Much still at stake in the final week of regular season
Three first-round byes, three division titles and three playoff spots remain up for grabs
Winners and Losers.
The big winners last week were the Cowboys, Saints, Patriots, Seahawks and Ravens. The big losers included the Texans, Steelers and Chiefs.
But wait. The Texans became winners hours later, earning a playoff berth as they headed back to Houston after a last-second 3230 loss at Philadelphia that handed the AFC’s No. 2 seed behind Kansas City to the Patriots — as if they need any help when the playoffs arrive. Houston sneaked in when Pittsburgh lost 31-28 at New Orleans, though the Texans still could wind up a wild card in the, well, wild AFC South.
Here’s a road map as we head into today’s final games:
New Orleans (12-3) secured home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs by beating Pittsburgh, dropping the Steelers into second place behind Baltimore in the AFC North. The Saints won’t be playing outdoors again — the Super Bowl, should they get there, will be inside at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Also reaching their goal were the Cowboys, grabbing the NFC East with a 27-20 victory over Tampa Bay. Dallas (9-6) will be the fourth seed and host a wild-card game.
Chicago (11-4) needs to be ready at Minnesota (8-6-1). For one, the Bears have a shot at the second overall slot and a first-round bye with a win and a loss by the Rams (12-3), who host San Francisco. For another, they could deny their division rival a postseason spot; a Vikings win gets them a wild card.
But a Vikings loss and an Eagles win at Washington gets the defending champions (8-7) back into the postseason.
Seattle (9-6) appears destined to play at Dallas in the first round. The Seahawks beat the Cowboys in Week 3 for their first win.
For a decade now, the Patriots have owned the AFC East, and they had a huge weekend.
The Patriots clinched their 10th straight division title when they beat Buffalo 24-12. They got an added bonus when Houston fell to drop out of the second seed in the conference, which New England grabbed — with a shot at the top spot.
The Texans will win the AFC South by beating or tying the Jags.
Baltimore (9-6), fresh off its victory at the Chargers last weekend, has a half-game lead on Pittsburgh (8-6-1), which has lost four of five. The Ravens will take the North with a home win over Cleveland today. The Steelers host Cincinnati and need help to get into the postseason from their hated enemy, the Browns.
The winner of the prime-time game in Nashville between the Colts and Titans will earn the No. 6 seed unless Houston loses to Jacksonville, in which case the winner will capture the AFC South title. But if they tie and the Steelers win, Pittsburgh edges both of them for the final wild card, with all at 9-6-1.
The Chiefs (11-4) and Chargers (11-4) already are in the postseason from the West. That takes up one wild card. But Kansas City, once the darling of the league, could plummet from top overall seed to wild card if it flops against Oakland next week and L.A. beats Denver.
Nick Foles and the defending champion Eagles will make the playoffs with a win today over Washington and a Vikings loss.