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NFL playoff scenarios: Week 16 edition

The NFL’s regular season is almost over. There are only two weeks left, starting on Saturday night with the doubleheader of the Indianapolis Colts at the Baltimore Ravens, and finishing with the Minnesota Vikings visiting the Green Bay Packers.

On Sunday, another dozen games will be played, highlighted by the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints playing for the second time in three weeks, this time at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. If the Falcons win and sweep the Saints, both teams will be at 10-5. Should that happen, the Carolina Panthers would move into first place with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, it would all come down to the Week 17 matchup between the Falcons and Panthers. Meanwhile, New Orleans can clinch the division on Sunday with a win and a Panthers loss.

Another game to watch is the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Seattle Seahawks. Dallas and Seattle are playing to stay alive in the NFC playoff race, with the loser being officially eliminated. The Cowboys can only find a path to a wild card spot, while the Seahawks still have an outside shot at the NFC West title. That would require that the Los Angeles Rams lose both of their final games against the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, while the Seahawks beat the Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals.

Consequently, the Rams can clinch the West for the first time in over a decade with a win in Nashville over the Titans.

In the AFC, things are a bit more simple. The Jacksonville Jaguars have already clinched a playoff spot but can wrap up the AFC South by beating the 49ers in Santa Clara on Sunday. Jacksonville could also move into the second slot in the AFC should either the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers lose.

The Kansas City Chiefs have risen from the dead to take control of the AFC West, and they can finish off the division by beating the Miami Dolphins on Christmas Eve. Kansas City would need an insane confluence of events to move out of the No. 4 seed, so consider it all but locked in.

If you are looking for a long shot to watch, the Los Angeles Chargers have an interesting and yet realistic path to the postseason. Los Angeles needs to beat the New York Jets on the road and the Oakland Raiders at home. It also needs the Tennessee Titans to lose to the Rams and Jaguars, and the Buffalo Bills to fall on the road to the Patriots this Sunday (or Buffalo could lose at Miami in Week 17).

The playoff race is upon us for the holiday season. Sit back with some family and enjoy!

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