NFL playoff clinching scenarios include a weird one involving the Raiders and Chargers

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Ashley Landis/AP
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Just five AFC teams know they won’t be in the playoffs, which means there will be a lot of scoreboard watching in the NFL over the weekend.

There are a number of crazy scenarios for teams to clinch a playoff spot (four outcomes hold the Ravens’ fate) or a division title (two ties will get the job done for the Bills).

But the wildest one of all involves the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, who play on “Sunday Night Football.”

If the Colts beat the Jaguars, the winner of the Raiders-Chargers game would be in the postseason. But if the Colts lose, the Chargers and Raiders would both make the postseason if their game Sunday ended in a tie.

Here is how tight things are: every AFC game this weekend will carry some sort of postseason implication. This is the full list of playoff-clinching scenarios from the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals

Can get the No. 1 seed and a bye in the AFC with four results in two different ways: a win over the Browns, a Titans loss to the Texans, a Chiefs loss to the Broncos and a Patriots loss or tie to the Dolphins. The Bengals also could get the top seed with a win, Titans loss, Chiefs loss and Bills victory against the Jets.

Baltimore Ravens

Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Steelers and a Chargers loss and a Colts loss and a Dolphins loss or tie.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Will make the postseason field with a win over the Ravens and a Colts loss as long as the Raiders-Chargers game doesn’t end in a tie.

Buffalo Bills

They can win the AFC West simply by defeating the Jets. They can also make it by tying the Jets if the Patriots-Dolphins game also ends in a tie. If the Patriots lose, the Bills will win the division regardless of how their game ends.

New England Patriots

The Patriots will be the AFC’s top seed if they win, the Bills win or tie and the Chiefs and Titans both lose. New England can win the AFC East with a win and a Bills loss or tie. The Patriots can also win the East if they tie and the Bills lose.

Tennessee Titans

They have the easiest path to the top seed in the AFC: defeat the Texans in Houston. Tennessee will also wrap up the top seed with a tie and a Chiefs loss or tie. Another way to get the No. 1 seed: A Chiefs loss and a loss or tie for both the Bengals and Patriots. Tennessee can also be the top seed if the Chiefs lose, the Bills win and the Bengals lose or tie.

Indianapolis Colts

A playoff berth will simply take a win or tie against the Jaguars. The Colts can also get in if the Chargers lose and the Ravens-Steelers game ends in a tie. A third scenario for making the playoff involves losses by the Chargers, Steelers and Patriots.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs can get the top seed in the AFC with a win over the Broncos and a Titans loss or tie. If the Chiefs tie Denver, they’d get the top seed if the Titans lose.

Los Angeles Chargers

This is the most simple scenario. A win or tie against the Raiders will get the Chargers in the playoff field. As noted, the Chargers will also make the postseason with a tie if the Colts lose.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders will be in with a win. They’re also in with a tie and a Colts loss. A third path for the Raiders involves a Colts loss and a Steelers loss or tie.


Things are much simpler in the NFC with only four teams having clinching scenarios.

Arizona Cardinals

Can win the NFC West by defeating the Seahawks and the Rams losing to the 49ers.

Los Angeles Rams

Will win the division with a victory or tie. Can also be West champs with a Cardinals loss or tie.

San Francisco 49ers

Can clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie. Also gets in with a Saints loss or tie against the Falcons.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints will be in the postseason with a win and 49ers loss.