NFL Playoff Picture 2021: Updated AFC, NFC Standings After Week 15 SNF

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 19, 2021

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) walks off the field after a failed two-point convertion during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
AP Photo/Jose Juarez

Another week hasn't provided much in the way of clarity for the 2021 NFL playoff race.

Entering Sunday, only four teams (Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and New York Jets) had been eliminated from postseason contention altogether.

The New York Giants and Chicago Bears might have been sitting at 4-9 and assured of a losing record, but they could still cling to a slim mathematical chance of sneaking into the next stage of the current campaign.

With the addition of a 17th game, a typically dramatic end to the regular season is likely to be even more thrilling. Here's how things stand in the AFC and NFC with Sunday's early contests in the books.

AFC Standings

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
  2. New England Patriots (9-5)
  3. Tennessee Titans (9-5)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
  5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
  7. Buffalo Bills (8-6)
  8. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
  9. Cleveland Browns (7-6)
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)
  11. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
  12. Denver Broncos (7-7)
  13. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
  14. New York Jets (3-11)*
  15. Houston Texans (3-11)*
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)*

* denotes team that has been eliminated from playoff contention

NFC Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers (11-3); clinched NFC North
  2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)
  4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (8-6)
  7. New Orleans Saints (7-7)
  8. Washington Football Team (6-7)
  9. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
  12. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)
  13. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
  14. Chicago Bears (4-9)
  15. New York Giants (4-10)
  16. Detroit Lions (2-11-1)*

* denotes team that has been eliminated from playoff contention

No result from Sunday better symbolizes this season than the 10-win Arizona Cardinals losing 30-12 to the Detroit Lions. Detroit was up 17-0 at halftime thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Jared Goff, who seemed to relish sticking it a former NFC West rival.

Andrew Brandt @AndrewBrandt

Jared Goff provides a true gift to the Rams. <br>Only fair as Rams are carrying $24 million on their Cap for him this year.

After Sunday, Cardinals fans might be feeling a sense of deja vu.

Arizona started 5-2 in 2020 and headed into its bye with an overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks that seemed to cement the team's status as a contender. Kliff Kingsbury's squad proceeded to go 3-6 down the stretch to finish at .500.

Since winning their first seven games to open 2021, the Cardinals have gone 3-4.

Kyle Odegard @Kyle_Odegard

Cardinals faded badly at the end of last season and are threatening to do so again.

Broadly speaking, their loss is indicative of how no one team is running away from the pack.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+450; bet $100 to win $450) are co-Super Bowl favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, followed closely by the Green Bay Packers (+550). The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots are next on the list at +1000.

That Bucs bet isn't feeling quite so good after Sunday's 9-0 shutout loss to the Saints.

The Tennessee Titans probably saw their odds slip following a 19-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The outcome leaves Tennessee a full game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed, and the New England Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker after beating the Titans in Week 12.

D'Onta Foreman ran for 108 yards on 22 carries in the place of an injured Derrick Henry, and the Titans racked up 201 yards on the ground as a team. But the loss reaffirmed how Tennessee will be in trouble if it's up to Ryan Tannehill to lead the way in the playoffs.

Dan Hanzus @DanHanzus

No Henry. No Julio. No Brown. Ryan Tannehill still feels hung out to dry right now. Let's see if he finds a way ...

Tannehill finished 23-of-32 for 153 yards and one interception and was sacked four times.

Even if Henry recovers from his foot surgery in time for the playoffs, Tennessee may have already lost valuable ground to the AFC's top teams, leaving it with a tough road to Super Bowl LVI.

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