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NFL Playoff Picture Week 17: Updated playoff race and scenarios

With just Week 17 remaining, how is the 2020 NFL playoff race shaping up, and what does the picture look like in the NFC and AFC standings?

NFL Playoff Picture Week 17: Updated playoff race and scenarios (AFC and NFC Standings)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 27: David Montgomery #32 of the Chicago Bears and Anthony Miller #17 celebrate during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 27, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

An incredible Week 16 has shaken up the NFL standings with some significant developments in the NFL playoff picture heading towards Week 17. With the 2020 NFL playoff race heating up, let’s take a look at the AFC and NFC playoff standings and playoff clinching scenarios. 

NFL playoff picture for Week 17

The current NFL playoff standings for both the AFC and NFC have a different shape in the new playoff format

After around 30 years of featuring 12 playoff teams, six for each conference, the NFL expanded their playoffs to a 14-team system for the 2020 season. Each conference will now feature three wild card teams instead of two for the first time since the 2002 expansion. The additional wild card team places a premium on the number one seed. Only that team receives a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs.

The remaining six teams in each conference will face off on wild card weekend, as the three remaining divisional winners hosting the three wild card teams (#2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, and #4 vs. #5). This change in the NFL structure has significantly altered the playoff scenarios and how we view both the playoff picture and standings in the NFC and AFC.

Current AFC playoff standings

1) Kansas City Chiefs, 14-1 – clinched the AFC West and the first-round bye
2) Buffalo Bills, 12-3 – clinched the AFC East
3) Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-3 – clinched the AFC North
4) Tennessee Titans, 10-5
5) Miami Dolphins, 10-5
6) Baltimore Ravens 10-5
7) Cleveland Browns, 10-5

Outside looking in: Indianapolis Colts (10-5)

After an exciting matchup, the Chiefs have clinched the first-round bye and have nothing to play for in Week 17. However, behind them, the situation changed everywhere.

On Saturday, the Dolphins won an incredible game with the final kick to ensure their playoff destiny remained in their own hands. Their victory also eliminated the Las Vegas Raiders from the 2020 NFL playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Steelers also mounted an incredible comeback to shake up the AFC playoff standings.

The Colts loss dropped them all the way outside of the AFC playoff standings, and they will now need help in Week 17. A Ravens victory has seen them catapult to the sixth seed, while the Browns’ surprise loss has seen them fall to the seventh seed.

Current NFC playoff standings

1) Green Bay Packers, 12-3 – clinched the NFC North
2) New Orleans Saints, 11-4 – clinched the NFC South
3) Seattle Seahawks, 11-4 – clinched the NFC West
4) Washington Football Team 6-9
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 10-5 – clinched a playoff berth
6) Los Angeles Rams, 9-6
7) Chicago Bears 8-7

Outside looking in: Arizona Cardinals (8-7), Dallas Cowboys (6-9), New York Giants (5-10)

The Saints eliminated the Minnesota Vikings from the 2020 NFL playoff race on Christmas Day. Their victory locked up the NFC South and kept them in contention for the first-round bye. On Saturday, their NFC South rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also clinched their playoff spot in the NFC standings.

Meanwhile, a loss for the Cardinals on Saturday, coupled with a victory for the Bears, has completely changed the shape of the NFC Wild Card race. The Bears are now the seventh seed, while the Cardinals are on the outside looking in. With the Seahawks clinching the NFC West on Sunday, the Rams need to win in Week 17 to ensure themselves a playoff berth.

A loss for the Washington Football Team keeps the NFC East alive for another week. The Cowboys Week 16 victory eliminates the Eagles from the playoff picture. However, both the Giants and Cowboys can win the division in Week 17.

NFL playoff scenarios heat up in Week 17

AFC playoff and clinching scenarios

With four teams tied at 10-5, there’s a lot to play for in the AFC playoff standings. A tight race for the 2020 NFL playoffs was always destined to go down to the wire. The playoff picture is clear heading into Week 17 of the NFL season, with all four teams needing a win to have a chance to avoid elimination. Only the Colts do not have their playoff destiny in their own hands.

At the top of the conference, either the Steelers or Bills could end up as the second seed in the AFC. If the Bills win, they will be the second seed, even if the Steelers win. If the Steelers win, they will also need the Bills to lose or tie to secure the second seed. If both teams lose or tie, Buffalo will be the second seed.

Here are the official AFC clinching scenarios for Week 17.

