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NFL Playoff Picture: Week 15

49ers move back in front of NFC, Titans positioned to make late-season noise

Mark Menard
December 10, 2019 - 7:56 pm
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With three games left, races are tightening, pretenders are getting sent packing, and the true championship threats are starting to emerge.

Let’s break down the playoff picture:

 

NFC

NORTH

1) Green Bay (10-3) | 2) Minnesota (9-4) | 3) Chicago (7-6)

OUT: Detroit (3-9-1)

All three teams remaining in the NFC North race earned victories, so nothing changed in the standings, other than the Bears now needing help to stay alive. They sit 3 games behind Green Bay with three to play. Only 1 game however separates the Pack and the Vikings. Green Bay won the first meeting but the rematch is set for Week 16’s Monday night matchup.

 

WEST

1) San Francisco (11-2) | 2) Seattle (10-3)

OUT: Los Angeles (8-5) | Arizona (3-8-1)

Another change atop the West as the 49ers regained their foothold on top thanks to their win in New Orleans combined with Seattle’s loss to the Rams. The Seahawks now sit 1 game out of first.

The Rams meanwhile got eliminated from the divisional race even though they beat Seattle on Sunday night.

 

EAST

1) Dallas (6-7) | 2) Philadelphia (6-7)

OUT: Washington (3-10) | New York (2-11)

Despite Dallas’s best efforts, the NFC East race was cut in half. Even though the Cowboys lost, both Washington and New York finally, mercifully, got bounced out of contention. Philly’s Monday night win over the G-Men allowed them to pull into a tie with Dem Boys, and while Dallas holds the head-to-head tiebreaker for now, the rematch is on the docket for Week 16.

 

SOUTH

CHAMPION: New Orleans (10-3)

OUT: Tampa Bay (6-7) | Carolina (5-8) | Atlanta (4-9)

New Orleans won the NFC South in Week 13.

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) San Francisco (11-2) | 2) Green Bay (10-3) | 3) New Orleans (10-3) | 4) Dallas (6-7)

With their win in New Orleans over the Saints, the 49ers jumped back to the top of the NFC West and the NFC overall. They hold a 1-game lead over Green Bay and New Orleans.

The Packers have the edge for the 2-seed/first-round bye over the Saints thanks to conference record: 7-2 vs. 8-3.

Whoever wins the NFC East is locked in as the #4 seed.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

San Francisco can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win or tie against Atlanta

An LA Rams loss or tie at Dallas

A Green Bay loss against Chicago AND a Minnesota loss at the LA Chargers

Green Bay can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win against Chicago AND an LA Rams loss or tie at Dallas

A tie AND an LA Rams loss

 

WILD CARD

1) Seattle (10-3) | 2) Minnesota (9-4)

3) Los Angeles (8-5) | 4) Chicago (7-6)

Seattle returns to the wild-card race after slipping back into second in the NFC West and slide right back into the front of the pack with a 1 game lead over Minnesota.

The Vikings likewise hold a 1-game lead over the defending NFC Champion Rams for the bottom wild-card spot, leaving Los Angeles with dampening hopes of a chance at a conference title defense. The Bears remain alive but sit 2 games behind Minnesota with three gams left.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Seattle can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win at Carolina AND an LA Rams loss or tie at Dallas

A win AND a Minnesota loss at the LA Chargers

A win AND a Green Bay loss against Chicago AND a Minnesota tie

A tie AND an LA Rams loss

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Philadelphia (6-7)

The Eagles are officially eliminated from the wild-card race but not out of the playoff race overall since they’re still alive to win the NFC East.

 

ELIMINATED

Tampa Bay (6-7) | Carolina (5-8) | Atlanta (4-9) | Detroit (3-9-1)

Arizona (3-9-1) | Washington (3-10) | New York (2-11)

Tampa Bay, Carolina, Washington and the NY Giants all saw their postseason dreams officially shattered this week, joining the Falcons, Lions and Cardinals.

