NFL Playoff Picture Week 17: AFC, NFC Scenarios, Predictions for 2021 Postseason

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2021

NFL Playoff Picture Week 17: AFC, NFC Scenarios, Predictions for 2021 Postseason

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    There was plenty of action affecting the NFL playoff picture in Week 16, with lots of activity Sunday and a few more shake-ups to the seeding with the result of Monday Night Football’s clash between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints, a splashy 20-3 win by the Dolphins.

    Heading into Week 16, no NFC teams had clinched a playoff spot. By Sunday, the NFC playoff bracket featured more pen than pencil, with the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers joining the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in clinching berths, while the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from postseason contention. 

    The Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, New York Giants, New York Jets, Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers have also been eliminated from playoff contention.

    In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs punched their ticket to the playoffs with their 36-10 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they remain the only team in their conference to have done so, which means lots of playoff scenarios abound this week. 

    Let's break down the NFL playoff picture ahead of Week 17, looking at which teams in the hunt and on the bubble could clinch in this slate of games.

    The full postseason bracket and dynamic playoff picture can be viewed at All clinching scenarios via ESPN's Kevin Seifert.  

AFC Scenarios

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    AFC Playoff Picture


    1. Kansas City Chiefs, 11-4 (clinched division)


    In the Hunt

    2. Tennessee Titans, 10-5

    3. Cincinnati Bengals, 9-6

    4. Buffalo Bills, 9-6

    5. Indianapolis Colts, 9-6

    6. New England Patriots, 9-6

    7. Miami Dolphins, 8-7


    On the Bubble

    8. Los Angeles Chargers, 8-7

    9. Las Vegas Raiders, 8-7  

    10. Baltimore Ravens, 8-7

    11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-7-1

    12. Cleveland Browns, 7-8

    13. Denver Broncos, 7-8


    With only one AFC team in the Chiefs locking down a playoff spot heading into Week 17, there will be a flurry of activity within the conference this week. One team to keep an eye on is the Titans, who can clinch the contested AFC South title with a win against Miami or if the Colts lose to the Raiders.

    Speaking of the Colts, they have a must-win scenario for their last two games of the season if they have any hope of taking the division, but they can clinch a playoff berth by beating the Raiders this week. 

    Even if the Titans can't lock down the division, they can still clinch a playoff spot if two of the Chargers, Ravens and Patriots lose. 

    The AFC North could also be decided this week if the Bengals, who control their own destiny, defeat the red-hot Chiefs. But Kansas City has plenty of motivation; the Chiefs can lock down the No. 1 seed by defeating the Bengals and the Titans losing to the Dolphins. 

    No one can claim the AFC East in Week 17, but it's the Bills' to lose; if they win their final two games against the Falcons and Jets, the title is theirs. They can also clinch a playoff spot this week with a win against the Falcons and a Ravens loss, or Raiders and Chargers losses.

    The Patriots, meanwhile, can also clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 with a win over the Jaguars and a loss by either the Raiders or Dolphins.

NFC Scenarios

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    NFC Playoff Picture


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

    2. Dallas Cowboys, 11-4 (clinched division)

    3. Los Angeles Rams, 11-4 (clinched playoffs)

    4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11-4 (clinched division)

    5. Arizona Cardinals, 10-5 (clinched playoffs)


    In the Hunt

    6. San Francisco 49ers, 8-7 

    7. Philadelphia Eagles, 8-7


    On the Bubble

    8. Minnesota Vikings, 7-8

    9. Atlanta Falcons, 7-8   

    10. New Orleans Saints, 7-8

    11. Washington Football Team, 6-9


    The NFC's No. 1 seed could be claimed in Week 17 if the Packers win their matchup against the Vikings, but they'd also need the Cowboys to lose to the Cardinals. Home-field advantage and a first-round bye are also on the table for Green Bay, whose home record this season is an untarnished 7-0.

    The Cowboys, Rams and Buccaneers are all still in contention for the first seed, as well. 

    The NFC West is the last division in that conference with the crown still up for grabs, and Week 17's action will be crucial in determining who claims it. The Rams can secure the division this week if they win against the Ravens and if the division foe Cardinals lose to the Cowboys. 

    For Arizona to prevent that from happening, it will have to hope the Rams lose to Baltimore this week or lose their Week 18 game. 

    The 49ers can clinch one of the two remaining NFC playoff spots if they defeat the Texans at home Sunday and the Saints lose to the Panthers. But thanks to the Dolphins' Monday night win over the Saints, if the 49ers win their final two games, they control their destiny. 

    The Eagles, who are suddenly hot and riding a three-game win streak, can secure a playoff spot by defeating Washington, but they'll also need to count on the Vikings, 49ers and Saints losing. Regardless of what happens in these games, there will still be one NFC playoff spot up for grabs in Week 18. 

NFL Postseason Predictions

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    AFC Conference Championship Game

    Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills


    NFC Conference Championship Game

    Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


    Super Bowl 

    Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers


    Super Bowl winner: Packers