NFL Playoff Picture 2021: Official AFC, NFC Clinching Scenarios Released for Week 15

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 07: NFL Footballs sit near the endzone during warmups before the football game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints at Caesar's Superdome on November 7, 2021 in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Playoff spots will be on the line for a number of NFL teams when they take the field in Week 15.

The NFL announced different clinching scenarios for the upcoming slate of games on Wednesday, and the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers can all clinch postseason berths depending on various outcomes:

NFL345 @NFL345

Week 15 <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PlayoffScenarios?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PlayoffScenarios</a> <a href="https://t.co/2HIkllUaDG">pic.twitter.com/2HIkllUaDG</a>

While playoff spots could be clinched this weekend, the race for the only first-round bye in the respective conferences will likely come down to the final week.

After all, the Patriots, Titans and Kansas City Chiefs are all tied atop the AFC at 9-4, while the Packers, Buccaneers and Cardinals are all 10-3 in the NFC.

As if a three-way battle for one spot in each conference wasn't thrilling enough, the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers are just one game back at 8-5 in the AFC. L.A. faces the Chiefs on Thursday and could throw itself right into the race for that No. 1 seed and an AFC West crown with a clutch head-to-head win.

The Chargers also finish with the 7-6 Denver Broncos and 6-7 Las Vegas Raiders after what should be a straightforward win over the Houston Texans on Dec. 26. 

In the NFC, the Cowboys and Rams are each one game behind the 10-3 trio, meaning there could be a five-team race in Weeks 17 and 18 for the one bye.

With such parity across the top of the conferences, that No. 1 seed and the resultant home-field advantage could be even more important than usual come playoff time.

For now, though, the focus will be on which teams can clinch postseason spots in Week 15, with the ever-important seeding questions to be determined in the near future.