NFL Playoff Picture Week 16: AFC, NFC Scenarios Ahead of Sunday's Games

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2019

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, passes under pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive end Trent Murphy (93) in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Two division champions were crowned during Saturday's NFL action.

First, the Houston Texans secured the AFC South title with a 23-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's the second straight year that Houston won its division, and the fourth time in five years. The Texans need a win in Week 17 to finish 11-5, the same record they had last season.

Next, the New England Patriots claimed their 11th straight AFC East title with a 24-17 win over the Bills. Buffalo kept the race close this season, but New England continued its dominance over the division.

With most of this week's NFL action still to come, here's a look at the current playoff picture heading into Sunday.



Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (12-2)

2. New England (12-3)

3. Kansas City (10-4)

4. Houston (10-5)


Wild Cards

5. Buffalo (10-5)

6. Pittsburgh (8-6)


In the Hunt

7. Tennessee (8-6)

8. Cleveland (6-8)

9. Oakland (6-8)


Clinching Scenarios

Five of the six AFC playoff spots have been clinched, with Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Cleveland and Oakland still alive in the race for the final wild-card spot. The berth can't be secured this week, but the Browns and Raiders could be officially eliminated. They're both longshots to make the playoffs.

The Ravens have the most on the line Sunday. They can secure the No. 1 seed with a win over the Browns. If they tie, they would still clinch a first-round bye. And if they lose, they could still secure a first-round bye if the Chiefs lose to or tie the Bears.

Baltimore has been on a roll since its 2-2 start, winning a franchise-record 10 consecutive games.

The Patriots would also clinch a first-round bye if the Chiefs lose or tie.

With all four divisions clinched and the Bills locked into a wild-card spot, there's not much left to be decided in the AFC. If the Ravens and Pats clinch the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds Sunday, there's a possibility some teams will rest starters in Week 17.



Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (12-3)

2. Green Bay (11-3)

3. New Orleans (11-3)

4. Dallas (7-7)


Wild Cards

5. Seattle (11-3)

6. Minnesota (10-4)


In the Hunt

7. Philadelphia (7-7)


Clinching Scenarios

There's the potential for two NFC divisions to be clinched this week.

First, the Cowboys will look to secure the NFC East title Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. These are the two teams still alive in the division race, so this matchup could easily decide which one finishes first.

Dallas would clinch with a win over Philadelphia. But if the Eagles win, they'll take over first place in the NFC East and be in control of the race heading into Week 17.

On Monday night, the Packers can secure the NFC North title with either a win or tie against the Vikings, who are second in the division. Minnesota already clinched a playoff spot when the Rams lost to the 49ers on Saturday night.

If the Vikings beat the Packers, then the two teams would enter Week 17 with the same record.

That could also happen in the NFC West. While San Francisco is in the NFC West lead, Seattle would take it back with a win over Arizona on Sunday. That would also make both teams 12-3 heading into Week 17, when the 49ers and Seahawks play in Seattle.