NFL Playoff Picture

With just two games left in the regular season, the sights of many an NFL fan turn to the playoffs. For some–for most, really–this means choosing a team to follow and root for throughout the postseason after your team has been eliminated. Browns fans have luckily had quite a few weeks (and years) to get accustomed to this practice, making the transition to picking a playoff team a bit easier.

But before you can pick a team to root for you’re best off looking at the upcoming playoff schedule–or at least what we know of it, and how the games might play out moving forward. Twelve teams, including wildcard teams, will make the playoffs, and only one will leave them Super Bowl Champs.

The Locks

As of this point in the season, only four teams have secured themselves positions in the playoffs: the Patriots (big surprise here), the Seahawks, the Cowboys and the Raiders. The Brady-led Pats and Seahawks have each clinched their division title, with the former already securing a first-round bye, the only team to do so thus far.

Virtual Locks

The Chiefs, Steelers, Falcons and Giants are all-but locked into a playoff spot, with FivethirtyEight’s prediction tool giving each of the four at least a 93% chance of reaching the playoffs. The Chiefs and Giants were each given greater than 99% chances of playing past week 17, as a series of events worthy of a major motion picture would have to occur to boot them from the quest for the Lombardi Trophy.

Question Marks

With the Pats, Seahawks, Cowboys, Raiders, Chiefs, Steelers, Falcons and Giants all but locked into the playoffs, the remaining four spots are up for grabs with a wide array of teams competing for them.

My Top 12

The way I see it playing out, the above eight teams plus the Packers, Dolphins, Bucs and Titans will round out the 2016-2017 NFL playoffs. The Packers “running the table” was a longshot when Aaron Rodgers said it week 10, but now with just two games left in the season it seems entirely possible. And if they are to do so, they’d be guaranteed a playoff position.

The Bucs winning out–certainly a possibility–would also give them a division win and a playoff spot. Unfortunately for the Lions and comeback kid Matt Stafford, this means no playoff spot in Detroit. As for the Dolphins, a win over the lowly Bills next week–even with a week 17 loss to New England–would all but give Miami its playoff spot.

To summarize: Packers run the table, Detroit falls off the table, Tampa Bay and Tennessee win out and a new era of playoff football begins. As for how each team will fare in the playoffs, well, that’s for next week.