NFL Playoff Picture Week 16: AFC and NFC race and clinching scenarios

An overview of the NFL playoff picture heading into Week 16, with a look at the AFC and NFC fields and Week 15 clinching scenarios.

The NFL’s most compelling regular season in recent memory is going to go down to the wire. Here’s a look at the NFL playoff picture heading into Week 16 as both the AFC and NFC have a lot of intriguing scenarios.

NFL Playoff Picture: Did anyone clinch this week?

The Indianapolis Colts’ impressive Saturday night win over the New England Patriots did a number of things. Mainly, it greatly improved the Colts’ chances of making the playoffs. And it further muddled an already muddled playoff picture. The Titans and Patriots both had a chance to clinch a playoff spot in Week 15, but neither could without a New England victory. Instead, we’ll go to Week 16 with none of the AFC spots accounted for — which is incredibly rare this late in the season.

In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers won yet another NFC North title with their victory over the Rams. The Cardinals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Rams could have clinched with victories or if things went their way, but those situations did not materialize last week. All four of them will have clinching opportunities in Week 16.

Current AFC Playoff Picture

1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
2. New England Patriots (9-5)
3. Tennessee Titans (9-5)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
7. Buffalo Bills (8-6)

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)
10. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
11. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
12. Cleveland Browns (7-7)
13. Denver Broncos (7-7)

A season-defining win for Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is now up to 88% to make the playoffs after a punishing 27-17 victory over the Patriots Saturday night. If the Colts do indeed qualify for the postseason, it will almost certainly be as a Wild Card team.

The Titans are still two games up in the loss column on Indy in the AFC South and own the tiebreaker, so Tennessee would have to absolutely collapse not to win the division. New England’s loss did open the door for Buffalo to sneak back into the AFC East race, but the Bills would basically need to run the table to win the division.

Chiefs new front-runners for No. 1 seed

Kansas City’s overtime win over Los Angeles Thursday night effectively locked down an eighth playoff appearance in nine seasons. A win in any of the Chiefs’ final three games will get it done, as will a loss by any number of AFC teams. The Chiefs can also clinch the AFC West next week. The Chargers, meanwhile, are still 73% to get in, but Week 17’s game against the Broncos is now hugely important.

Steelers keep their hopes alive while the AFC South is now back up for grabs after another Titans’ loss

Mike Tomlin should get consideration for Coach of the Year. And he’d probably win it if he didn’t have a tie with the Lions on his résumé. But the job he’s done this year with a horribly flawed roster deserves all kinds of credit. The Titans, meanwhile, were once the No. 1 seed. But that seems like a lifetime ago after three straight losses.

The Dolphins were made to work, but they keep their playoff hopes alive

The second-hottest team in the National Football League is the Miami Dolphins. Let that sink in. After a 1-7 start, Miami has reeled off six straight wins, including a closer-than-expected affair with the Jets. Tua Tagovailoa threw a late pick-six but bounced back with a game-winning touchdown pass to DeVante Parker to keep Miami’s faint playoff hopes alive.

Current NFC Playoff Picture

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3) — Clinched NFC North
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)
4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)
5. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-6)
7. Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
9. New Orleans Saints (7-7)
10. Washington Football Team (6-8)
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
12. Seattle Seahawks (5-9)
13. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
14. New York Giants (4-10)

The Cowboys moved into the two seed with a simple victory over New York

Dak Prescott still wasn’t at his best, but the Cowboys did what was needed (and expected) against an overmatched Giants club which is so close to the offseason it can taste it. The Cowboys have now won three straight and are officially back on track after a November slump. The Cowboys will be playing in mid-January, and perhaps beyond.

The Cardinals slide continues with a disastrous loss against the Lions

Just an inexcusable result for the Cardinals, who likely cost themselves the No. 1 seed — and perhaps even the NFC West — by losing to the terrible Detroit Lions. Arizona has now lost in back-to-back weeks and for the fourth time in seven games after a 7-0 start. With games up next against the Colts and Cowboys, there’s a very real chance the Rams, who play the Seahawks Tuesday, catch the Cardinals in the division.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.