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2019 NFL playoffs to be set up in Week 17 as Los Angeles Rams look for first-round bye

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Here’s how the playoff brackets are shaping up.

NFL: Combine Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One more week...

As the NFL barrels into Week 17, about half the league is looking to just get things over with and close the doors as they get ready for the offseason and a chance to rebuild; the other half, including the Los Angeles Rams, is looking at finalizing the playoff brackets and getting ready for postseason football.

Here’s how things are shaping up

AFC

Let’s start on the other side of the fence. You’ve got drama throughout the standings starting at the top.

Right now, the Kansas City Chiefs hold the #1 overall seed with an 11-4 record...but they might not even win their own division! Their AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers are also 11-4. Since they split their season series, the tiebreaker comes down to divisional records. While the Chiefs have just that one loss to the Chargers as they only blemish on their divisional schedule this year, the Chargers lost to the Denver Broncos in Week 11. So it comes down to Sunday. The Chiefs play the Oakland Raiders. If they win, they’ll lock up the #1 seed. If they lose and the Chargers avenge their earlier loss to the Broncos, QB Philip Rivers and crew will take the top seed. If both the Chiefs and the Chargers lose...

Enter everyone’s least favorite team: the New England Patriots. At 10-5, the Pats could still get the top overall seed with a win over the New York Jets if the Chiefs and Chargers both lose. If either win, a win would at least get QB Tom Brady a first-round bye. If all three lose?

Yup. The Houston Texans could come into play. If QB Deshaun Watson can lead the Texans to a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars combined with losses from KC, LA and New England AND the Texans can outdo KC in what the NFL calls “strength of victory” (the combined win percentage of all the teams a particular team has beaten), then Houston would take the top spot.

Whew.

So those are your four that are already locked in battling for the top spot and the three of the top four spots as either the Chargers or Chiefs would be the fifth seed with whomever wins the AFC North in that fourth spot. So let’s go there.

Right now, it’s the 9-6 Baltimore Ravens on top who take on the Cleveland Browns this weekend. They still have a chance at a first-round bye too, but would need losses from New England and Houston and then some math to get one. The likelihood with a win is the division crown and the #4 seed. The 8-6-1 Pittsburgh Steelers are on the Ravens’ heels though. If the Ravens lose to the Browns, the Steelers could beat the Cincinnati Bengals for the division.

The other playoff spot is going to come down to Sunday Night Football between the 9-6 Indianapolis Colts and 9-6 Tennessee Titans. By the time they kick off, we’ll know the full stakes. But as of right now, it’s set up for the winner to make the playoffs and the loser to miss out though Indianpolis could get in with a tie...but let’s ignore that for now. It’s essentially a playoff play-in.

NFC

Our conference is much more straightforward.

The New Orleans Saints have already locked up the top seed. The #2 and #3 seeds are between the Rams and the Chicago Bears. If we beat the San Francisco 49ers, we’re #2. If Chicago loses to the Minnesota Vikings, we’re #2. If we lose and they win, we’ll be in the #3 spot and playing in the wild card round in a week with RB Todd Gurley having missed the final two weeks of the regular season. So yeah, let’s get this W and get him an extra week of rest.

Filling out two spots will be the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks who are both 9-6. The Cowboys are locked in at #4 with the NFC East crown, but the Seahawks’ situation is still up in the air depending on the 8-6-1 Vikings and the 8-7 Philadelphia Eagles. Seattle would need to beat the Arizona Cardinals to hold on to the #5 seed to play the Cowboys. They could hold it with a loss too, though if they lose and the Vikes beat the Bears the Seahawks will drop to #6. If both the Seahawks and Vikings lose and the Eagles beat the Washington Playoff Not Makers, Philly would improbably make it to the postseason dance.


It’s a bit messy, but things will get cleared up from the second slate of games.

The only games from the early slate with any impact is Pats-Jets and Texans-Jags. Every game from the late starts has playoff implications right now.

So buckle up, and keep an eye on proceedings during the Rams-Niners game. It’s going to be a wild Sunday to finish things out.