The NFL playoff picture will be finalized Sunday with either the New England Patriots or the Oakland Raiders earning the top AFC seed this weekend.
While the NFC still has teams vying for a playoff spot and jockeying for position, the AFC is not nearly as fluid, according to Sporting News. Only seeding can be determined this week for top two and bottom two spots depending upon the outcome of three games: New England at Miami, Kansas City at San Diego, and Oakland at Denver.
For New England, the Patriots are trying to earn the top seed for the sixth time since 2003. The No. 1 seed has nearly always meant the Patriots would reach the Super Bowl as New England has earned home-field advantage for four of their six Super Bowl appearances under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
The New England Patriots (13-2) have an easier path to reaching the top seed in the AFC playoff. The NFL franchise only needs to earn a victory against the Miami Dolphins in their regular season finale to secure the No. 1 seed. If New England loses to the Miami Dolphins, then the Oakland Raiders must also lose their game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday for the Patriots to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoff.
New England is assured of finishing either first or second heading into the NFL postseason, meaning the Patriots will at least host one playoff game. The Patriots — who have won 14 AFC East titles in the past 16 years — have already secured their eighth straight division title regardless of the outcome of their match-up with the Miami Dolphins.
For the Oakland Raiders, nabbing the top seed would also be the sixth time the NFL franchise has held the No. 1 seed since 1975. The Oakland Raiders have won all three of their Super Bowl games after earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC, including the last time the team sat atop the NFL playoff standings in 2002.
The Oakland Raiders (12-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) have the most to gain or lose heading into the final weekend before the NFL playoff. The Oakland Raiders can claim their first AFC West title since 2002 by winning their NFL season finale against the Denver Broncos Sunday. The win would assure the Oakland Raiders would finish no lower than second in the playoff standings while relegating the Kansas City Chiefs to a wildcard position regardless of their outcome against the San Diego Chargers.
If the Oakland Raiders are defeated by the Denver Broncos, however, then the Kansas City Chiefs would earn the AFC West title over the Raiders by winning against the San Diego Chargers. Kansas City owns the tiebreaker between the two NFL franchises as the Chiefs swept the Raiders this season. In this scenario, the Kansas City Chiefs would finish with the No. 2 seed while the Oakland Raiders would drop to the fifth seed for this season’s NFL playoff.
In addition to the competition for the top two spots between the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, the NFL playoff seeding for the Miami Dolphins (10-5) is also in flux. If the Kansas City Chiefs win on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will finish as the No. 6 seed in this season’s NFL playoff.
The Miami Dolphins can still finish if the Chiefs lose on Sunday. In this scenario, the Miami Dolphins would need to defeat the New England Patriots to jump over the Kansas City Chiefs. By virtue of having a better record against common opponents, the Miami Dolphins would finish as the N0. 5 seed while the Kansas City Chiefs would drop to the No. 6 seed for this season’s NFL playoff.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans cannot finish in different seeding situations regardless of this Sunday’s outcome. The Steelers — the AFC North champions — will finish as the No. 3 seed while the Texans — winners of the AFC South title — will be the fourth seed for this season’s NFL playoff. Both Pittsburgh and Houston will host one of the two wildcard teams to being the NFL playoff.
Do you think the New England Patriots or the Oakland Raiders will claim the top seed heading into the NFL postseason? Leave your thoughts about the playoff picture in the comment section below.
[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer & Brian Bahr/Getty Images]