NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: AFC, NFC 2021 Postseason Scenarios and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 14, 2021

NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: AFC, NFC 2021 Postseason Scenarios and Predictions

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    The path to the Super Bowl out of the NFC goes through Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    The Green Bay Packers took over the No. 1 spot in the NFC standings on Monday night after the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Los Angeles Rams. 

    Aaron Rodgers and Co. have the inside track to the top seed thanks to a head-to-head win over the Cardinals and a better conference record compared to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

    Green Bay can wrap up the No. 1 seed by winning out. That task got simpler after Lamar Jackson suffered an ankle injury on Sunday. The Packers visit the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15. 

    Baltimore could be in some trouble in the AFC playoff picture since it owns the worst record of the four divisional leaders and is just one game ahead of two teams in the AFC North. 

    The Green Bay-Baltimore clash is one of many Week 15 games that should bring more clarity to the playoff picture. 

AFC Playoff Picture

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Division Leaders

    1. New England (9-4)

    2. Tennessee (9-4)

    3. Kansas City (9-4)

    4. Baltimore (8-5) 

    Two of the four AFC division winners could be confirmed in the next few weeks. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs play the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night in a game that could put Patrick Mahomes and Co. two games up in the AFC West. 

    The New England Patriots can earn a large advantage in the AFC East in Week 16 if they defeat the Buffalo Bills for a second time. 

    The Tennessee Titans already have two wins over the Indianapolis Colts, so they are fighting for seeding inside the top four for the rest of the regular season.

    Baltimore sits in a precarious spot because it plays Green Bay in Week 15. A loss combined with wins by the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns would put all three teams level at 8-6. 

    The Ravens possess one of the toughest remaining schedules. They visit Cincinnati in Week 16, host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17 and welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 18. The good news for them is three of those four games take place in Baltimore. 


    Wild-Card Race

    5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)

    6. Indianapolis (7-6)

    7. Buffalo (7-6)

    8. Cleveland (7-6)

    9. Cincinnati (7-6)

    10. Denver (7-6)

    11. Pittsburgh (6-6-1)

    12. Las Vegas (6-7)

    13. Miami (6-7)

    The Chargers have some cushion in the AFC wild-card race even if they lose to the Chiefs. 

    Los Angeles holds head-to-head wins over Cincinnati and Cleveland, and it faces an easy finish against the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. 

    If the Chargers finish 3-1, they would land one of the three wild-card spots since that would leave a low margin of error for the five 7-6 teams. 

    Cleveland hosts Las Vegas on Saturday and Cincinnati visits Denver on Sunday in what could serve as elimination games in the wild-card race. 

    The wild-card order could shift in many ways in the coming weeks. Indianapolis enters Week 15 in sixth, but it has to play the Patriots and Cardinals in back-to-back games. 

    Buffalo is the likely front-runner for one of the wild-card spots since it hosts the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. Even if it loses to the Patriots, Buffalo should get in with a 3-1 finish. 

    The Miami Dolphins are the dark horse team to watch if they beat the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints in the next two weeks. 

    Miami faces Tennessee and New England to end the regular season, but both teams may have divisional titles wrapped up by then. That would play into Miami's favor as the AFC North and West teams in the wild-card race face each other. 

    The Dolphins may not get to that point if the Bengals finish with three wins. Cincinnati owns a better divisional record than Cleveland, and it has the fewest conference losses of any AFC wild-card contender. Conference record is the first tiebreaker after head-to-head record. 



    1. New England

    2. Tennessee

    3. Kansas City

    4. Baltimore

    5. Los Angeles Chargers

    6. Buffalo

    7. Cincinnati

NFC Playoff Picture

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Division Leaders

    1. Green Bay (10-3)

    2. Tampa Bay (10-3)

    3. Arizona (10-3)

    4. Dallas (9-4)

    The top four in the NFC could be easier to figure out because of the tiebreaker advantages already in place. 

    The Packers have a head-to-head win over the Cardinals, and they possess one fewer conference loss than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

    Arizona moved behind Tampa Bay after Monday night because of the strength of victory tiebreaker. The Cardinals could ensure themselves of at least the No. 3 seed if they rebound from Monday's loss and beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

    Tampa owns a head-to-head win over Dallas, but that will not matter unless the two sides are level on record. The Cowboys might not have a chance to catch the top three teams since it could rest up in Weeks 17 and 18 if it wraps up the NFC East title early. 

    If Green Bay beats Baltimore and Cleveland in the next two weeks, it should have a clear path to the No. 1 seed. The Packers host the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17 and visit the Detroit Lions in Week 18.


    Wild-Card Race

    5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

    6. San Francisco (7-6)

    7. Washington (6-7)

    8. Minnesota (6-7)

    9. Philadelphia (6-7)

    10. Atlanta (6-7)

    11. New Orleans (6-7)

    12. Carolina (5-8)

    13. Seattle (5-8)

    14. New York Giants (4-9)

    15. Chicago (4-9)

    The five 6-7 teams are likely fighting for one playoff berth. 

    The Los Angeles Rams will be in the postseason barring a complete collapse in the next four weeks. They have a two-game lead over their closest competition in the wild-card race. 

    The San Francisco 49ers should join the Rams in the postseason. They have at least two wins left on the schedule against Atlanta and Houston. All the Niners need to do is beat Tennessee in Week 16 or the Rams in Week 18 to gain even more separation. 

    The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team play twice in the next three weeks, As long as Philadelphia keeps winning, it will keep out Atlanta and New Orleans because of the head-to-head tiebreakers it has. 

    Minnesota has two wins left on its schedule against Chicago. If the Vikings find a way to beat the Rams in Week 16 or Packers in Week 16, they should get into the postseason. 

    If not, one of the two six-win teams out of the NFC East could get in. The Eagles play the Giants and Cowboys as well, so they could go 3-1. Washington has the same schedule, so if it beats Philadelphia twice, it could challenge for the final wild-card spot going into Week 18. 



    1. Green Bay 

    2. Tampa Bay 

    3. Arizona

    4. Dallas

    5. Los Angeles Rams

    6. San Francisco

    7. Minnesota