2017 NFL Playoff Picture: Falcons hunting for a first-round bye after win in Carolina – CBSSports.com

If the early action from Christmas Eve taught us anything, it’s that the NFC is wide open. Sure, we have two teams that have clinched. But there is plenty of drama over the next several days (and hours) that will determine how things unfold.

The team to watch is the
Atlanta Falcons
. After a dominant performance against the
Carolina Panthers
, who looked good the previous week, Atlanta managed to eliminate a rival and put itself in position to steal a first-round bye. Atlanta, at 10-5, would have a leg up on Seattle for the race to the No. 2 seed in the NFC if the
Seattle Seahawks
lose to the
Arizona Cardinals
on Saturday.

It was a busy day for the Falcons’ playoff aspirations. First, they clinched a playoff spot based on strength-of-schedule tiebreaker when the Raiders beat the Colts. Then, a Bucs loss to the Saints wrapped up the NFC South for Atlanta.

No one is talking about the Falcons, but everyone should be looking out for them.

Check out the Playoff Picture page, complete with tiebreaker explanation and rules. Here’s how things look after the 1 p.m. ET slate:

AFC: Who’s in

1. (z)
New England Patriots

The Patriots are very close to securing home-field advantage throughout by taking the
New York Jets
to the woodshed. The Pats-Dolphins matchup in Week 17 suddenly has pretty large AFC implications, depending on the outcome of Indy-Oakland.

2. (x)
Oakland Raiders

The Raiders play the
Indianapolis Colts
on Saturday. A win or tie and a
Kansas City Chiefs
loss and Oakland would clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers play the
Baltimore Ravens
on Sunday with the AFC North on the line. They would clinch the division with a victory.

Houston Texans

The Texans play the
Cincinnati Bengals
on Saturday night and can clinch the division with a win after Tennessee’s loss.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

The Chiefs play the
Denver Broncos
on Sunday and can clinch a playoff berth with a victory or a Baltimore loss earlier in the day.

Miami Dolphins

Miami is very close to clinching a playoff spot after the overtime win over the
Buffalo Bills
. What a story for a team that was dead in the water to start the season. Baltimore and Denver losing would put the Dolphins in.

In the hunt

Baltimore Ravens (8-6): The Ravens play the Steelers on Sunday with their season on the line.

Denver Broncos (8-6): The Broncos play the Chiefs on Sunday with their season on the line.


Buffalo Bills (7-8): The Bills losing to Miami in overtime snuffed out their long-shot chance of making the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1): The Bengals play the Texans on Saturday night.

San Diego Chargers
Congrats on giving the
Cleveland Browns
their first win, San Diego.

New York Jets (4-11): Humiliating effort against the Patriots on Saturday.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles
caught a touchdown!

Cleveland Browns (1-14): That “1″ looks pretty sweet.

NFC: Who’s in

1. (*)
Dallas Cowboys

Dallas plays Detroit on Monday night but already has home-field advantage clinched courtesy of Philly beating the Giants on Thursday.

2. (y) Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

The Seahawks already clinched the NFC West but need to keep winning. Seattle cannot clinch a first-round bye this week thanks to Atlanta winning.

3. (y) Atlanta Falcons (10-5)

Atlanta manhandled the Panthers in Charlotte, and with the
New Orleans Saints
beating the Bucs on Saturday, the Falcons clinch the NFC South.

Detroit Lions

Detroit plays Dallas on Monday night but regardless of that outcome, the Jan. 1 matchup against the
Green Bay Packers
will be for the NFC North title. (Obviously the Lions want to beat the Cowboys too; a clinching scenario exists if they do.)

New York Giants

Losing to Philly on Thursday eliminated the Giants in the NFC East but New York can clinch a playoff spot if the Bucs lose Saturday or the Lions lose Monday.

6. Green Bay Packers (9-6)

The Packers hammered the
Minnesota Vikings
and would clinch a playoff berth and the NFC North with a win over Detroit on Jan. 1.

In the hunt

Washington Redskins
: Washington trashed the
Chicago Bears
on Sunday, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
: The Bucs’ playoff chances took a serious blow by losing to the Saints on Saturday.


Minnesota Vikings (7-8): Minnesota’s loss means it cannot make the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints (6-9): Eliminated before their game against Tampa kicked off.

Carolina Panthers (6-9): Eliminated after losing to the Falcons on Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles
But they beat the Giants so they have that going for them!

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1): They’re trying to spoil Seattle’s bid for home field Saturday.

Los Angeles Rams
: They’re playing the
San Francisco 49ers
in a game that has major NFL Draft ramifications.

Chicago Bears (3-12):
Matt Barkley
‘s stock took a hit with five interceptions Saturday.

San Francisco 49ers (1-13): Now in position to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.


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