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NFL Playoff Picture: Teams, matchups getting clearer heading into final week

Taking a look at the NFL playoff picture heading into the final week of the regular season.

Norm Hall/Getty Images

There is just one week remaining in the 2015 NFL regular season, and the playoff picture is becoming pretty clear at this point.  Ten of the twelve playoff teams have already been decided, while five of the eight division champions and three of the four first round byes have also been determined.

The Patriots, Bengals, Panthers, Cardinals, and Redskins have all locked up division titles, while the Patriots, Panthers, and Cardinals are all guaranteed to have a first round bye.  Furthermore, the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks have all secured playoff spots.

The only two playoff spots not yet filled are both in the AFC, as one wild card spot and the AFC South champion have yet to be determined.  The New York Jets (10-5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) are fighting for the final wild card spot in the postseason, with the Steelers obviously needing help this weekend in order to get that since they lost last weekend.  As for the AFC South, the Houston Texans have nearly clinched the division but have not officially done so yet, as the Indianapolis Colts are still mathematically alive.  In order for Indy to win the division, however, they will need nine different games to go exactly the right way next Sunday, making it very unlikely.

There are two other divisions that have also not been decided yet, though the teams have locked up playoff berths.  The Broncos and Chiefs are still competing for the AFC West division but are both guaranteed to make the playoffs, while the Packers and Vikings are in the same situation - and they will face each other on Sunday Night Football this week in a game that will decide which team wins the NFC North and which one is a wild card.  And, of course, because some of the divisions aren't decided yet, the seeding isn't decided either.  There could be a lot of shifting in the playoff seeding depending on what happens this week, so that is something worth paying attention to.

As it currently stands, the wild card weekend matchups would feature the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the New York Jets, the Houston Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers hosting the Seattle Seahawks, and the Washington Redskins hosting the Minnesota Vikings.

Here's the full playoff picture for both the AFC and the NFC heading into week 17:


1.  New England Patriots (12-3)

2.  Denver Broncos (11-4)

3.  Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

4.  Houston Texans (8-7)

5.  Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)

6.  New York Jets (10-5)


7.  Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6)

8.  Indianapolis Colts (7-8)


1.  Carolina Panthers (14-1)

2.  Arizona Cardinals (13-2)

3.  Green Bay Packers (10-5)

4.  Washington Redskins (8-7)

5.  Minnesota Vikings (10-5)

6.  Seattle Seahawks (9-6)