 1 seed
Condition
: Win vs. Bengals AND Titans loss or tie vs. Dolphins; OR tie vs. Bengals AND Titans loss vs. Dolphins

It’s good to be No. 1. The Chiefs can’t lock up the top spot in the AFC with a Week 17 win alone, but no team in the NFL is hotter than the guys that have won eight straight.

Already Clinched Playoff Berths

Arizona Cardinals
Dallas Cowboys
Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Chicago Bears
Carolina Panthers
Detroit Lions
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants
New York Jets
Seattle Seahawks

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