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NFL playoff picture heading into Christmas and Week 17 finale

Heading into the two games on Monday and the Week 17 finale’s full slate on Dec. 31, there will be a mad scramble for the final two wild-card spots in the AFC.

Meanwhile in the NFC, the South division crown is still up for grabs along with the final wild-card spot.

The Seattle Seahawks stayed in the playoff hunt in the NFC with a road victory against Dallas, a win that eliminated the Cowboys. (AP)

A look at the picture:

AFC

1) New England Patriots** (12-3): Next game vs. New York Jets (5-10).
Victory against the Bills on Sunday kept them on pace to win the conference’s No. 1 seed. New England clinched a first-round bye with Jacksonville’s defeat at San Francisco.
• How they can clinch home-field throughout the AFC playoffs: Steelers lose at Texans on Monday.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers** (11-3): Next game vs. Houston Texans (4-10) on Monday.
• How they can clinch a first-round bye: Beat or tie the Texans.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5)**: Next game vs. Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Lost at San Francisco on Sunday but clinched the AFC South on the Tennessee Titans’ defeat against the Los Angeles Rams.

4) Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)**: Next game at Denver Broncos (5-10)
• Their victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday secured K.C. the AFC West for the second straight season. That means they’ll host a playoff game. They are locked in at the No. 4 seed.


In the AFC wild-card hunt 

5) Baltimore Ravens (9-6): Next game vs. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9)
Defeated the Colts on Saturday, setting up a scenario where they can clinch a playoff spot with a victory in Week 17 against the Bengals.

6) Tennessee Titans (8-7): Next game vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5)
Lost to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, which took them out of the running to win the AFC South. A win against the Jags gets them in the playoffs.  A loss + a Chargers win + Ravens win eliminates them. No pressure.

7) Los Angeles Chargers (8-7): Next game vs. Oakland Raiders (6-8)
•  Defeated the New York Jets to stay alive for a wild-card spot. Can get in with:
Victory vs. the Raiders + a Titans defeat to the Jaguars + a Ravens victory against the Bengals. Those heart-breaking losses in the first month of the season may prove too much to overcome.

8) Buffalo Bills (8-7): Next game at Miami Dolphins (6-9)
• Got blown away in the second half against the Patriots but have faint playoff hopes. They probably wish they had that Nate Peterman vs. Chargers game back.  To stay alive, the Bills summed it up here:


NFC 

1) Philadelphia Eagles** (12-2): Next game vs. Oakland Raiders (8-6).
• How they can clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs: Beat the Raiders.

2) Minnesota Vikings** (12-3): Next game vs. Chicago Bears
• Defeated Green Bay Packers 16-0 Saturday. The Vikings can clinch at least a first-round bye with a victory Sunday. Can move up to the top seed with a victory and two Eagles defeats (vs. the Raiders and Cowboys).

Also, from the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson:


3) Los Angeles Rams** (11-4): Next game vs. San Francisco 49ers (4-10).
Clinched the NFC West with victory against the Titans. Will host a playoff game on wild-card weekend, the first time L.A. has hosted a postseason game since the 1985 season.

4) New Orleans Saints* (11-4): Next game at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11).
Clinched a playoff berth with Sunday’s victory against Atlanta Falcons. Will clinch the NFC South with a victory in Week 17 or a Panthers defeat against the Falcons.

5) Carolina Panthers* (11-4): Next game vs. Atlanta Falcons (9-6).
• Clinched a playoff berth with victory against the Buccaneers. Can win the NFC South with a victory vs. the Falcons + a Saints defeat to the Bucs.

6) Atlanta Falcons (9-6): Next game vs. Carolina Panthers (11-4).
Defeat against the Saints gave their division rivals a playoff berth. Atlanta can still get in with a victory against the Panthers next week. A loss + a Seattle Seahawk victory vs. Arizona will eliminate the defending NFC champions.

In the NFC wild-card hunt

7) Seattle Seahawks (9-6): Next game vs. Arizona Cardinals (7-8)
Stayed alive with victory in Dallas and can claim the final spot in the NFC playoffs with a victory against the Cardinals + a Falcons defeat.

** Have clinched their division
* Have clinched a playoff berth

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