NEW YORK (AP) — Five division leaders can clinch playoff berths this weekend, and the Patriots and Steelers can secure first-round byes in the AFC.
Pittsburgh and Jacksonville in the AFC, Atlanta, Chicago and the New York Giants in the NFC all are in position to earn postseason spots. The Jaguars simply have to win at Indianapolis to take the AFC South.
New England wins the AFC East and earns a bye if it wins at home against Green Bay and the Jets lose at Pittsburgh. The Patriots were the first team to clinch a playoff berth last week.
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The Steelers get the AFC North crown with a win and a Baltimore loss, and also can grab a bye if the Steelers have the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Ravens and Jaguars after this weekend’s games.
If Chicago wins Monday night at Minnesota and Green Bay loses, the Bears take the NFC North.
Atlanta, which leads the NFC South by one game over New Orleans, makes the playoffs with a victory or a tie at Seattle. The Falcons get in even if they lose if the Giants fall to Philadelphia or tie, or the Bears lose or tie, or Green Bay loses or ties.
For the Giants to qualify, they must beat the Eagles at the Meadowlands — the teams currently are tied atop the NFC East at 9-4 — and have Chicago, Green Bay and Tampa Bay (home for Detroit) all lose, plus clinch the strength of victory component over the Buccaneers.
Three division runners-up also have shots at securing playoff berths this weekend.
The Saints do it with a win and losses or ties by the Giants and Bucs, or by the Bears and Bucs, or by the Packers and Bucs. They also get in with a tie and losses by the Bucs and Packers, or a tie and losses by the Bucs, Bears and Giants.
Baltimore needs to win and have the Colts and Chargers (at home against San Francisco on Thursday night) lose or tie, or win and see the Colts and Dolphins (home for Buffalo) lose or tie while the Chiefs (at St. Louis) lose. A tie does it for the Ravens if Miami, San Diego and Indianapolis all lose.
As for the Jets, a victory at Pittsburgh combined with a loss or tie by the Dolphins and Colts and a loss by the Chiefs get them into the postseason. They also qualify with a win and losses or ties by the Dolphins, Colts and Chargers, or with a tie and losses by Miami, Indianapolis and San Diego.