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

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IDecember 27, 2020

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

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    With four games over the past two days, the NFL playoff picture has started to come more into focus.

    The New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday. And the Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention with that loss. Then, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured an NFC wild-card berth with a 47-7 victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday.

    Also on Saturday, the Miami Dolphins moved closer to clinching an AFC wild-card berth with a 26-25 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, who were eliminated from postseason contention with the loss.

    There's still a lot more NFL action to come in Week 16, and more division titles and playoff berths could be clinched. On Sunday, there are 11 games scheduled to take place, followed by a Monday night matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots.

    Heading into Sunday, here's a look at the NFL playoff picture as it currently stands, along with a breakdown of the clinching scenarios, per

Current NFL Playoff Picture

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press


    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 (10-5)


    In the Hunt

    8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)



    Division Leaders

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

    2. New Orleans Saints (11-4, clinched NFC South)

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

    4. Washington Football Team (6-8)


    Wild-Card Leaders

    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5, clinched playoff berth)

    6. Los Angeles Rams (9-5)

    7. Arizona Cardinals (8-7)


    In the Hunt

    8. Chicago Bears (7-7)

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

AFC Clinching Scenarios

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    By the end of Sunday, all four AFC divisions may have champions. The Chiefs (AFC West) and Bills (AFC East) have already secured their respective division crowns, and two more teams could soon be joining them from the conference.

    The Steelers can clinch the AFC North title with either a win over the Colts or a Browns loss to the Jets. Pittsburgh would also clinch if both of those games end in ties. If the Browns stay alive in the race, then their Week 17 matchup against the Steelers in Cleveland will be for the division title.

    The Titans could clinch the AFC South title, but there's only one scenario in which that will happen. Tennessee needs to beat Green Bay and have Indianapolis lose to Pittsburgh. Otherwise, the Titans and Colts will still both be alive in the division race heading into Week 17.

    Tennessee hasn't clinched a playoff berth yet, either, but that could change Sunday. The Titans will secure a postseason spot with a win or if the Ravens lose to the Giants. Tennessee would also clinch if both of those games end in ties.

    The Browns can clinch a playoff berth (and end their postseason drought that goes back to the 2002 season) with a win over the Jets and losses by either the Ravens or Colts (or a Baltimore tie). They'd also secure a spot with a tie and a Ravens loss.

    The Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Steelers and a Ravens loss/tie, or they'd clinch with a tie and a Ravens loss.

    The No. 1 seed is even more important than past years, as only one team from each conference will get a first-round bye. The Chiefs could secure that spot with a win/tie against the Falcons or if either the Steelers or Bills lose/tie this week.

    Looking ahead to Week 17, the Dolphins will be able to clinch an AFC wild-card berth with a win over the Bills in their regular-season finale.

NFC Clinching Scenarios

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    Larry Maurer/Associated Press

    Just like the AFC, every NFC division could have a champion after Sunday. The Packers (NFC North) and Saints (NFC South) have already clinched, and they could be joined by two more teams.

    Last week, the Seahawks clinched a playoff berth with a win over Washington. Now, they can secure the NFC West title with a win over the Rams. However, that's the only scenario in which Seattle can clinch, so if it doesn't win, Los Angeles will remain alive in the race heading into Week 17.

    Washington could clinch the NFC East title if it beats the Panthers and the Giants lose/tie against the Ravens. Washington would also clinch with a tie, a New York loss and a tie between Dallas and Philadelphia, both of which are still mathematically alive in the division race at this point.

    The Rams can clinch a wild-card berth with either a win/tie against the Seahawks or a Bears loss/tie against the Jaguars.

    Even if Los Angeles clinches, though, there's still going to be one playoff spot up for grabs in the NFC heading into Week 17. Arizona had an opportunity to clinch a postseason berth this week, but it lost 20-12 to San Francisco on Saturday. Now, if Chicago beats Jacksonville, it will pass Arizona and take over the No. 7 seed heading into the final week of the regular season.

    The only other thing that can be decided in the NFC this week is the No. 1 seed. The Packers can secure the top spot (and the first-round bye that comes with it) with a win over the Titans and a loss/tie by the Seahawks.

    For both conferences, the playoff picture could be mostly decided this week. However, depending on how the results go, there could also be much still to be decided when Week 17 arrives.


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