NFL Playoff Picture 2022: Week 17 Standings, AFC and NFC Wild-Card Hunt

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2021

NFL Playoff Picture 2022: Week 17 Standings, AFC and NFC Wild-Card Hunt

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    If you like chaotic postseason races, the 2021 NFL season will be right up your alley.

    Entering the final game of Week 16, both the AFC and NFC feature a jam-packed wild-card race. The Arizona Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot, and the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots are in decent positions. But behind them, 12 teams are fighting for three postseason berths.

    And if the Miami Dolphins beat the New Orleans Saints on Monday, there's a shake-up coming in the AFC.

    Right now, it seems every result reorganizes the standings. As Week 16 nears its end, we're resetting the playoff picture and checking out the latest news in the wild-card chase.

AFC Standings

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    AFC East

    Buffalo Bills: 9-6
    New England Patriots: 9-6
    Miami Dolphins: 7-7
    New York Jets: 4-11


    AFC North

    Cincinnati Bengals: 9-6
    Baltimore Ravens: 8-7
    Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-7-1
    Cleveland Browns: 7-8


    AFC South

    Tennessee Titans: 10-5
    Indianapolis Colts: 9-6
    Houston Texans: 4-11
    Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-13


    AFC West

    Kansas City Chiefs: 11-4
    Los Angeles Chargers: 8-7
    Las Vegas Raiders: 8-7
    Denver Broncos: 7-8

NFC Standings

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    NFC East

    Dallas Cowboys: 11-4
    Philadelphia Eagles: 8-7
    Washington: 6-9
    New York Giants: 4-11


    NFC North

    Green Bay Packers: 12-3
    Minnesota Vikings: 7-8
    Chicago Bears: 5-10
    Detroit Lions: 2-12-1


    NFC South

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-4
    New Orleans Saints: 7-7
    Atlanta Falcons: 7-8
    Carolina Panthers: 5-10


    NFC West

    Los Angeles Rams: 11-4
    Arizona Cardinals: 10-5
    San Francisco 49ers: 8-7
    Seattle Seahawks: 5-10

AFC Wild Card

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    After beginning the season 0-3, Indianapolis has surged to 9-6. That hot streakwhich includes a valuable win over New Englandhas positioned the Colts to make the postseason. New England is also in good shape. Despite losing to Indy last week and Buffalo on Sunday, the Patriots are 9-6.

    Both the Colts and Pats still have a matchup with the 2-13 Jaguars. And even if Indianapolis or New England finished 10-7, the early indication is tiebreakers very heavily favor them.

    Unless the Bengals or Bills collapse down the stretch, the AFC basically only has one playoff spot remaining.

    And it's a glorious mess.

    Each of the Ravens, Chargers and Raiders are 8-7. If the Dolphins win Monday, they'll improve to 8-7 and replace Baltimore in the tentative standings. The Steelers are a half-game behind at 7-7-1, and the Broncos and Browns are both 7-8. Miami would join the latter group with a loss to the Saints.

    Given the logjam, breaking down a list of scenarios is unnecessary right now. Key games, however, demand our full attention.

    Week 17 includes Las Vegas at Indianapolis, Denver against the Chargers and then Cleveland at Pittsburgh. Week 18 pits New England at Miami, Pittsburgh at Baltimore and then the Chargers at Las Vegas.

NFC Wild Card

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Although the list of NFC contenders is thinner, two wild-card spots are unclaimed. Either the Cardinals or Rams have clinched one; whichever team doesn't win the NFC West is still playoff-bound.

    Five other franchises remain in the hunt. Both the Eagles and 49ers are 8-7, the Vikings and Falcons are 7-8, and the Saints are right in the middle at 7-7.

    No matter the result on Monday against Miami, New Orleans won't replace San Francisco or Philly in the up-to-date standings. Peering ahead, though, the Saints will have a tiebreaker edge on the Niners even if both teams keep winning.

    The final two weeks of the campaign is loaded with intrigue. Each of Minnesota (Packers), Philly (Cowboys) and San Francisco (Rams) are slated to take on current division leaders. And in Week 18, the Saints take on the rival Falcons.

    It's possible the No. 7 seed is a battle of attrition and that one wild-card chaser ultimately backs into the spot despite a loss.

    But, hey, if it works, it works!