Week 16 is here for NFL fans and the playoff scenarios are going to be made a lot clearer this weekend.  Seventeen teams are all that remain in a battle for the 12 open spots, which means five teams are facing possible elimination this weekend.

What Are the NFL Playoff Scenarios?

It’s been 12 years since the number of teams still fighting for a postseason appearance has been this low, which means that there have been more than just a few teams that have had exceptional performances, and others that have had exceptionally embarrassing performances.  As the chains move across the turf, the race is going to get tighter, as will the wagers.

In the AFC, forget about seeing the Bengals, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars or the Colts in the NFL playoffs scenarios – they’re already at home figuring out how to turn things around next season.  The Baltimore Ravens have already secured the AFC North title.  If they win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday (is there any doubt?), they will also grab home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.  Unfortunately, the Browns would have to win this weekend to keep their chances at a postseason appearance alive, and that’s not likely to happen.

The New England Patriots have already locked in a playoff berth and are a game away from taking the AFC East.  All they have to do is beat the Buffalo Bills this weekend, which could also give them a first-round bye.  The Pats are expected to win, but the Bills already have their playoff appearance locked up, as well.

The Tennessee Titans are still hanging on, if only by a thread.  They can’t be eliminated if they lose to the New Orleans Saints this weekend, but won’t be able to take the AFC South, either, if the Houston Texans beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday (spoiler alert: the Texans win).  The Browns are all but out of the picture given their opponents this weekend, but would lose, anyway, if the Titans, the Indianapolis Colts or the Pittsburgh Steelers win.  The cards are stacked against them.

On the NFC side of the house, the Bears, Cardinals, Giants, Lions, Falcons, Redskins, Panthers and Bucs are already out.  That leaves only eight teams in the race, and several already have a guaranteed spot.  The Seattle Seahawks are in and are considered the number-one seed in a four-way tie with the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

Because the Packers have had a better conference season than the Saints, they hold the tiebreaker between the two.  They will meet up against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday and, if they win, they will take control of the NFC North.  However, the Vikings are currently favored to win, which is good news for Minnesota.  If they can pull off an underdog victory, they’ll pick up a NFL wild-card spot in the playoffs scenarios.  They can also be found in postseason if the Rams lose to the 49ers.

The 49ers are on their way to postseason without too much difficulty, and their upcoming game against the Rams shouldn’t be a problem.  The Rams, though, are out if they lose.  On the other hand, if the Vikings manage to pull off the victory against the Packers, there’s still a slight chance they could make an appearance.

If the Dallas Cowboys find a way to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, they’ll take the NFC East in the NFL standings.  If not, they’ll be home for Christmas, and a lot of changes could be coming to the team.  The game is equally as important for the Eagles, as a loss means that they’re out of the race, as well.

This is it for our look at the potential NFL playoff scenarios – the last two weeks of the regular NFL season are here, and this weekend is do-or-die for several teams if they want a shot at the Super Bowl.  This season has seen more than a few surprises, so no team still standing can be completely written off yet.  A lot rides on how the ball bounces this weekend.