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Playoff scenarios: Broncos control fate for division, bye

**

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **We know who 10 of the 12 playoff participants and five of the eight division winners will be.

But the races for the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC remain in play, with New England and Carolina both needing to win on Sunday to preserve home-field advantage for the playoffs.

The Broncos are the only team in the AFC with a chance of dislodging the Patriots from the top seed; with a win and a New England loss to Miami, they could earn home-field advantage in the AFC postseason for the third time in the last four seasons.

But the Broncos could also end up being the No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 or No. 6 seed depending on how results fall.

**

DENVER BRONCOS**

... have clinched a playoff spot ...

... can clinch the AFC West with:
1) DEN win or tie
OR
2) KC loss or tie

... can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) DEN win
OR
2) DEN tie AND CIN loss or tie
OR
3) KC loss or tie AND CIN loss

... can clinch the No. 1 seed with:
1) DEN win AND NE loss

Here's how the rest of the playoff contenders shake out:

AFC

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

... have clinched the AFC East ...

... have clinched a first-round bye ...

... can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win or tie
OR
2) DEN loss or tie

CINCINNATI BENGALS

... have clinched the AFC North ...

... can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) CIN win AND DEN loss or tie
OR
2) CIN tie AND DEN loss
OR
3) DEN loss AND KC win

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

... have clinched a playoff spot ...

... can clinch the AFC West with:
1) KC win AND DEN loss

NEW YORK JETS

... can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) NYJ win or tie
OR
2) PIT loss or tie

**

PITTSBURGH STEELERS**

... can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) PIT win AND NYJ loss

HOUSTON TEXANS

... can clinch the AFC South with:
1) HOU win or tie
OR
2) IND loss or tie
OR
3) HOU clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over IND or clinches strength of schedule tiebreaker over IND

NOTE: HOU clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over IND if one of the following teams wins or ties: CIN, NE, NO, NYJ, SD.

HOU clinches strength of schedule tiebreaker over IND if KC wins or ties and BAL wins or ties as long as both teams don't tie.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

... can clinch the AFC South with:
1) IND win AND HOU loss AND IND ties HOU in strength of victory tiebreaker and clinches strength of schedule tiebreaker over HOU

NOTE: IND ties HOU in strength of victory tiebreaker and clinches strength of schedule tiebreaker over HOU if BOTH of the following occurs:

1) All of the following teams win: ATL, BAL, BUF, DEN, MIA
2) OAK win or tie AND PIT win or tie as long as both teams don't tie

If Houston and Indianapolis end up tied in strength of victory and tied in strength of schedule, the teams would then go to the next tiebreaker, which is best combined ranking among AFC teams in points scored and points allowed in all games.

NFC

CAROLINA PANTHERS

... have clinched the NFC South ...

... have clinched a first-round bye ...

... can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with:
1) CAR win or tie
OR
2) AZ loss or tie​

**

ARIZONA CARDINALS**

... have clinched the NFC West ...

... have clinched a first-round bye ...

... can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with:
1) AZ win AND CAR loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS

... have clinched a playoff spot ...

... can clinch the NFC North with:
1) GB win or tie

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

... have clinched a playoff spot ...

... can clinch the NFC North with:
1) MIN win

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

... have clinched the NFC East and will be the No. 4 seed.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

... have clinched a wild-card spot and will be the No. 5 or 6 seed.


**

PLAYOFF SEEDING HEADING INTO WEEK 17:**
(Tiebreakers, if applicable, are in parentheses)

AFC

  1. New England, 12-3-0
    Week 17 opponent:Miami (5-10-0)
  1. Denver, 11-4-0 (head-to-head over CIN)
    Week 17 opponent:San Diego (4-11-0)
  1. Cincinnati, 11-4-0
    Week 17 opponent:Baltimore (5-10-0)
  1. Houston, 8-7-0
    Week 17 opponent:Jacksonville (5-10-0)
  1. Kansas City, 10-5-0 (conference record over NYJ)
    Week 17 opponent:Oakland (7-8-0)
  1. N.Y. Jets, 10-5-0
    Week 17 opponent:Buffalo (7-8-0)

STILL IN THE HUNT:

  1. Pittsburgh, 9-6-0
    Week 17 opponent:Cleveland (3-12-0)
  1. Indianapolis, 7-8-0
    Week 17 opponent:Tennessee (3-12-0)

ELIMINATED:

  1. Oakland, 7-8-0
    1. Buffalo, 7-8-0
    2. Jacksonville, 5-10-0
    3. Miami, 5-10-0
    4. Baltimore, 5-10-0
    5. San Diego, 4-11-0
    6. Cleveland, 3-12-0
    7. Tennessee, 3-12-0

NFC

  1. Carolina, 14-1-0
    Week 17 opponent:Tampa Bay (6-9-0)
  1. Arizona, 13-2-0
    Week 17 opponent:Seattle (9-6-0)
  1. Green Bay, 10-5-0 (head-to-head over MIN)
    Week 17 opponent:Minnesota (10-5-0)
  1. Washington, 8-7-0
    Week 17 opponent:Dallas (4-11-0)
  1. Minnesota, 10-5-0
    Week 17 opponent:Green Bay (10-5-0)
  1. Seattle, 9-6-0
    Week 17 opponent:Arizona (13-2-0)

STILL IN THE HUNT:

No one else.

ELIMINATED:

  1. Atlanta, 8-7-0
    1. St. Louis, 7-8-0
    2. Detroit, 6-9-0
    3. Tampa Bay, 6-9-0
    4. New Orleans, 6-9-0
    5. Chicago, 6-9-0
    6. Philadelphia, 6-9-0
    7. N.Y. Giants, 6-9-0
    8. San Francisco, 4-11-0
    9. Dallas, 4-11-0

Earlier version of this story:

playoffs_huddle_1280_151215.jpg

DENVER --With a fifth consecutive playoff appearance clinched, the Broncos (11-4) can turn their attention to winning the AFC West -- and home-field advantage to go with it.

A Broncos win over the Chargers next Sunday will give them a franchise-record fifth consecutive division title, which would surpass the number of division titles they won in the previous 20 years (four: 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2005). It would also give them at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

With injuries continuing to accumulate for the Broncos, a bye would help.

"Oh, it'd be huge," said RB C.J. Anderson, who suffered a back injury against the Bengals on Monday but returned. "We're banged up in a lot of places, but that doesn't happen if we don't take care of business against San Diego, and San Diego's not going to come in here and let us roll over them. We've got our work cut out for us."

If the Chargers upset the Broncos, Denver could drop all the way to the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. A Chiefs (10-5) win over the Raiders and a Broncos loss would give the AFC West to the Chiefs on a division-record tiebreaker. The Broncos could then end up as the No. 6 seed if the Jets (10-5) win at Buffalo, because the Jets would win a conference-record tiebreaker over the Broncos.

The Broncos could still win the AFC West even if they lose, but that would require a Chiefs loss. They will kick off at the same time as the Broncos and Chargers.

Denver still has a shot at the top seed, but cannot claim it unless the Patriots (12-3) lose at Miami in a game that kicks off at 11 a.m. MST Sunday -- three hours and 25 minutes before toe meets leather at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Broncos win potential tiebreakers with the Patriots -- and the Patriots and Bengals (11-4), if Cincinnati also wins next week -- at 12-4 based on head-to-head results via their overtime wins in Weeks 12 and 16.

A tie against the Chargers would also give the Broncos the AFC West crown, but could drop the Broncos to the No. 3 seed if the Bengals defeat the Ravens in their regular-season finale Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

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