Already Clinched

  • Buffalo Bills – AFC East Division Title
  • Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West Division Title and First-Round Bye
  • Pittsburgh Steelers – AFC North Division Title

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens (10-5) will play at Cincinnati (4-10-1) on Sunday at 1 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Baltimore clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. BAL win OR
  2. CLE loss OR
  3. IND loss OR
  4. BAL tie + MIA loss OR
  5. BAL tie + TEN loss OR
  6. BAL tie + CLE tie OR
  7. BAL tie + IND tie

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns (10-5) will play vs. Pittsburgh (12-3) on Sunday at 1 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Cleveland clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. CLE win OR
  2. IND loss OR
  3. TEN loss + MIA win or tie + BAL win or tie OR
  4. CLE tie + BAL loss OR
  5. CLE tie + MIA loss OR
  6. CLE tie + TEN loss OR
  7. CLE tie + IND tie OR
  8. CLE tie + TEN tie + BAL win + MIA win

Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts (10-5) will play vs. Jacksonville (1-14) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Indianapolis clinches the AFC South Division Title with:

  1. IND win + TEN loss or tie OR
  2. IND tie + TEN loss

Indianapolis clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. IND win + BAL loss or tie OR
  2. IND win + CLE loss or tie OR
  3. IND win + MIA loss or tie OR
  4. IND tie + BAL loss OR
  5. IND tie + CLE loss OR
  6. IND tie + MIA loss

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins (10-5) will play at Buffalo (11-3) on Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Miami clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. MIA win OR
  2. BAL loss OR
  3. CLE loss OR
  4. IND loss OR
  5. MIA tie + BAL tie OR
  6. MIA tie + CLE tie OR
  7. MIA tie + IND tie OR
  8. MIA tie + TEN loss

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans (10-5) will play at Houston (4-11) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Tennessee clinches the AFC South Division Title with:

  1. TEN win OR
  2. IND loss OR
  3. TEN tie + IND tie

Tennessee clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. BAL loss OR
  2. MIA loss OR
  3. TEN tie + CLE loss OR
  4. TEN tie + MIA tie OR
  5. TEN tie + BAL tie

NFC playoff and clinching scenarios

In the 2020 NFL playoff race for the NFC, the playoff picture heading into Week 17 of the NFL season is still somewhat murky. There is a lot at stake here, especially with the NFC East. In that division, the Cowboys, Giants, or Washington can win the NFC East Division Title.

Meanwhile, at the top of the standings, the Packers, Seahawks, and Saints will all have an opportunity to clinch the first-round bye. Here are the official NFC clinching scenarios for Week 17, courtesy of the National Football League.

Already Clinched

  • Green Bay Packers – NFC North Division Title
  • New Orleans Saints – NFC South Division Title
  • Seattle Seahawks – NFC West Division Title
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Playoff Berth

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals (8-7) will play at the Los Angeles Rams (9-6) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Arizona clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. ARI win OR
  2. ARI tie + CHI loss

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears (8-7) will play vs. Green Bay (12-3) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX. Chicago clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. CHI win OR
  2. ARI loss OR
  3. CHI tie + ARI tie

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys (6-9) will play at the New York Giants (5-10) on Sunday at 1 PM ET.  The game will be broadcast on FOX. Dallas clinches the NFC East Division Title with:

  1. DAL win + WAS loss or tie OR
  2. DAL tie + WAS loss

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers (12-3) will play at Chicago (8-7) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Green Bay clinches the first-round bye with:

  1. GB win or tie OR
  2. SEA loss or tie

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams (9-6) will play vs. Arizona (8-7) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Los Angeles clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. LAR win or tie OR
  2. CHI loss or tie

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints (11-4) will play at Carolina (5-10) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX. New Orleans clinches the first-round bye with:

  1. NO win + GB loss + SEA win

New York Giants

The New York Giants (5-10) will play vs. Dallas (6-9) on Sunday at 1:00 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX. New York clinches the NFC East Division Title with:

  1. NYG win + WAS loss

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks (11-4) will play at San Francisco (6-9) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX. Seattle clinches the first-round bye with:

  1. SEA win + GB loss + NO loss or tie

Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team (6-9) will play at Philadelphia (4-10-1) on Sunday at 8:20 PM ET. The game will be broadcast on NBC. Washington clinches the NFC East Division Title with:

  1. WAS win OR
  2. WAS tie + DAL loss or tie
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