NFL Playoff Picture: Bengals And Broncos Fighting For First-Round Bye

nfl-playoffsIf the season ended now:

AFC first-round byes: (1) Patriots; (2) Bengals

AFC wild card: (6) Jets at (3) Broncos; (5) Chiefs at (4) Texans

NFC first-round byes: (1) Panthers; (2) Cardinals

NFC wild card: (6) Seahawks at (3) Packers; (5) Vikings at (4) Redskins

The last Monday night game of the year will have a huge impact on the AFC playoff picture.

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched the North when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost at the Baltimore Ravens, but the Bengals can stay in contention for the No. 1 seed with a win at the Denver Broncos. A loss would drop Cincinnati to No. 3.

The game means even more to the Broncos, who can clinch a playoff berth with a win but would fall behind the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets to No. 6 with a loss. Denver could finish anywhere from the top seed at 12-4 to out of the playoffs if the Steelers also finish 10-6.

The game means something to the AFC South, too. A Bengals win or tie would clinch the division for the Houston Texans because of better strength of victory than the Indianapolis Colts, who need a Broncos win plus nine results in their favor to win the tiebreaker next week.

In the NFC, we now know all six postseason teams after the Minnesota Vikings clinched a playoff berth with a win Sunday night. The North title will be decided by the Vikings’ trip to Green Bay in next Sunday night’s game.

Both the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots failed to clinch No. 1 seeds but still can with wins next week or losses by the Cardinals and Bengals-Broncos winner, respectively.