How do NFL teams do in their last game if they have already clinched a playoff spot?

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There are only three weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, and while some teams have already secured a playoff berth, many are still fighting for a chance to play deep into January.

The Atlanta Falcons punched their ticket by clinching the NFC South, but they are the only team to secure a spot in the NFC thus far.

The AFC picture is much clearer. The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos locked down their divisions, and the Houston Texans are guaranteed at least a playoff berth, but haven’t sewn up the AFC South.

That technically leaves five divisions and four wild card spots up for grabs, with the NFC races being the tightest.

Let’s take a look at each team currently in contention, and where they stand.

AFC

Houston Texans (11-2): A win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15, and the division is theirs. Should Denver and New England lose this week as well, Houston will have a first-round bye.

New England Patriots (10-3) :...

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LFL

The Los Angeles Temptation (2-2) are on a quest to turn their season around and with a win on Saturday, they will punch a ticket to the August 15th, Western Conference playoff game in Chicago, Illinois. Meanwhile, the very talented Las Vegas Sin (0-2) are on a mission to get their first win and keep their playoff chances alive. With Vegas looking for their first win and an LA team trying to get back on track while expecting an Ashley Salerno return, Saturdays’s match-up will be a must see for Legends Football League fans.

The Western Conference currently stands at Seattle 3-1, Los Angeles 2-2, and Las Vegas 0-2. Seattle has already earned their playoff birth and have two games remaining this regular season against Las Vegas. Saturdays’s game is LA’s final regular season game and with a win, they are in the playoffs and will face Seattle. If Las Vegas wants to clinch a playoff birth, they need to win out their remaining three games, starting with a win against LA...

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Photo: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

Projected: No. 6 seed

Remaining schedule: at Cardinals (13-2)

The Seahawks have clinched a wild card berth and will begin the playoffs on the road. The only thing to be determined is whether they'll be the fifth seed or the sixth seed and whether their first round game will be at Washington, Green Bay or Minnesota. If the Seahawks lose to the Cardinals next week, they will be the sixth seed and play the winner of next week's Green Bay-Minnesota game. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals and the Packers beat the Vikings, Seattle would be the five seed and play at Washington. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals and the Vikings beat the Packers, Seattle would be the six seed and play at Minnesota. Got all that? Whew.

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Seattle Seahawks...

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Tiebreaker Rules

The six postseason participants from each conference will be seeded as follows:

The division champion with the best record. The division champion with the second-best record. The division champion with the third-best record. The division champion with the fourth-best record. The Wild Card club with the best record. The Wild Card club with the second-best record.

The following procedures will be used to break standings ties for postseason playoffs and to determine regular-season schedules.
NOTE: Tie games count as one-half win and one-half loss for both clubs.

TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION:

If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with the best won-lost-tied percentage, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.

Two Clubs:

Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs). Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within...
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Do you feel it? Is it the chill in the December air? Maybe. Depends on where you live I suppose. I think it’s more or less the intensity rising in the NFL season. Playoffs are just around the corner and every game is of the utmost importance. To some teams losing a game in this final month might seal their fate as being left behind once the postseason starts. To others, every win gets them one step closer to punching their postseason ticket. One such team can already make that claim: the Dallas Cowboys. Once again they are the top team in this week’s ranking. Is your team still in the playoff hunt? If so, buckle up and enjoy the ride that is the last quarter of the NFL season.

Dallas Cowboys (11-1) ~ As I mentioned in the opening the Cowboys became the first team to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday by virtue of a few teams trailing them in the standings picking up a loss. If they can run their win streak to an even dozen this coming Sunday they will become the first team to...
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In the good old days, you couldn’t start figuring out the NFL playoff picture until Week 10. Three rules always factored into the process:

Rule No. 1: Teams can’t clinch a playoff spot in the first two months, but they can definitely screw one up. Make sure you find those one or two teams who have already damaged their playoff chances.

Rule No. 2: Since it’s always better to peak in January instead of November, it’s always better to project ahead instead of judging what already happened.

Rule No. 3: Never trust a team with Vinny Testaverde on its roster, no matter how good they look.

But can standard rules apply to a season this screwed up?

When my buddy Sal and I were guessing the lines on Monday (our morning ritual), both of us were blown away by the staggering number of crappy teams.
For instance, the Saints are getting 10 against a Patriots team that has been tied or trailing in the final six minutes of their last eight games. The Chiefs...

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The NFL has exercised its right to save the best for last in Week 17.

In perhaps the finest use to date of the league’s ability to alter its schedule in terms of prime-time viewing, the New Year’s Day matchup between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, which is a de facto NFC North championship, has been changed from a start at 1 p.m. ET to kickoff at 8:30 p.m., maximizing the potential viewership and making everyone wait until the last game of the week to have a complete playoff bracket.

The fact that the game matters at all is a testament to the turnaround by the Packers. After Week 11 wrapped up, the Packers were 4-6, two games behind both the Lions and the Minnesota Vikings in their division and headed for a lost season. Undeterred, Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback of the Packers, vowed to “run the table” in hopes of making the playoffs, and has backed up his claims thus far with four consecutive wins.

The drama in the Green Bay-Detroit game only rose...

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Neil Reynolds picks his favourite moments from Super Bowl LI, including Tom Brady's finest hour for New England Patriots as James White shines bright.

Wow! What a game! After a relatively tepid play-off series in the NFL this January, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots delivered arguably the most incredible Super Bowl in history.

Trailing by a 28-3 scoreline in the second half, the Patriots dug deep and delivered a 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons, scoring the last 31 points in the game.

Here are six headlines that caught my eye on Super Bowl Sunday.

