NFL Playoff Picture Week 17: Bills Clinch AFC East While Panthers and Saints Stay Alive

What does the NFL playoff picture look like after Week 16? Here's how the postseason would shake out if the season ended today.

Freezing weather conditions were the story of Week 16 of the NFL schedule, but playoff seedings and division titles were also at stake. The NFL playoff picture is constantly in flux this late in the season, so let’s take a look at the updated standings and assess which teams enhanced or impaired their postseason chances this weekend.

For analysis of all the NFL action from Week 16, scroll down below the standings.

NFL Week 17 Playoff Picture

AFC Playoff Picture

1. y-Buffalo Bills (12-3)
2. y-Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)
3. x-Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8)
5. x-Baltimore Ravens (10-5)
6. x-Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)
7. Miami Dolphins (8-7)

In the Hunt

8. New England Patriots (7-8)
9. New York Jets (7-8)
10. Tennessee Titans (7-8)
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)
12. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)
13. e-Cleveland Browns (6-9)
14. e-Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1)
15. e-Denver Broncos (4-11)
16. e-Houston Texans (2-12-1)

NFC Playoff Picture

1. x-Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
2. y-Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
3. y-San Francisco 49ers (11-4)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)
5. x-Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
6. New York Giants (8-6-1)
7. Washington Commanders (7-7-1)

In the Hunt

8. Seattle Seahawks (7-8)
9. Detroit Lions (7-8)
10. Green Bay Packers (7-8)
11. Carolina Panthers (6-9)
12. New Orleans Saints (6-9)
13. e-Los Angeles Rams (5-10)
14. e-Atlanta Falcons (5-10)
15. e-Arizona Cardinals (4-11)
16. e-Chicago Bears (3-12)

x = Clinched playoff berth
y = Clinched division title
z = Clinched first-round bye
e = Eliminated from playoff contention

Bills Clinch AFC East

Cold temperatures limited Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense against the Bears, but they still came away with their sixth straight victory while officially clinching the AFC East. Now 12-3, Buffalo will stick as the AFC’s top seed for at least one more week.

MORE: Will the Bills Re-Sign Devin Singletary?

Week 17 will have massive seeding implications for the Bills. They’ll travel to face the Bengals, who may be the hottest team in the NFL. It will be a must-win game for the Bills, as a loss to Cincinnati would move Buffalo down to either the second or third seed in the conference standings.

Chiefs Keep Rolling While Seahawks Drop Third Straight

The Chiefs will surely be watching next week’s Bills-Bengals game with close attention, as a Cincinnati win would allow Kansas City to ascend back into the No. 1 seed. Because Buffalo holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, all the Chiefs can do in order to earn a first-round bye is hope the Bills drop at least one of their final two games.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have floundered as of late, losing five of six after beginning the season 6-3. Back below .500, Seattle still has a chance at the playoffs, and their odds were helped by Detroit’s loss today. But they desperately need the Commanders to lose to the 49ers later on Saturday to remain in contention.

Bengals Take Down Patriots to Keep Pace in AFC

Have we mentioned how crucial next week’s Bills-Bengals game will be? Cincinnati dominated New England in the first half of Saturday’s game, and while they tried to give the game away in the second half, they managed to escape with a win.

However, they haven’t officially clinched the AFC North, so Cincinnati could conceivably land the first, second, or third seed or enter the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

While the Patriots haven’t yet been eliminated, it’s hard to imagine them rebounding to make the postseason. At 7-8, New England could be two games back of the Chargers and Dolphins by the end of Week 16. Even winning out to close the year wouldn’t guarantee the Patriots a spot in the playoffs.

Titans Lose to Texans, Give Up AFC South Lead

The Titans lost their fifth straight game and, in the process, have relinquished first place in the AFC South to the upstart Jaguars. Both Tennessee and Jacksonville have 7-8 records, but the Jaguars hold the tiebreaker thanks to a 36-22 win over the Titans in Week 14.

Tennessee will face Dallas in Week 17, while Jacksonville will take on Houston. However, those games will essentially be meaningless. No matter what happens next week, the AFC South will come down to Week 18’s Titans-Jaguars rematch.

Ravens Clinch Playoff Berth, Eliminate Falcons

The Ravens’ clinched at least a Wild Card spot with their win in Week 16, and their fortunes will be improved if Lamar Jackson can return next week. They’re still a game behind the Bengals in the AFC North, but they do hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. There’s a chance the division could come down to Baltimore’s Week 17 game in Cincinnati.

On the other side of the ball, the Falcons have been officially eliminated from the playoffs thanks to their loss and the Panthers’ and Saints’ victories. Not much should change for Atlanta, as they’ll use the final two games of the season to evaluate rookie quarterback, Desmond Ridder.

Vikings Move to 12 Wins With Last-Second Victory

It took a Greg Joseph 61-yard field goal as time expired, but the Vikings grabbed their 12th win of the season by beating the Giants on Saturday. Minnesota still has a slim chance at snagging the NFC’s top seed, but nothing much changed thanks to the victory. Minnesota is still overwhelmingly likely to be the second or third seed in the conference.

The Giants would have clinched a playoff berth with a win, but at 8-6-1, they’re still in a solid position for a postseason entry. The Seahawks and Lions — New York’s primary competition for a Wild Card spot — both lost on Sunday. A loss by the Commanders later today would further solidify Big Blue as a likely playoff participant.

Panthers and Saints Still Alive in NFC South

By securing wins in Week 16, both the Panthers and Saints have given themselves a chance to win the NFC South. With matching 6-9 records, Carolina and New Orleans are currently a half-game back of Tampa Bay, pending the Buccaneers’ Sunday night game against Arizona.

MORE: Will the Raiders Trade Derek Carr?

If the Panthers win out — which would include taking down Tampa Bay in Week 17 — they’ll miraculously win the division crown. If the Saints win out, they’ll still need some help to take the NFC South.

Eagles Fail to Clinch Against Cowboys

The Eagles could have clinched the NFC East and a first-round playoff bye with a win against the Cowboys, but Dallas withstood a Philadelphia comeback attempt on their final drive to earn a victory in a back-and-forth game.

Nothing changes in terms of seeding after Philadelphia’s loss — they’re still the No. 1 seed, and the Cowboys are still fifth. But the Eagles still need to win one of their final two games — or have Minnesota, San Francisco, and Dallas all lose one game — in order to clinch the bye.

49ers Win Eighth Straight to Move to 11-4

With eight victories in a row, the 49ers are the hottest team in the NFL. Their win over the Commanders doesn’t change anything in terms of seeding, but it does give San Francisco an outside shot at the No. 1 seed. However, they’d need both Philadephia and Minnesota to falter down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Washington is now 7-7-1, but they’re still in the seventh seed in the NFC. The Commanders got lucky in Week 16 because the Giants, Seahawks, and Lions — their primary competition for the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds — all lost. Still, they may need to win at least one of their final two games (vs. Browns, vs. Cowboys) to guarantee themselves a playoff berth.

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