NFL Playoff Scenarios: AFC and NFC Teams That Can Clinch in Week 16

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The possible playoff scenarios for the 2013 NFL season are the talk of the sport, and the focus heading into Week 16 has shifted to which AFC and NFC teams can clinch a postseason berth.

With Kansas City securing its spot in the playoffs with a dominant victory in Week 15 and several mediocre teams eliminated from contention—Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee and the New York Jets—the postseason picture is much clearer now.

After a wild week in the NFL, it’s time to break down the teams from the AFC and NFC that control their own destiny or need a little help to make the playoff Promised Land.


AFC Playoff Clinching Scenarios

AFC Playoff Predictions
Seed Team Remaining Opponents Projected Final Record
1 Denver Broncos at Houston, at Oakland 13-3
2New England Patriots at Baltimore, vs. Buffalo 11-5
3Baltimore Ravensvs. New England, at Cincinnati10-6
4 Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City, vs. Jacksonvile 10-6
5 Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis, at San Diego 12-4
6 Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota, vs. Baltimore 10-6

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The AFC is the more talented conference this year, but the increased competition has made it harder for each team to make the postseason. This is how the entire AFC shakes out.

The New England Patriots clinch a berth in the playoffs with a Baltimore loss in Week 16. The franchise can also seal the division title with a victory and a Miami loss, but there is even more on the line for New England. If the Patriots can win and the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts both lose, Tom Brady and Co. will secure the AFC East title and a first-round bye.

Cincinnati is also looking to clinch a playoff spot of its own. If the team beats Minnesota on Sunday and the Miami Dolphins lose, the Bengals make the playoffs. The franchise can also win the AFC North title with a win and a Baltimore Ravens loss Sunday.

Speaking of the Ravens, the team can secure its spot in the postseason with some help. Not only must Baltimore secure a win over New England Sunday, but it also needs Miami and San Diego to lose.

The Broncos have already secured a spot in the playoffs but have the potential to clinch some major advantages this weekend. If Denver beats the Houston Texans and Kansas City loses, the team could clinch the AFC West and first-round bye or clinch the AFC West and home-field advantage with a Chiefs loss and a Patriots loss.

That’s not convoluted, right?


NFC Playoff Clinching Scenarios

NFC Playoff Predictions
Seed Team Remaining Opponents Projected Final Record
1 Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona, vs. St. Louis 14-2
2 Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta 12-4
3 Chicago Bears at Philadelphia, vs. Green Bay 10-6
4 Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago, at Dallas 9-7
5 New Orleans Saints at Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay 11-5
6 San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta, at Arizona 11-5

Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) carries the ball during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

As wild as the AFC has been this year, the fierce competition in the NFC is just as intriguing.

While the Seahawks have proven to be the best team in the conference and secured a spot in the playoffs, Seattle needs a win or a San Francisco 49ers loss to clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage.

The 49ers are looking to ensure a playoff spot of their own and control their own destiny. If San Francisco wins or the Arizona Cardinals lose, the team will successfully make the postseason. The picture gets much more complicated if the 49ers lose to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

Carolina is looking to secure its own playoff spot by beating the New Orleans Saints straight up this weekend. The team could also make the postseason with San Francisco and Arizona losses or the 49ers, Cardinals and Bears all coming up short.

New Orleans won’t go down without a fight, though. The Saints can clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win but can also secure a playoff spot with 49ers and Cardinals losses or San Francisco, Arizona and Chicago all faltering.

That’s not all.

The Philadelphia Eagles have the ability to win the NFC East outright if the franchise is victorious on Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys fail again. The Bears also have a chance to win their division but need a victory over the Eagles Sunday night and losses from both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

As we’ve seen for 15 weeks, strange occurrences happen every Sunday.


*All stats via