NFL Playoff Picture Week 16: AFC, NFC Standings, Bracket Scenarios and Odds

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 20, 2018

Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen (29) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

So far, the 2018 NFL playoff party is sparsely populated.

Seven of the 12 postseason spots remain unclaimed entering Week 16. Once this slate is finished, though, the playoff picture could be close to peak capacity.

Nine different squads can sew up something this weekend, be it a playoff berth, division title or even a No. 1 seed.

We'll run through all of the clinching scenarios below, while also examining the latest standings and Super Bowl odds.


Playoff Picture


Division Leaders

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

2. Houston Texans (10-4)

3. New England Patriots (9-5)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)


Wild-Card Race

5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

7. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

8. Tennessee Titans (8-6)

9. Miami Dolphins (7-7)

10. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press



Division Leaders

1. New Orleans Saints (12-2)

2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

3. Chicago Bears (10-4)

4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)


Wild-Card Race

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)

7. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

8. Washington Redskins (7-7)

9. Carolina Panthers (6-8)


Playoff-Clinching Scenarios


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs would lock up the AFC West division title and a first-round bye with a win and a Chargers loss. Couple that combination with a Texans loss or tie—or Kansas City clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker over Houston—and the Chiefs would have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.


Houston Texans

Win or tie, and the Texans clinch the AFC South division crown. Lose, and it's still possible with both a Colts loss or tie and Titans loss or tie. Win while the Patriots lose or tie (or tie while they lose), and Houston would secure a first-round bye.

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

If any of the following three things happen, the Texans get into the playoffs:

  • Ravens lose or tie
  • Steelers lose
  • Titans lose or tie, while Texans clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over Ravens


New England Patriots

A win or tie would give the Patriots their 10th straight AFC East division title. So, too, would a Dolphins loss or tie.


Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are AFC North division champs if they win while the Ravens lose or tie. Tying while the Ravens lose would also do the trick.

Pittsburgh can also clinch a playoff berth by winning while both Indianapolis and Tennessee lose.



New Orleans Saints

New Orleans has three different paths to the NFC's No. 1 seed. The first is the simplest: win over Pittsburgh. The other options would be tying while Los Angeles loses or ties, or having L.A. lose and Chicago lose or tie.

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The Saints have three other ways of clinching a first-round bye: tie, Bears loss or tie or Rams loss.


Los Angeles Rams

Win while the Bears lose or tie—or tie while the Bears lose—and the Rams will receive a first-round bye.


Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are one win away from clinching the NFC East. Tying while the Eagles and Redskins both lose or tie—or simply having those teams both lose—would also give the division to Dallas.


Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks need help to land their playoff spot this weekend, but there are five ways it can happen:

  • Seahawks win, Redskins lose or tie
  • Seahawks win or tie, Vikings lose
  • Seahawks win and clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over Redskins
  • Seahawks win, Vikings tie and Seahawks clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over Vikings
  • Seahawks tie, Redskins lose, Eagles lose or tie


Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings join the playoff party with a win, a Redskins loss and an Eagles loss or tie.


Super Bowl Odds

New Orleans Saints: +260 (Bet $100 to win $260)

Los Angeles Rams: +425

Kansas City Chiefs: +550

New England Patriots: +700

Los Angeles Chargers: +750

Chicago Bears: +800

Houston Texans: +1800

Pittsburgh Steelers: +1800

Baltimore Ravens +2700

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Dallas Cowboys +2700

Indianapolis Colts +3300

Seattle Seahawks +3800

Philadelphia Eagles +4000

Minnesota Vikings +4500

Tennessee Titans +6000

Cleveland Browns +15000

Carolina Panthers +20000

Washington Redskins +20000

Miami Dolphins +25000


The top of those odds look scary.

Even if the Saints are the best team in the NFL, you won't win much money for saying so. The Rams are basically in the same boat, which feels wild when the team is on a two-game losing streak and Jared Goff has one touchdown against six interceptions this month.

It's a similar story with the AFC. The Chiefs have lost some of their offensive mojo since jettisoning running back Kareem Hunt, and they always had a small margin for error with such a problematic defense. The Patriots, losers of two straight, could be headed to the Wild Card Round, a game they last played in 2009, when they were on the wrong end of a 33-14 rout against the Ravens.

That's not to suggest the aforementioned quartet lacks talent. They're favorites for a reason, but if you're looking for value wagers, scan a bit lower down the list.

The Chargers only have the fifth-best odds. Has any team played better over the past two months? The Bears are right behind. When they're at their peak, they dominate both sides of the ball.

If deep sleepers are your thing, how about the Colts at +3300?

They're heating up at the right time (7-1 in their last eight games), and they've done a good job of getting weapons around Andrew Luck.

Between Marlon Mack (855 scrimmage yards, eight touchdowns), T.Y. Hilton (67 receptions for 1,071 yards and six touchdowns) and Eric Ebron (12 touchdown catches), the Colts can dismantle defenses in a variety of ways.


Clinching scenarios used courtesy of Super Bowl odds obtained via OddsShark.


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