The Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks will clinch National Football League playoff berths with triumphs tomorrow while two last spots might not be settled until the last games.
The penultimate week of the gridiron campaign looms with New England, Denver and Houston having clinched division titles, and thus playoff berths, in the American Conference, while Baltimore has sealed a postseason spot as well.
In the National Conference, Green Bay and Atlanta have secured divisional crowns and San Francisco has claimed a playoff berth, but three playoff spots remain up for grabs between a half-dozen contenders.
Indianapolis (9-5) would clinch an American Conference berth with a victory at Kansas City (2-12) and Cincinnati (8-6) would do the same by winning at Pittsburgh, where the Steelers (7-7) must win to sustain any playoff hopes.
A Cincinnati victory would also secure a playoff spot for this year’s top NFL Draft pick Andrew Luck’s Colts even if they lose to the Chiefs, who share the NFL’s worst record, and best chance at next year’s top pick, with Jacksonville.
Seattle (9-5) would clinch a National Conference playoff spot with a victory at home over NFC West division rival San Francisco (10-3 with one drawn) and push the fight for the divisional title into the final week of the season.
“We’re both great teams that want to win,” Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson said. “It’s going to be a one of a kind [atmosphere]. This is the best place to play in the NFL in terms of the energy.”
The 49ers would clinch the division crown and secure a first-round playoff bye with a victory and a loss by Green Bay (10-4) to visiting Tennessee (5-9).
Atlanta (12-2) would claim a first-round bye with a victory today at Detroit (4-10) and would seize the home-field edge in the National Conference playoffs if Green Bay and San Francisco both lose.
The other two vacant playoff spots are for the NFC East champion — a fight between the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants — and an NFC wild-card team, which feature those three teams plus Chicago and Minnesota. All of them have 8-6 records.
The Redskins would clinch a playoff spot, but not the division crown, with a victory at Philadelphia (4-10) and losses by the Giants at Baltimore (9-5), Minnesota at Houston (12-2) and Chicago at Arizona (5-9).
The Giants would take a playoff spot with losses by Washington, Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas, which plays host to New Orleans (6-8).
If Baltimore wins or Cincinnati loses, the Ravens will clinch the AFC North crown and give the AFC repeat champions in all four divisions, an unprecedented feat since the four-division format was adopted a decade ago.