Thursday, July 31, 2014
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2014 NFL playoff schedule and bracket: A look ahead to wild card weekend

Playoff spots and seedings are still up for grabs heading into Week 17, but we have some idea of who will play where next week.

With one week of the regular season to go and only one team locked into its current playoff position, there is a lot to settle in Week 17 around the NFL. With Dallas and Philadelphia playing on Sunday night, the complete playoff bracket won't be known until the final whistle blows on the regular season.

There are a wide range of possible outcomes with no team having a bigger difference between the best-and-worst case scenarios than Seattle. If the Seahawks beat St. Louis on Sunday, they will clinch the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC. If they lose, they could drop all the way to the No. 5 seed and be forced to go on the road next week.

Several teams remain in contention for a first round bye. Denver has one spot locked up in the AFC while the Patriots, Colts and Bengals contend for the other. The two who don't get it will host games next weekend. In the NFC, Seattle, Carolina, New Orleans and San Francisco are still in the running for a bye.

Although the playoff picture is still extremely fluid and contains plenty of moving parts, here's a look at the potential schedule and bracket, beginning with the wild card round.

Wild Card Playoffs

AFC Game 1

Date: Jan 4
Kickoff: 4:30 or 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC

The AFC playoffs will kickoff with a matchup of either No. 3 vs. No. 6 or No. 4 vs. No. 5. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are likely headed for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds unless New England falters this week. If that's the case either the Bengals or Colts will host this game. If it's the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup, whichever team claims the final wild card spot in the AFC will head on the road. Miami, Baltimore, San Diego and Pittsburgh are still in the race. If it's the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup, this game will feature the Kansas City Chiefs going on the road.

NFC Game 1

Date: Jan 4
Kickoff: 4:30 or 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC

No team in the NFC has clinched its seed, so there are still 20 possible matchups for this game. The game will be played in one of four cities with Philadelphia and Dallas playing for the NFC East and Green Bay and Chicago playing for the NFC North. San Francisco and New Orleans are likely headed for wild cards spots, but Carolina, Seattle or Arizona could also be the road team.

AFC Game 2

Date: Jan 5
Kickoff: 1 or 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

The second AFC game of the opening weekend. This has been the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup the last two seasons. If things remain in place -- which isn't necessarily likely -- that would mean the Colts taking on the Chiefs.

NFC Game 1

Date: Jan 5
Kickoff: 1 or 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

We again know the four possible host cities for this game, but won't know the matchup for sure until the Eagles and Cowboys wrap on Sunday Night Football. Regardless of the outcomes on Sunday, there is a decent chance for the elements to be a factor with three of the four possible host teams playing their home games in cold-weather out door stadiums.

Divisional Playoffs

AFC Game 3

Date: Jan 11
Kickoff: 4:30 or 8 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

The NFL reseeds after the wild card round, so this matchup will either be the lowest remaining seed vs. the No. 1 seed or the second-lowest seed vs. the No. 2 seed. Denver is well on its way to wrapping up the No. 1 seed and New England controls its own destiny for the No. 2 seed. If they take care of business, one of the two will host this game.

NFC Game 3

Date: Jan 11
Kickoff: 4:30 or 8 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

If the Seahawks and Panthers both win on Sunday, or get some help with other teams losing, they will claim the top two spots, respectively. With New Orleans and San Francisco looking like strong wild card contenders, there is a chance both NFC divisional contests will be intra-division rematches. The Seahawks and 49ers are developing one of the best rivalries in the NFL and a potential Seattle vs. San Francisco rubber match in prime time would must-see TV. A lot will have to happen for that to become a reality.

AFC Game 4

Date: Jan 12
Kickoff: 1 or 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

Barring a loss by the Patriots on Sunday, this game will be played in either Denver or New England. The Patriots hosted the Sunday AFC divisional game last year and lost to Baltimore.

NFC Game 4

Date: Jan 12
Kickoff: 1 or 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

Whichever top seed doesn't play on Saturday will host this game. Nine different NFC teams could still wind up as a road team in the divisional round.

Conference Championships

AFC Game 5

Date: Jan 19
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

The AFC Championship. The game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed. That means the game will be played in Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis or Kansas City. For the Chiefs to host, they would have to win a pair of road games with the sixth seed also advancing.

NFC Game 4

Date: Jan 19
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

The NFC Championship. The NFC will likely go through Seattle, but the Seahawks lost at home last week, so it's not a given they will still be alive at this point. The Arizona Cardinals cannot host this game, but any of the other eight teams in contention for a spot can.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Date: Feb. 2
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

The only playoff location currently set. The Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The game will be televised by Fox with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman handling the broadcast. Bruno Mars will provide the halftime entertainment. A whopping 18 teams are still in contention to play in this game.

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This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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