Brady's finest hour

When he is grey and old, Tom Brady will sit around the fireplace and tell stories of his five Super Bowl wins. He might very well have even more by that time. And he will talk about how he loves each of them the same.

But surely this was his finest hour and his greatest achievement, snatching victory from the almost-clenched-shut jaws of defeat. Down by 25...

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Just two weeks remain in the NFL’s regular season, and yet much is still to be decided. Only four teams have guaranteed their playoff spots, meaning that eight are left up for grabs. Here is a team-by-team look at who needs what among those that are still in contention.

Teams listed in order of current seeding. (x) denotes a team that has already clinched a playoff berth. (y) denotes a team that has won its division.

AFC

Who would make the playoffs if the season finished today?

1) (x) Denver Broncos (11-3)

Remaining games: at Houston, at Oakland

Despite occupying the conference’s top seed, Denver could slip all the way to fifth if they lose one more game. Their AFC West rivals Kansas City boast an identical record, and sit behind the Broncos only by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker.

Denver’s last two opponents, Houston and Oakland, are not the most daunting, but both games are on the road. The Broncos can win the AFC West...

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If depends mostly on the mentality of the head coach and his stance on team-specific concepts:

Whether he thinks his players need a full game to maintain momentum heading into the playoffs, and that resting them may add a wrinkle which isn't needed. Whether he's spoken to team leaders who feel strongly one way or the other

as well as player-specific questions:

Whether certain players have minor injuries which would benefit from a week off Whether some players are so good that they can't risk them being on the field (i.e. a franchise quarterback).

and also miscellaneous factors:

Whether the team has already earned a 1st round-bye and therefore giving players another week off would have minimal impact. If the team is playing in bad conditions which could increase the chances of injury. Whether the team has clinched the playoffs, but may still might be playing for home-field advantage.

As far as whether you should gamble on this type of scenario, remember...

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As the regular season wanes, each week brings with it a fresh opportunity for some teams to clinch playoff spots. Check out every possible scenario for each conference below, and predict the playoffs here:

NFC

CLINCHED: Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks

ELIMINATED: New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles

AFC

CLINCHED: New England Patriots (first-round bye), Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers

ELIMINATED: Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills

The Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a Broncos loss.

The Broncos clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Colts loss or tie.

The Bengals...

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As the regular season winds down, each week brings with it a fresh opportunity for some teams to clinch playoff spots. Check out every possible scenario for each conference below, and predict the playoffs here:

Playoff Picture

The NFL playoff picture is shaping up as teams head deeper into the 2014 season. Who looks promising? Who's on the edge?

Check it out

NFC

CLINCHED: Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks

ELIMINATED: New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles

After their win, the Cowboys clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with: a Cardinals loss or tie and a Lions-Packers tie.

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:
1) a Seahawks loss or tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie
2) a Lions-Packers tie

The Lions clinch...

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Logo of the National Football League playoffs, 2010–present

The National Football League (NFL) playoffs are a single-elimination tournament held after the end of the regular season to determine the NFL champion. Six teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs based on regular season records, and a tie-breaking procedure exists in the case of equal records. The tournament ends with the Super Bowl, the league's championship game, which matches the two conference champions.

NFL postseason history can be traced to the first NFL Championship Game in 1933, though in the early years, qualification for the game was based solely on regular season records. From 1933 to 1966, the NFL postseason generally only consisted of the NFL Championship Game, pitting the league's two division winners (pending any one-game playoff matches that needed to be held to break ties in the division standings). The NFL playoffs then expanded in 1967, when four teams...

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In a sports league, a playoff berth is a position in the playoffs secured ("clinched") ahead—and sometimes well ahead—of the season's conclusion. In close races, some teams will not make the playoffs until they have played the final game of the season, but other teams will clinch a spot in the playoffs when they have mathematically qualified for the playoffs. A team mathematically qualifies for the playoffs when they have won enough games to qualify even if they lose all their remaining regular season games and all trailing teams win all their remaining games.

In some leagues, only the leader of each division qualifies for the playoffs, thereby requiring clinching the division in order to clinch a playoff berth. But in many large sports leagues, additional wild card teams that have not finished at the top of their division will also participate in the playoffs, and these positions will also be sought by teams that are unable to reach the top.

Ranking watchers, such as...

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Photo: Charles Krupa, STF

Here is a look at the 14 NFL teams that already have clinched a playoff berth or still could do so with one week left in the regular season.

AFC

New England Patriots (13-2)

Assured of a bye for the seventh year in a row, they will clinch the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the AFC playoffs with a win on Sunday or a Raiders loss. [Last game: at Miami]

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Here is a look at the 14 NFL teams that already have clinched a playoff berth or still could do so with one week left in the regular season.

AFC

New England Patriots (13-2)

Assured of a bye for the seventh year in

... more Photo: Charles Krupa, STF Oakland Raiders (12-3)

One of the league’s biggest surprises, the Raiders must do the rest without MVP...

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you don't want to lose that 'edge' going into the playoffs, but at the same time you don't want to risk losing a key player to unnecessary injury.

take the cardinals for example. they clinched their division, and will be in the playoffs for the first time in like 26 years or something. they play minnesota next and then new england. both of those teams are still in a tight race to make a playoff spot, so those 2 teams are going to be playing hard, because if they lose, they are essentially out of the playoffs.

so if you're the cardinals, do you keep everyone in so no one gets 'rusty' or do you sit some key guys to avoid injury? it's a tough decision. you want to play just as hard as usual, and you want to keep winning so your team feels good about themselves going into the playoffs. if you sit guys and they lose the next 3 games, then the mentality isn't right going into the playoffs on a 3 game skid. if you play everyone though, then what happens if say warner gets nailed...

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