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Sunday’s NFL TV schedule offers one final day of playoff stakes

It would take some doing, but Derek Carr, Jon Gruden and the Raiders could still make the playoffs. (Peter Joneleit/EPA-EFE/REX)

With 240 games in the books, 10 of the NFL’s 12 playoff spots (and six of eight division titles) have been decided, with mostly seeding still to be determined by a Week 17 slate of games that includes one very big NFC West contest at the end of the day.

This week’s games, the last of the regular season, feature a backloaded schedule, with key matchups kicking off at the same time and seven games set to begin at 4:25 p.m. Eastern. The setup is meant to ensure that as many games as possible are competitive, with the Redskins and Cowboys playing each other at the same time as the Eagles and Giants, for example. Playing for the third AFC seed, the Patriots and Chiefs also start at the same time, facing the Dolphins and Chargers, respectively.

NFL playoff picture, scenarios and projected bracket

All times Eastern.

Browns at Bengals
Dolphins at Patriots
Bears at Vikings
Chargers at Chiefs
Jets at Bills
Packers at Lions
Saints at Panthers
Falcons at Buccaneers
Eagles at Giants
Titans at Texans
Redskins at Cowboys
Steelers at Ravens
Colts at Jaguars
Raiders at Broncos
Cardinals at Rams
49ers at Seahawks

The early shift

Browns (6-9) at Bengals (1-14), 1, Fox

This one might bear watching just for the possibility of sideline dust-ups. Last week’s tiff involved receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Cleveland Coach Freddie Kitchens. Who knows where it will go this week if the Bengals, already in possession of the top pick (likely LSU quarterback Joe Burrow) in the draft, rear up and smack the Browns, who last week clinched their 12th consecutive losing season and were officially eliminated from the playoffs?

Dolphins (4-11) at Patriots (12-3), 1, CBS

The Patriots need this one. Look no further than the ice wrap on Tom Brady’s right elbow to know how badly they could use a first-round bye, which is what’s on the line. All it will take is a win or a tie against lowly Miami, or a Chiefs loss or tie against the Chargers.

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Bears (7-8) at Vikings (10-5), 1, Fox

With Minnesota’s loss to Green Bay, another Monday night debacle for Kirk Cousins, the Vikings are locked into the sixth seed in the NFC. The Bears are locked into nothingness.

Chargers (5-10) at Chiefs (11-4), 1, CBS

The Chiefs will be closely monitoring that game in Foxborough, among others. At the end of the day, they could be the second, third or fourth seed in the AFC. They’d move up to second if they win this game and the Patriots lose. They’d fall to fourth if they lose to the Chargers and the Texans beat the Titans. Otherwise, they’d end up third behind Baltimore and New England.

Jets (6-9) at Bills (10-5), 1, CBS

The Bills are locked into the fifth seed in the AFC and are one of the teams that nobody wants to see in the playoffs. They’ll meet either Houston or Kansas City in the first round. The Jets are playing out the string, although they’ve won five of their last seven games.

Packers (12-3) at Lions (3-11-1), 1, Fox

With Monday night’s ugly win over the Vikings, Green Bay clinched the NFC North and sported “The North Is Not Enough” T-shirts afterward. The Packers could move from No. 2 to the top NFC seed if they win this game and Seattle beats San Francisco. They could also fall to the No. 3 seed, which would mean a first-round rematch with the Vikings.

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Saints (12-3) at Panthers (5-9), 1, Fox

New Orleans will clinch a first-round bye with a win combined with a Packers loss or tie to the Lions; or a win combined with a 49ers loss or tie against the Seahawks; or a tie combined with a Packers loss; or a tie combined with a 49ers loss; or a 49ers loss combined with a Packers win/tie. The Saints will clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win combined with a Packers loss or tie and a 49ers loss or tie, or a tie combined with a Packers loss and 49ers loss.

Falcons (6-9) at Buccaneers (7-8), 1, Fox

Dan Quinn may be coaching for his job, with John Clayton reporting that owner Arthur Blank is iffy on him. Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston has already set career highs with 31 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions; two more picks would make him the first NFL quarterback to throw both 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

Late games

Eagles (8-7) at Giants (4-12), 4:25, Fox

Philly can clinch the NFC East with a win or tie, or with a Dallas loss or tie to Washington. It would be a third straight playoff appearance for the Eagles, but it isn’t clar whether they’ll have Zach Ertz. In addition to a cracked rib, ESPN reports that he was briefly hospitalized with a kidney laceration. The Giants are coming off an overtime victory over the Redskins and a five-touchdown performance by rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, the first of his career.

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Titans (8-7) at Texans (10-5), 4:25, CBS

A victory by the Titans would put 'em in the playoffs as the sixth seed in the AFC because they hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers. That would mean a trip to either Houston or Kansas City next weekend.

Redskins (3-12) at Cowboys (7-8), 4:25, Fox

Washington is in position to secure the second pick in the NFL draft, presumably Ohio State’s Chase Young. The Cowboys need a win and an Eagles’ loss to the Giants to salvage a season in which they have gone 4-8 since a 3-0 start and have beaten only one team with a winning record. At least they won’t have to fly home after this one. Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins is out with a high ankle sprain, so Case Keenum will likely start.

Steelers (8-7) at Ravens (13-2), 4:25, CBS

Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges struggled Sunday, so he was replaced by Mason Rudolph — only to reenter the game when Rudolph got hurt. Hodges is expected to start again, with Rudolph out and Paxton Lynch as the backup. With the AFC’s home-field advantage already tucked away, the Ravens will rest Lamar Jackson, Marshal Yanda, Earl Thomas III, Mark Ingram and Brandon Williams, Pittsburgh, which also needs some outside help, might get lucky. Don’t count on it, though. Robert Griffin III has something to prove.

Colts (7-8) at Jaguars (5-10), 4:25, CBS

See next item to learn how the Colts could impact the AFC race.

Raiders (7-8) at Broncos (6-9), 4:25, CBS

The Raiders can still make the playoffs. How, you ask? Well, NFL Research says that it would take a victory against the Broncos, coupled with losses by the Titans and Steelers and a victory by the Colts, plus at least one other result. That would give the Raiders the edge over the Steelers on strength of victory. As Brent Musburger, the Raiders’ radio play-by-play guy, told Peter King: “Well, it’s pretty crazy. It took a five-team parlay this week to get to a four-team parlay next week.”

Cardinals (5-9-1) at Rams (8-7), 4:25, Fox

Are these two teams going in opposite directions? Arizona Coach Kliff Kingsbury looks like he knows what he’s doing with quarterback Kyler Murray and running back Kenyan Drake. The Rams, months after a Super Bowl appearance, are in an unenviable position, having built their roster to win and win now. They traded two first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey and gave big contracts to Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and 38-year-old tackle Andrew Whitworth.

The night game

49ers (12-3) at Seahawks (11-4), 8:20, NBC

The Seahawks are stumbling at the worst time, losing control of their playoff seeding with an upset loss to Arizona last week. More importantly, running back Chris Carson sustained a hip injury that could keep him out of the playoffs. With Rashaad Penny (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) also out, the Seahawks turned to Beast Mode, signing Marshawn Lynch and spawning a whole new spate of jokes about giving him the ball on the 1-yard line. (Not here, though. Nope.) The 49ers would clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs (and their first division title since the 2012 Super Bowl campaign) with a win.

Read more NFL coverage:

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Bill Callahan takes pride in Redskins’ positive steps as season winds down

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