SEVEN PLAYOFF BERTHS REMAIN, 18 TEAMS IN CONTENTION FOR SUPER BOWL LV AS NFL CONCLUDES REGULAR SEASON
The NFL concludes its 101st regular season on Sunday and for the 11th consecutive year, all games on the season-ending docket are division contests. Playoff ramifications are aplenty.
In 2020, the NFL expanded the playoffs by two teams, adding one Wild Card berth to each conference. The change has only added to the excitement.
Seven playoff berths are still to be claimed. That’s the most available playoff berths entering the season’s final weekend in 31 years, since there also were seven in 1989.
A total of 18 teams – more than half of the league – remain in contention for Super Bowl LV in Tampa. The NFL hasn’t had more than 18 teams in contention entering the final week since there were 20 in 2006.
WIN AND IN, AFC: Five teams in the AFC are battling for the conference’s final four playoff berths.
- The BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-5) with a win at Cincinnati (4-10-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) will nail down their third consecutive trip to the playoffs.
- The CLEVELAND BROWNS (10-5) with a home victory over Pittsburgh (12-3) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) will have their first playoff berth since 2002.
- The MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-5) with a win at Buffalo (12-3) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) will clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2016.
- The TENNESSEE TITANS (10-5) with a win at Houston (4-11) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS) will cement their first division title since 2008.
Meanwhile, the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-5), who host Jacksonville (1-14) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), can still win their division with a win and a Titans loss or tie, which would lock up their first AFC South title since 2014. They also can make the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a win and a loss or tie by either Baltimore, Cleveland or Miami.
WIN AND IN, NFC: Six teams in the NFC are battling for the conference’s final three playoff berths.
- When the ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-7) travel to meet the LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-6) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), the winning team will be rewarded with a Wild Card berth.
- The CHICAGO BEARS (8-7) can return to the playoffs with a home win over Green Bay (12-3) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
- The WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-9) needs a win at Philadelphia (4-10-1) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC) to clinch its first playoff berth and division title since 2015.
When the DALLAS COWBOYS (6-9) and NEW YORK GIANTS (5-10) meet at MetLife Stadium on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), the winning team will keep its playoff hopes alive. The Cowboys-Giants winner would need a Washington loss Sunday night to clinch the NFC East and the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Cowboys are seeking their second division title in three years while the Giants would have their first playoff berth since 2016 and first division crown since 2011.
Three teams in the NFC – the GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3), NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-4) and SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-4) – can nail down the No. 1 seed as the conference’s only first-round bye this weekend. Green Bay has the inside track at the coveted position, needing only a win at Chicago (8-7) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
PLAYOFF BERTHS LOCKED IN: Last week, the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-1) clinched the AFC’s lone first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the second time in the past three seasons (2018). With a win against the Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), the Chiefs will tie the 2011 Packers (15-1, .938) for the best regular-season record by a defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
- The BUFFALO BILLS (12-3) clinched the AFC East division title for the first time since 1995.
- The GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3) clinched the NFC North division title for the second-consecutive season.
- The PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-3) last week overcame a 17-point deficit to win and clinch the AFC North division title for the first time since 2017. Pittsburgh won the AFC North after missing the postseason in 2019. In each of the past 43 seasons (1977-2020, excluding 1982, when divisional play did not occur), at least one team has won its division the season after missing the playoffs. T
- The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-4) clinched the NFC South division title for the fourth-consecutive season.
- The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-4) clinched the NFC West division title for the first time since 2016.
- The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (10-5) clinched their first playoff berth since 2007.
TWO LONGEST DROUGHTS COULD BE HISTORY: After the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (10-5) clinched their first playoff appearance since 2007, the CLEVELAND BROWNS (10-5) now can return to the postseason for the first time since 2002. If that happens, the NFL would see its two longest active playoff droughts end in the same season for only the fourth time since the league merger in 1970. It also happened in 1999 (Seattle and the St. Louis Rams), 1988 (Buffalo and Philadelphia) and 1987 (New Orleans and Indianapolis). The 1999 ST. LOUIS RAMS went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV.
COMEBACK NATION: This season, there have been 42 games in which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 10 points to win, the most through Week 16 in NFL history. The single-season NFL record is 43, in both 2013 and 2014.
There also have been nine games in a which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 17 points to win, trailing only the 2011 season (11 games) for the most ever in a single season.
SINGLE-SEASON NFL RECORDS: Two significant NFL records fell last week and at least two more are likely to fall in Week 17.
- Buffalo wide receiver STEFON DIGGS caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from JOSH ALLEN last week to give the NFL 1,372 touchdowns this season and break the single-season league record (1,371 touchdowns in 2018). Diggs leads the NFL in both receptions (120) and receiving yards (1,459). The total number of NFL touchdowns this season is 1,373 entering Week 17.
- Also last week, New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA kicked off the weekend by tying an NFL single-game record with six rushing touchdowns. NFL teams went on to break the 41-year-old league record for rushing touchdowns in a season. The total is 494 entering Week 17. The single-season league record was 487 in 1979.
- NFL teams have scored 11,854 points through 16 weeks. The single-season league record is 11,985 points in 2013.
- NFL teams have scored 812 passing touchdowns through 16 weeks. The single-season league record is 847 in 2018.
PASSER RATING: Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS leads all qualified players with a 119.4 passer rating. When the Packers play at Chicago on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), he has an opportunity to finish the season with one of the top three single-season passer ratings in NFL history among qualified players.
ROOKIE RECEIVING YARDS: Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON, who ranks eighth in the NFL with 1,267 receiving yards, has an opportunity this week to total one of the top three receiving-yards marks in history by a rookie. The Vikings play at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
CONSECUTIVE RUSHING TITLES FOR HENRY: Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY, who leads the NFL with 1,777 rushing yards this season,is bidding to become the first player since Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (2006-07) to lead the league in rushing yards in consecutive seasons. Henry, who has 3,317 combined rushing yards from 2019-20, also has an opportunity this week to register one of the top consecutive-season rushing totals in NFL history.