NFL Playoff Picture 2021: Official AFC, NFC Clinching Scenarios Released for Week 16

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 23, 2021

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 16: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs motions for a two point conversion after scoring a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on December 16, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Only one team (the Green Bay Packers) has punched its ticket to the 2021 NFL playoffs. As many as seven more could clinch a postseason berth once Week 16 concludes.

With the right sequence of results, the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could join Green Bay.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Playoff clinching scenarios for Week 16: <a href="https://t.co/h1jAM5iWOI">pic.twitter.com/h1jAM5iWOI</a>

All but Arizona and Los Angeles can secure a division title this week.

The Cowboys have the most straightforward path toward that goal. A victory or tie against the Washington Football Team will crown Dallas in the NFC East. The same outcome will arise with a Philadelphia Eagles loss or tie versus the New York Giants or if the Cowboys are assured of tying the Eagles' strength-of-victory percentage.

The stakes are similarly simply for the Buccaneers. They'll be NFC South champions if they beat or tie the Carolina Panthers or if the New Orleans Saints lose to or tie the Miami Dolphins.

On the day Tom Brady can be a division champion with his current team, his old team can restore its AFC East supremacy. The Patriots won the division for 11 straight years before the streak ended in 2020. A new streak can begin in 2021 if New England takes down the Buffalo Bills and the Dolphins lose to or tie against New Orleans.

No team may stand to gain more than the Titans. Clinching a playoff berth now would be a nice luxury for Tennessee and alleviate some pressure with Derrick Henry still out of action.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Dec. 12 that Henry is on track to return from foot surgery by the postseason "or potentially Week 18 if the Titans face a win-and-in situation." With the playoffs already in their pocket, they wouldn't have to rush the 2020 All-Pro back in Week 18, or they could give him a light workload if they prefer to have him shake off any rust from his lengthy layoff since Week 8.