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NFL Playoff Scenarios for Week 17 (Geared for Browns Fans)

It'd be nice to say that the Browns' current three-game winning streak to close out the season was one that put us in position to make the postseason, but our record still stands at a depressing 4-11. With the Cincinnati Bengals clinching the AFC North today with their late victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are now fighting for wildcard spots.

The Steelers kept their season alive with a 23-20 win over the Ravens today, but despite having the same record, the Ravens would make the playoffs over Pittsburgh if the season ended today. Why? In essence, it comes down to the fact that the Ravens beat the Browns twice, while the Steelers only beat us once.

There are a lot of playoff scenarios to go through concerning the Ravens and the Steelers, but I'll try to go over the most basic ones. Out of the 16 NFL games next week, 10 of them should have playoff implications (that could change to 8 if the Vikings lose on Monday Night to the Bears). Here they are:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-8): The Steelers are fighting for a wildcard spot in the AFC, but the Dolphins are practically eliminated from contention. With a win, the Steelers need help to make the playoffs. Their best way of getting in would be if the following three things happen: (1) Pittsburgh wins, (2) Houston loses to New England, and (3) either Baltimore or the Jets lose their games.

    A lot is riding on what the Texans do next week, go Matt Schaub! There is an alternate scenario where Pittsburgh and Houston can both make it, but Denver, Baltimore, and the Jets would all have to lose. Miami, according to NBC, can get in if everyone else loses basically, and even then I don't see how they get in (but I guess they would). That's a bonus in the sense that Miami has something to fight for against Pittsburgh.
  • New England Patriots (10-5) vs. Houston Texans (8-7): Both of these teams have something to play for, but more so the Texans. Houston doesn't control their own destiny, but with some help there are a few scenarios that are beneficial to them. The Patriots will be fighting for the No. 3 seed, which creates the potential for them holding an extra home game down the road in the playoffs over a fourth seed.
  • Philadelphia Eagles (11-4) vs. Dallas Cowboys (10-5): First and foremost, this game will determine the winner of the NFC East, so you'd better bet that both teams will be giving 110%. If the Vikings lose to the Bears on Monday, there is also a slim chance that the Eagles will be in contention for a first-round bye.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-11): What? Our game still has meaning? Technically, but not realistically. The only way the Jaguars can make the postseason is if they beat us and all five of the following teams lose: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, and the NY Jets. Fat chance, but let's end the Jaguars' hopes early anyway.
  • Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) vs. New York Jets (8-7): When your game has meaning in Week 17, "You...Get...FLEXED." It was just announced that this game was moved to 8:20 PM on Sunday Night and will be the final game played in the regular season. The Bengals will already know heading into the game whether they can get the third seed or not depending on what the Patriots do. For the Jets, it's simple. If they win, they are IN.

    The Jets "control their own destiny" toward becoming the fifth seed. I'd take the Jets in the playoffs over the Steelers and Ravens, but I also wouldn't enjoy seeing Braylon Edwards in the postseason. Plus, I don't see the Jets being competitive enough for the playoffs.
  • New Orleans Saints (13-2) vs. Carolina Panthers (7-8): If the Vikings win their final two games and the Saints go on to lose their third straight game to close out the regular season, New Orleans would have a first-round bye but only the No. 2 seed, thus losing homefield advantage.
  • New York Giants (8-7) vs. Minnesota Vikings (11-3): The Giants are eliminated and have no one to blame but themselves. The Vikings, depending on what the Saints do, could have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
  • Baltimore Ravens (8-7) vs. Oakland Raiders (5-10): Like the Jets, if the Ravens win, they are IN, and therefore "control their own destiny." The Raiders didn't play well against us, but after they've done well against teams like the Eagles and Broncos during the season, you never know. It's just hard to believe the Ravens defense will fall to Charlie Frye, JaMarcus Russell, or J.P. Losman. Maybe if Bruce Gradkowski comes back, they'll have a chance.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (3-11) vs. Denver Broncos (8-7): The Broncos have blown it, plain and simple. Between all the teams competing for a wildcard spot though, they might be the best of the bunch when they are clicking on all cylinders. Their chances of making the playoffs are probably equal to the chances of the Steelers, but the fact remains that they still need help to get back in.
  • Green Bay Packers (10-5) vs. Arizona Cardinals (10-5): The Cardinals could move up to the No. 3 seed with a win and a Eagles loss (they currently hold the No. 4 seed). The Packers, meanwhile are trying to secure the No. 5 seed. Right now, they hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys since they beat them earlier this season. But, if the Eagles slip to a wildcard spot, I don't know if the Packers would be forced into the fifth or sixth seeds.

How do you guys see the wildcard picture turning out next week in the AFC? I think Baltimore will probably get in, but I'd love for there to be a scenario where Houston gets the other seed. For the Ravens to lose, let's cheer for Gradkowski getting healthy before the end of the week!