NFL Playoff Picture 2021-22: Updated AFC, NFC Standings After Week 17

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2022

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 02: Geoff Swaim #87 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates his touchdown score with MyCole Pruitt #85 during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Nissan Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With two weeks left in the regular season, most of the drama resided in the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs were crowned AFC West champions for the sixth straight year, and they were the only team in the conference that had secured a playoff berth. Only one game separated the third-place Cincinnati Bengals from the Las Vegas Raiders in 10th.

In the NFC, the contenders have opened more distance on the rest of the pack. Five of the seven playoff bids have been handed out, and the NFC West is the only division still up for grabs.

AFC Standings

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

NFC Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers (13-3); clinched NFC North and No. 1 seed 
  2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4); clinched playoff spot 
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4); clinched NFC South 
  4. Dallas Cowboys (11-5); clinched NFC East 
  5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5); clinched playoff spot 
  6. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)  
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7); clinched playoff spot
  8. New Orleans Saints (8-8) 
  9. Minnesota Vikings (7-9); eliminated
  10. Atlanta Falcons (7-9); eliminated
  11. Washington Football Team (6-10); eliminated
  12. Chicago Bears (6-10); eliminated 
  13. Seattle Seahawks (6-10); eliminated 
  14. Carolina Panthers (5-11); eliminated
  15. New York Giants (4-12); eliminated 
  16. Detroit Lions (2-13-1); eliminated

Despite losing Derrick Henry in Week 8, the Tennessee Titans forged a path to a division title with Sunday's 34-3 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Tennessee Titans @Titans

Back-to-Back AFC South Champs! 🏆 <a href="https://t.co/ccj6YsZNBf">pic.twitter.com/ccj6YsZNBf</a>

D'Onta Foreman had his third 100-yard rushing game since taking over for Henry. He ran for 132 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. The 2017 third-round pick has made the most of his opportunity in Tennessee.

Buck Reising @BuckReising

Idk how many carries he'll get when Derrick Henry gets back, but D'Onta Foreman deserves a spot on this roster over someone like Darrynton Evans next year. He's got 129 yards rushing and a TD today

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported the Titans are hopeful of having Henry for the playoffs. If the two-time Pro Bowler is unable to go, then continuing to count on Foreman may not be a bad outcome.

Tennessee could get an extra week to let Henry recuperate since it catapulted itself ahead of the Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC.

Evan McPherson split the uprights as time expired to give the Cincinnati Bengals a 34-31 win over Kansas City. The result also meant the Bengals are champions of the AFC North for the first time since 2015.

Cincinnati Bengals @Bengals

RULE THE NORTH <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RuleTheJungle?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RuleTheJungle</a> <a href="https://t.co/8aMVNdKuTC">pic.twitter.com/8aMVNdKuTC</a>

Entering Week 17, Kansas City was on an eight-game winning streak. The two-time defending conference champion was rounding nicely into form at the most opportune time to re-establish itself as the favorite from the AFC.

However, watching Ja'Marr Chase shred KC's secondary to the tune of 11 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns will inevitably raise some alarm bells. No play better demonstrated the Chiefs' inability to stop Chase than allowing him to haul in a 30-yard pass on 3rd-and-27 in the fourth quarter.

z - Cincinnati Bengals @Bengals

266 yards on the DEY for Ja'Marr. That's a team record for receiving yards in a game. <br><br>Watch on CBS <a href="https://t.co/s7clFfPQEY">pic.twitter.com/s7clFfPQEY</a>

Geoff Schwartz @geoffschwartz

Don’t blame the officials. They didn’t call a zero pressure on 3rd and 27. They didn’t miss tackles, or drop passes. Etc … bad loss. Tougher road to the SB now.

This could be one of those games that's beneficial in the long-term because head coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff learn from their mistakes and adapt. It's better to see your secondary get torched now instead of the playoffs.