PHOENIX -- As is usually the case with the NFL playoffs, there are some easy parts and some not so easy parts.
The easy parts:
All the Philadelphia Eagles have to do to get home-field advantage in the first round is beat the Phoenix Cardinals today. Eagles win, they get the Washington Redskins at Veterans Stadium on Jan. 6.
Dallas and New Orleans, both 7-8, are fighting for the last NFC wild-card spot. If the Cowboys beat Atlanta Sunday, they are in no matter what the Saints do against the Los Angeles Rams Monday because Dallas beat New Orleans, 17-13.
Pittsburgh (9-6), Houston (8-7) and Cincinnati (8-7) all can win the AFC Central title. Even with three teams, that situation is fairly simple: If the Steelers beat the Oilers Sunday night in the Astrodome, they win the division.
The Los Angeles Raiders (11-4) already are in the playoffs as at least a wild card. If the Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) lose to the Chicago Bears today or if Los Angeles beats the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, the Raiders will will win the division for the first time since 1985.
As far as other playoff scenarios are concerned, break out the flow charts and slide rules. While there are only six teams still alive for three undecided spots, the possibilities are complicated.
With five of the six NFC spots locked up, the AFC situation is more wide open. And that ball of confusion revolves around the Central Division.
Two AFC spots remain unclaimed -- the Central champion and the third wild card -- with four teams in contention. Pittsburgh, Houston and Cincinnati can make the playoffs either way. Seattle (8-7) can only be a wild card.
If the Steelers don't beat the Oilers to win the division, Pittsburgh can still make the playoffs, but only if Cincinnati loses to Cleveland and Seattle loses to Detroit.
If the Oilers beat the Steelers, they will make the playoffs but may not win the division. For that to happen, the Bengals must also lose to the Browns.
If the Bengals do win, they are sure to be crowded around the television rooting for the Oilers, since a Steelers loss would give Cincinnati the division on the first tiebreaker.
If the Bengals lose and the Steelers win, Cincinnati will be a wild card if the Seahawks lose to the Lions.
Where's Albert Einstein when you need him?
The Oilers go into their big game without their biggest weapon and the league's top-rated passer, Warren Moon, who has a dislocated thumb. Cody Carlson will make only the sixth start of his four-year NFL career.
Carlson "knows the game plan as well as Warren does," said Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. "The hard part is, you can't simulate what happens in a game. There's nothing like being in a game. You just hope there's not much ust on him."
A victory by Pittsburgh would give the Steelers their first division title since 1984 and they would play their first home playoff game in eight years. Last year, a 50-yard overtime field goal by Pittsburgh's Gary Anderson beat Houston in the wild-card game and was the final blow that led to the firing of coach Jerry Glanville.
In the NFC, Dallas could become the first team with a losing record to reach postseason, at 7-9.
Coindcidentally, Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson will face a scenario he has feared.
Johnson initially didn't want to trade quarterback Steve Walsh, now with the Saints, because that would leave him without a good backup to Troy Aikman. Last week Aikman separated his shoulder.
"We were concerned about this when we traded Steve," Johnson said. "We knew we were trading away a player who could win some games for us. . . . But we were thinking long range. We still understand it was the right thing to do."
Johnson now must win with former Redskins backup Babe Laufenberg and Cliff Stoudt, the latter signed on Monday. Stoudt, 35, has not thrown a regular season pass since 1988. Laufenberg completed only 13 of 36 passes for 140 yards and four interceptions against Philadelphia last week.
Laufenberg's performance brought this from Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown: "It was a big difference playing against Laufenberg. I'm not calling the guy dumb or anything, but Troy's a lot smarter."