NFL Playoff Picture 2021: Week 17 Standings, AFC and NFC Wild-Card Hunt

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IDecember 28, 2020

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) tries to fend off a sack by Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald (99) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

As we head into Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season, there is still much to be decided regarding the playoffs. Two division titles are still up for grabs, and only seven of the 14 spots in the postseason have been secured.

The AFC picture is crowded, as there are five teams with 10-5 records. One of those will end up as the AFC South champions (the Tennessee Titans or Indianapolis Colts), while three of them will be the AFC wild cards.

In the NFC, there are still three teams that could end up as the NFC East champion. And there are three others battling for the final two wild-card spots.

By Sunday night, the playoff bracket will be set.

Here's a look at the NFL playoff picture with one Week 16 game (Monday night's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots) still to play.


AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-1, clinched AFC West and No. 1 seed)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3, clinched AFC North)

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

4. Tennessee Titans (10-5)


Wild-Card Leaders

5. Miami Dolphins (10-5)

6. Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

7. Cleveland Browns (10-5)


In the Hunt

8. Indianapolis Colts (10-5)


Either the Titans or Colts will be the AFC South champions, and just like in Week 16, Tennessee will control its own destiny in Week 17. If the Titans beat the Houston Texans, they will win the division. Tennessee will also win the division if Indianapolis loses to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Colts can win the AFC South if they win and the Titans lose. If that happens, Tennessee could still make the playoffs as a wild card if either the Baltimore Ravens (at the Cincinnati Bengals) or the Miami Dolphins (at Buffalo) lose.

The Dolphins can clinch a wild-card berth with a win or if one of the Ravens, Browns (vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers) or the Colts lose. It would take all of those things not happening for Miami to miss out on the playoffs.

The Ravens can clinch a wild-card berth with a win or a loss by either the Browns or Colts. Baltimore moved up to the No. 6 seed in Week 16 after it beat the New York Giants and Cleveland lost to the New York Jets.

The Browns can clinch a wild-card berth (and end a playoff drought that dates back to the 2002 season) with a win or a loss by the Colts. They would also get into the playoffs if they and the Titans both lose and the Dolphins, Ravens and Colts all win.

It's crowded, but either the Titans or Colts will be in the playoffs as the AFC South champion, and only one of these five 10-5 teams will end up missing out on the postseason.

While the Steelers are the No. 2 seed, the Bills would retake into that spot with a win over the Patriots on Monday night. With a victory, Buffalo would also ensure that it couldn't fall lower than the No. 3 seed.

No matter what, though, the Steelers and Bills will both be hosting games in the AFC Wild Card Round, as the Kansas City Chiefs have clinched the No. 1 seed, and only one team from each conference will get a first-round bye this season.


NFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3, clinched NFC North)

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

3. Seattle Seahawks (11-4, clinched NFC West)

4. Washington Football Team (6-9)


Wild-Card Leaders

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

6. Los Angeles Rams (9-6)

7. Chicago Bears (8-7)


In the Hunt

8. Arizona Cardinals (8-7)

The Dallas Cowboys (6-9) and New York Giants (5-10) are alive in the NFC East race.


Despite losing its past two games, the Washington Football Team remain in control in the NFC East race. As long as Washington beats the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, it will be the division champion. However, if it loses, either the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants will take the crown depending on the winner of the matchup between those teams earlier in the day.

Washington owns the tiebreaker over Dallas, which is why the Cowboys need help in order to win the division. The Giants will only win the NFC East if all three teams finish at 6-10.

As for the battle for the No. 1 seed, the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks are all still alive. Green Bay is in control, as it will secure the top seed and the first-round bye that comes with it with a win over the Chicago Bears. The Packers would also clinch it with a Seahawks loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Saints will be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks also win and the Packers lose. Meanwhile, Seattle will secure the top spot if it wins and New Orleans and Green Bay both lose.

The Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals are the three teams battling for the final two NFC wild-card spots. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team guaranteed to be a wild-card team in the conference.

Los Angeles can clinch with a win over Arizona or a Chicago loss to Green Bay. Chicago can clinch with a win or an Arizona loss. And Arizona can clinch with a win. The Cardinals are the only one of the three teams that has to win to get into the playoffs. But as long as they do that, they are guaranteed a spot.

The only scenario in which the Rams miss the playoffs is if they lose to the Cardinals and the Bears beat the Packers. If Los Angeles loses, it will still reach the postseason if Chicago also loses.