NFL Playoff Picture Week 16: Reviewing Latest Bracket Scenarios for AFC, NFC

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IDecember 25, 2020

NFL Playoff Picture Week 16: Reviewing Latest Bracket Scenarios for AFC, NFC

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Another division could be clinched Christmas Day, as a rare Friday game is set to take place between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, who will be looking to capture the NFC South title with a win.

    The Saints would be the fourth team to clinch their division, joining the Green Bay Packers (NFC North), Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West) and Buffalo Bills (AFC East).

    It's an important game for the Vikings too. Although their postseason chances are low, they could still get in as an NFC wild card if they finish in a three-way tie with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears for the No. 7 seed.

    More pivotal games will be taking place throughout Week 16, as there are still eight postseason berths available.

    Here's a look at the playoff picture, along with clinching scenarios for Week 16, courtesy of

NFL Playoff Picture

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    AFC Standings

    Division Leaders

    1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1, clinched AFC West)

    2. Buffalo Bills (11-3, clinched AFC East)

    3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3, clinched playoff berth)

    4. Tennessee Titans (10-4)


    Wild-Card Leaders

    5. Cleveland Browns (10-4)

    6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)

    7. Miami Dolphins (9-5)


    In the Hunt

    8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

    9. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)


    NFC Standings

    Division Leaders

    1. Green Bay Packers (11-3, clinched NFC North)

    2. New Orleans Saints (10-4, clinched playoff berth)

    3. Seattle Seahawks (10-4, clinched playoff berth)

    4. Washington Football Team (6-8)


    Wild-Card Leaders

    5. Los Angeles Rams (9-5)

    6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5)

    7. Arizona Cardinals (8-6)


    In the Hunt

    8. Chicago Bears (7-7)

    9. Minnesota Vikings (6-8)

    The Dallas Cowboys (5-9), New York Giants (5-9) and Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) remain alive in the NFC East race.

AFC Clinching Scenarios

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Two AFC divisions have already been clinched, and it's possible the other two could be secured in Week 16.

    Despite their three-game losing streak, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a one-game lead in the AFC North. They can clinch the division crown with a win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Pittsburgh would also become the division champions if the Cleveland Browns lose to the New Jets Jets on Sunday or if both it and Cleveland have ties.

    However, if the Steelers lose and the Browns win, the teams would meet in Cleveland in Week 17 with the AFC North crown on the line.

    Even if that doesn't happen, the Browns can at least clinch a playoff berth in Week 16. If they win, they would secure a postseason spot if one of the following also happens: a Baltimore Ravens loss/tie to the New York Giants, a Miami Dolphins loss/tie to the Las Vegas Raiders or a Colts loss to the Steelers. Cleveland would also clinch with a tie and a Baltimore or Miami loss.

    The other division that could be clinched is the AFC South. The only way that can happen, though is if the Tennessee Titans beat the Green Bay Packers and the Colts lose to the Steelers. However, both Tennessee and Indianapolis could at least secure postseason berths.

    The Titans can clinch a playoff berth with a win or if either the Ravens or the Dolphins lose. They would also get in if they and the Ravens both tie.

    The Colts can clinch a spot in the postseason with a win and a loss/tie by either the Ravens or the Dolphins. They would also get in with a tie and losses by either Baltimore or Miami.

    While the Chiefs have already secured the AFC West, they could clinch the No. 1 seed, which is more important this season as the only berth to get a first-round bye in each conference. They can clinch with a win/tie against the Atlanta Falcons or a loss/tie by either the Steelers or Bills.

    If only a few of these clinching scenarios happen in Week 16, then the final gameweek of the season will be huge in deciding the seeding and potentially a pair of division crowns.

NFC Clinching Scenarios

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    There are three divisions that could be clinched in the NFC in Week 16, and it's possible the seven-team field for the conference will be set, even if seeding isn't decided.

    The Saints will clinch the NFC South with either a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to the Detroit Lions on Saturday. If both New Orleans and Tampa Bay tie, then the Saints would also clinch the division crown in that scenario.

    In Week 15, the Seahawks clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Washington Football Team, and it can clinch the NFC West on Sunday, when they take on the Los Angeles Rams. If L.A. wins, it would clinch a playoff berth, but the division crown would still be up for grabs in Week 17.

    Even if the Rams don't win, they can clinch a postseason berth if the Chicago Bears lose/tie against the Jacksonville Jaguars or if the Arizona Cardinals win/tie against the San Francisco 49ers.

    The NFC East could also be decided. Washington will become the division champions if it beats the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants lose/tie against the Ravens on Sunday. Washington would also clinch with a tie, a Giants loss and a tie between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, who both are also still alive in the NFC East race.

    The Rams aren't the only team in a wild-card spot that could clinch a postseason berth in Week 16. Both the Buccaneers and Cardinals could be securing their spots in the playoffs.

    Tampa Bay can clinch a playoff berth with either a win/tie against the Detroit Lions or a Bears loss/tie against the Jaguars. Arizona can secure its spot with a win and a Bears loss/tie or a tie and a Bears loss.

    While the Green Bay Packers have already clinched the NFC North, they have yet to secure the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. They would clinch with a win over the Tennessee Titans and a Seahawks loss/tie against the Rams. They would also clinch with a tie, a Saints loss/tie and a Seahawks loss/tie (as long as both New Orleans and Seattle don't both tie).

    Just like the AFC, there could be a lot that still needs to be decided when Week 17 arrives.