NFL Standings 2021-22: Week 16 Records, Playoff Scenarios, Wild-Card Picture

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 21, 2021

NFL Standings 2021-22: Week 16 Records, Playoff Scenarios, Wild-Card Picture

0 of 3

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    If the Cleveland Browns had defeated the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday evening, they would have moved into first place in the AFC North. Instead, they lost, and they're now in last place in the division.

    That's how tight the AFC North race is heading into Week 16 of the NFL season. The Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) are in first place, but the Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) and Browns (7-7) could all still end up winning the division crown.

    There are tight playoff battles going on around the NFL, and only one postseason berth has been clinched. The Green Bay Packers, who are a league-best 11-3, have won the NFC North.

    But two Week 15 games still need to be played, as COVID-19 protocols pushed a pair of NFC matchups back to Tuesday night. The Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the Washington Football Team and the Los Angeles Rams are hosting the Seattle Seahawks, with both games having an impact on the playoff picture in the conference.

    Before those matchups take place, here's a look at the current NFL standings and the playoff landscape for both the AFC and NFC.

Current NFL Standings

1 of 3

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    AFC East

    New England Patriots (9-5)

    Buffalo Bills (8-6)

    Miami Dolphins (7-7)

    New York Jets (3-11)


    AFC North

    Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

    Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

    Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

    Cleveland Browns (7-7)


    AFC South

    Tennessee Titans (9-5)

    Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

    Houston Texans (3-11)

    Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)


    AFC West

    Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

    Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

    Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

    Denver Broncos (7-7)


    NFC East

    Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

    Washington Football Team (6-7)

    Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

    New York Giants (4-10)


    NFC North

    Green Bay Packers (11-3)

    Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

    Chicago Bears (4-10)

    Detroit Lions (2-11-1)


    NFC South

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

    New Orleans Saints (7-7)

    Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

    Carolina Panthers (5-9)


    NFC West

    Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

    Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

    San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

    Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

AFC Playoff Picture

2 of 3

    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

    No. 2 New England Patriots (9-5) vs. No. 7 Buffalo Bills (8-6)

    No. 3 Tennessee Titans (9-5) vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

    No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) vs. No. 5 Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

    In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1), Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), Miami Dolphins (7-7), Cleveland Browns (7-7), Denver Broncos (7-7)


    Every AFC team has played its Week 15 game, so this is what the playoff picture will look like for the conference heading into Week 16. And things remain tight, so there are a lot of possibilities for what could happen over the final three weeks of the regular season.

    It's possible the Chiefs could become the first AFC team to clinch a division title in Week 16. In order for that to happen, they'll need to beat the Steelers and the Chargers will have to lose to the Texans.

    Kansas City is also the clear front-runner for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. It has won seven consecutive games, and it's continuing to build momentum. However, its final three games are against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Denver, a trio of postseason contenders.

    The AFC East lead will be on the line Sunday, as the Patriots are hosting the Bills in a battle of the top two teams in the division. Buffalo lost to New England in Week 13, but if it can avenge that defeat, it will also take over first place in the AFC East.

    The Dolphins are in the AFC wild-card picture and still alive in the AFC East race as well. After getting off to a 1-7 start, Miami has won six consecutive games to get back into the postseason conversation.

    The AFC South race is a two-team battle between the Titans and Colts. And even though only one of them can win the division crown, there's a good chance both play their way into the playoffs. Tennessee swept the season series against Indianapolis, though, so it has the upper hand in the division race.

    Anything could happen in the wide-open AFC North race, with all four teams separated by only one game. The division lead will be on the line on Sunday, when the Bengals host the Ravens in a crucial matchup. Cincinnati won the first meeting between the two teams in Week 7.

    The Dolphins, Raiders, Broncos and Browns are all one game back of the three teams in wild-card spots, and the Steelers only trail by a half-game. So it's going to be exciting to see how this all shakes out over the next three weeks.

NFC Playoff Picture

3 of 3

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Green Bay Packers (11-3)

    No. 2 Dallas Cowboys (10-4) vs. No. 7 Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

    No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) vs. No. 6 San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

    No. 4 Arizona Cardinals (10-4) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

    In the hunt: New Orleans Saints (7-7), Washington Football Team (6-7), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), Atlanta Falcons (6-8), Seattle Seahawks (5-8), Carolina Panthers (5-9), New York Giants (4-10)


    Because there are still two NFC matchups to be played on Tuesday, the playoff picture for the conference could look a bit different heading into Week 16. All four teams that will be in action are in the postseason mix and are playing important games.

    Washington and Philadelphia are both 6-7 heading into Tuesday's matchup. If Washington wins, it will move back into the No. 7 spot, as it will own the three-way tiebreaker with Minnesota and New Orleans. But if the Eagles win, the Vikings will remain in their current position as the third wild-card team at the moment.

    The Rams could improve to 10-4 with a win over the Seahawks on Tuesday, but the Cardinals would still remain in first place in the NFC West. That could change over the following three weeks, though, and Los Angeles would put the pressure on Arizona by having an identical record.

    Seattle can stay in the wild-card race, but it's a crowded mix, and it would still need a good bit of help to get into the postseason, even if it can beat Los Angeles.

    Heading into Week 16, the Packers will be the front-runner to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They have a one-game edge over the Cowboys, Buccaneers and Cardinals, and their final three games are against teams .500 or worse (the Browns, Vikings and Lions).

    The Cowboys could already be NFC East champions by the start of Week 16. If Washington loses or ties against Philadelphia, Dallas will clinch the division crown on Tuesday night. Even if that doesn't happen, the Cowboys are getting close to doing so.

    The Buccaneers are also closing in on a division title. The only way they won't win the NFC South is if they lose all three of their remaining games and the Saints win all three of theirs. That's unlikely to happen, considering the Bucs will play the Panthers twice and will also face the Jets.

    The Rams and 49ers control their own destinies and can secure wild-card berths if they continue to play well. But it will be interesting how to see how the crowded battle for the No. 7 seed shakes out down the stretch.