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NFL Playoff Picture 2021-22 Week 16: Standings, Scenarios After 49ers vs. Titans

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 24, 2021

AP Photo/Terrance Williams

There was no shortage of playoff stakes in Thursday's game between the NFC's San Francisco 49ers and AFC's Tennessee Titans.

After all, both teams are in the middle of crowded postseason pictures in their respective conferences, and Tennessee took an important step toward accomplishing its goals with a 20-17 victory.

Here is a look at how the first Week 16 result shook up the standings:


AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-4

2. Tennessee Titans, 10-5

3. New England Patriots, 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. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-6-1

10. Las Vegas Raiders, 7-7

11. Miami Dolphins, 7-7

12. Cleveland Browns, 7-7

13. Denver Broncos, 7-7

14. New York Jets, 3-11

15. Houston Texans, 3-11

16. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-12


NFC

1. Green Bay Packers, 11-3

2. Dallas Cowboys, 10-4

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 10-4

4. Arizona Cardinals, 10-4

5. Los Angeles Rams, 10-4

6. San Francisco 49ers, 8-7

7. Minnesota Vikings, 7-7

8. Philadelphia Eagles, 7-7

9. New Orleans Saints, 7-7

10. Washington Football Team, 6-8

11. Atlanta Falcons, 6-8

12. Carolina Panthers, 5-9

13. Seattle Seahawks, 5-9

14. New York Giants, 4-10

15. Chicago Bears, 4-10

16. Detroit Lions, 2-11-1


Tom Pelissero of NFL Network shared the different playoff scenarios heading into the Week 16 slate:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Seven NFL teams can clinch playoff spots in Week 16. <a href="https://t.co/FQdgi5BENl">pic.twitter.com/FQdgi5BENl</a>

Tennessee's win meant the Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff berth, while the 49ers were eliminated from the NFC West race.

The implementation of the 17-game season means there is still plenty of hope for the majority of teams coming into Week 16, which isn't always the case. In fact, only the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions had been eliminated from playoff contention going into Thursday's game.

Perhaps the most intriguing race is the battle for the NFC's No. 1 seed and only first-round bye.

The Green Bay Packers are in the driver's seat with a one-game cushion, but the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams are all 10-4 and well within striking distance.

Aaron Rodgers and Co. have the tiebreaker over the Cardinals and Rams thanks to head-to-head wins.

All five of the teams in the chase for the No. 1 seed have the talent to lift the Lombardi Trophy, which makes landing that first-round bye all the more important. Not only will it give the top seed a week of rest while not having to worry about elimination in the Wild Card Round, but it will also help set up more favorable matchups depending on how the first round unfolds.

If the current standings hold, the Cardinals might have to face a loaded Rams team, the top-seeded Packers and then Tom Brady's Buccaneers in three straight games just to get to the Super Bowl, so avoiding so many daunting games in a row will be quite the prize for the No. 1 seed.

That means the other contenders will surely be pulling for the Cleveland Browns to upset the Packers during their Christmas showdown on Saturday.

If they do, the NFC playoff picture will evolve yet again.           

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