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The many British and European-based fans of the NFL will be eagerly awaiting the final week of the season to draw a close on a season which has been as spectacular as it has been unusual. Nothing more so than the current playoff picture with a total of five AFC teams with a 10-5 record heading into the final week of the season knowing that defeat could end their hopes of post-regular season football.

Things are equally confusing in the NFC where three teams, the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals are battling it out for a spot in the playoffs, while the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are battling it out to finish top of the NFC East.

It does seem a little unfair that a team with a 6-9 record will get into the playoffs, while one with a 10-5 record (or possibly even better) will miss out, but that is how the NFL works.

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Let’s take a look now at the playoff picture in both conferences starting with the hugely competitive (and confusing) picture in the AFC.

AFC Playoff Picture

Who are in the playoffs?

The Kansas City Chiefs have clinched the number 1 seed in the AFC and will have a bye week on the first round of playoff fixtures. This means that they will play all their playoff fixtures at their home stadium, Arrowhead.

The other two teams confirmed in the playoffs, although what seed they are is not yet determined are the Buffalo Bills who are confirmed as the AFC East winners (and who play the last game of Week 16 tonight against the New England Patriots) and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who broke a three-game losing streak to beat the Indianapolis Colts last night to clinch the AFC North.

Both these teams will have home games in the first round of playoff matches against one of the opponents outlined below, depending on Week 17 results.

Who are in contention?

  • AFC South Decider

When it comes to who is in contention in the AFC, it is essentially five teams with the same 10-5 record, although up for grabs is not just three playoff spots, but also the winners of the AFC South. That will be decided by the results of the divisional games between the Indianapolis Colts, who host the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans, who face a much trickier prospect taking on the 4-11 Houston Texans in Texas.

A win for the Titans and they clinch the AFC South and a home game in the playoffs, even if the Colts also win as the Titans have the tiebreaker edge over the two teams. However, a Colts win and a Titans loss, puts the Colts through as AFC South Champions and leaves the Titans hoping one or more of the other playoff contenders will also lose their final week game.

  • Other Playoff Games

Miami and Cleveland face tough tasks in their final week game as they head to the current top two seeds in the AFC with Miami travelling to face Buffalo and the Browns taking on the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Baltimore Ravens have a slightly easier task at home to the Cincinnati Bengals.

If any one of the five 10-5 teams loses their final week game and the others win, the losing team will be eliminated from the playoffs. If more than one loses, then it will be the tiebreaker between the losing teams that decides who goes through and who misses out. The permutations depending on which teams that could be, are many and varied and will change as the final games of the regular season are played out.

Key Week 17 Games in the AFC

  • Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (18.00)
  • Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (18.00)
  • Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals (18.00)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts (21.25)
  • Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans (21.25)

What could the final round of fixtures bring?

I’m pretty confident the Ravens and Colts will land victories in their games. The Titans, although it will be close, should also do just enough to win against the Texans. That means it could be a straight battle between Miami and the Cleveland for the final playoff spot in which case the Dolphins would probably just clinch the final berth.

NFC Playoff Picture

Who are in the playoffs?

At the moment, the Green Bay Packers are the first seed in the NFC, after winning the NFC North. The Packers hold a 12-3 record but a defeat on Week 17 to the Chicago Bears and a win for the Seattle Seahawks would see Seattle pip the Packers to top ranking in the NFC and clinch that important bye week.

The New Orleans Saints have clinched the NFC South title and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also clinched a playoff spot from that division. The aforementioned Seahawks have won the NFC West and need a win, and Green Bay to lose, in the final week of the season to top the NFC rankings.

Who are in contention?

  • NFC East Decider

In the NFC East, it is a straight fight between the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys for the top spot in that division. Both have a 6-9 record with Washington holding the tiebreaker over the two so a win for Washington against the Philadelphia Eagles will see them through. If Washington lose or draw, and the Cowboys win, then Dallas will claim an unexpected playoff spot.

  • Other Playoff Games

That leaves two playoff spots open and there are three teams that could clinch those spots on the final week of the season. The Los Angeles Rams are in the driving seat here lying second in the NFC West behind the Seahawks, but after two straight defeats, they face a challenge from the Arizona Cardinals, who they face on Week 17, and the Chicago Bears.

If the Rams win or draw their game against Arizona, they will progress and the Cardinals will miss out. Should Arizona win and the Bears win, then the Rams will miss out. If Arizona win and the Bears lose, then it will be the Bears that miss out. K

Key Week 17 Games in the NFC

  • Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants (18.00 Sunday)
  • Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams (21.25 Sunday)
  • Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears (21.25 Sunday)
  • Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (21.25 Sunday)
  • Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles (1.20 Monday)

What could the final round of fixtures bring?

I honestly think the Cowboys and Washington will both likely lose their final games, which would see Washington fall into the playoffs as that divisional winner. The other games are intriguing, and I would expect the Rams to better the Cardinals to clinch one spot, but I think Green Bay will defeat the Bears but in this case, the Bears would still qualify as the seventh seed.

*All odds shown were correct with bet365 Sport as of 8.45am on Monday 28th December 2020. All kick off times shown are UK GMT.