 

AFC

NORTH

1) Baltimore (11-2) | 2) Pittsburgh (8-5)

OUT: Cleveland (6-7) | Cincinnati (1-12)

The Ravens moved to the doorstep of a second straight division title. One more victory nabs it. The Steelers cling to slim title hopes, sitting 3 games back with three to play.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Baltimore can clinch the AFC North title with:

A win or tie against the NY Jets on Thursday night

A Pittsburgh loss or tie against Buffalo

 

WEST

CHAMPION: Kansas City (9-4)

OUT: Oakland (6-7) | Denver (5-8) | Los Angeles (5-8)

The second of the NFL’s eight division titles has been locked down as the Chiefs’ win over New England combined with Oakland’s loss to hand KC its fourth straight AFC West championship and fifth straight postseason berth.

Beneath the Chiefs, Denver gets the nod for third over Los Angeles after sweeping the Chargers 2-0 thi season.

 

EAST

1) New England (10-3) | 2) Buffalo (9-4)

OUT: New York (5-8) | Miami (3-10)

With New England falling to Kansas City, but Buffalo also losing to Baltimore, the Bills missed a golden opportunity to slide into a tie atop the AFC East, but they remain 1 game back and positioned well despite their Week 4 loss to the Pats with a rematch now just two weeks away.

 

SOUTH

1) Houston (8-5) | 2) Tennessee (8-5) | 3) Indianapolis (6-7)

OUT: Jacksonville (4-9)

Things got very interesting in the AFC South this weekend with Houston’s shocking blowout loss to Denver and Tennessee routing the Raiders. Suddenly, the Texans and Titans are tied atop the AFC South with two matchups scheduled between the two in the final three weeks. Round 1 is this Sunday. Get your popcorn.

The Colts also remain viable at 2 games back.

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) Baltimore (11-2) | 2) New England (10-3) | 3) Kansas City (9-4) | 4) Houston (8-5)

The Ravens now have a 1-game lead over New England for homefield advantage AND the head-to-head tiebreaker, making that 1-game lead more like 2 with three to play. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC may run through Baltimore. The Pats also now just have a 1-game edge over Kansas City for the other first-round bye.

Something to watch: New England has lost this season to all three of the AFC’s other division leaders, meaning any possible tiebreaker would go against the Pats.

Kansas City leads Houston by a game for the 3-seed.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Baltimore can clinch a first-round bye with:

A win against the Jets AND a New England loss at Cincinnati

A win AND a Kansas City loss or tie against Denver

A tie AND a Kansas City loss

Baltimore can clinch homefield advantage with:

A win AND a New England loss AND a Kansas City loss or tie

New England can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win or tie at Cincinnati

 

WILD CARD

1) Buffalo (9-4) | 2) Pittsburgh (8-5)

3) Tennessee (8-5)

Buffalo’s lead over the nearest wild-card competitors shrunk to just a game after their loss to the Ravens, but they’re still in good shape with a chance to clinch a spot this week as they face off with the Steelers while the Titans battle the Texans in a game for the AFC South lead that will leave the loser at 8-6..

The Steelers and Titans sit tied for the second and final AFC wild card berth. Pittsburgh has the slim edge due to conference record: 6-3 vs. 6-4.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Buffalo can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win at Pittsburgh

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Cleveland (6-7) | 2) Oakland (6-7) | 3) Indianapolis (6-7) | 4) Denver (5-8)

AFC record separates the three 6-7 teams: Cleveland – 6-4 | Oakland – 4-5 | Indianapolis – 5-6.

 

ELIMINATED

Los Angeles (5-8) | New York (5-8) | Jacksonville (4-9) | Miami (3-10) | Cincinnati (1-12)

The Bengals finally have company as the Chargers, Jets, Jags and Fins all joined them in mathematical elimination.

 

GAMES TO WATCH: WEEK 15

Tennessee and Houston meet up for the first time this season, and first of two times in the next three weeks, with the lead in the AFC South on the line.

Dallas hosts the LA Rams in a game where the loser might find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Pittsburgh battles Buffalo in a meeting of the AFC’s two top wild-card contenders.

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