Mike DiNovo - USA TODAY Sports

NFL Playoff Picture: Week 16

Mark Menard
December 21, 2018 - 10:35 am
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AFC North

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) Pittsburgh ended their skid with a win against New England. 2) Baltimore beat Tampa Bay. 3) Cleveland beat Denver. 4) Cincinnati beat Oakland.

STANDINGS

#1 Pittsburgh (8-5-1), #2 Baltimore (8-6), #3 Cleveland (6-7-1), #4 Cincinnati (6-8)

Everyone in the AFC North took home wins this week, but the victories were too little, too late for the Browns and Bengals as both got bounced out of the division race by the Steelers' win. Now it's a two-horse race to the finish with the Ravens trailing Pittsburgh by just a half-game.

THIS WEEK:

Cleveland hosts Cincinnati in divisional action. Pittsburgh travels to New Orleans. Baltimore travels to the LA Chargers on Saturday night.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

PITTSBURGH can clinch the AFC North title with:

            Win AND a loss or tie by Baltimore

            Tie AND a loss by Baltimore

 

AFC West

WEEK 15 RESULTS

2) Los Angeles upset 1) Kansas City with a last-second two-point conversion. 3) Denver lost to Cleveland. 4) Oakland lost to Cincinnati.

STANDINGS

#1 Kansas City (11-3), #2 Los Angeles (11-3), #3 Denver (6-8), #4 Oakland (3-11)

Business has indeed picked up in the AFC West, where the Chargers turned the division upside-down with their gutsy comeback win in Kansas City to even up the season series. The Chiefs still hold the divisional record tiebreaker for now with a 4-1 AFC West mark compared to 3-2 for the Bolts, so the Chargers will still need a bit of help to take the crown, but Los Angeles did at least assure themselves a spot in the playoffs, locking down their first postseason berth since 2013.

THIS WEEK:

Oakland hosts Denver in divisional action on the season finale of Monday Night Football. (Oof! That's rough, ESPN.) Kansas City travels to Seattle on Sunday night. Los Angeles hosts Baltimore on Saturday night.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

KANSAS CITY can clinch the AFC West title and a first-round bye with:

            Win AND a loss by the LA Chargers

KANSAS CITY can clinch home-field advantage with:

            Win AND a loss by the LA Chargers AND a loss or tie by Houston

            Win AND a loss by the LA Chargers AND clinch strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Houston

 

AFC East

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) New England lost at Pittsburgh. 2) Miami lost at Minnesota. 3) Buffalo beat Detroit. 4) New York fell to Cleveland.

STANDINGS

#1 New England (9-5), #2 Miami (7-7), #3 Buffalo (5-9), #4) New York (4-10)

New England did something this week that they've rarely done in the Belichick era. They lost for a second week in a row. The loss kept the Pats from clinching the division, but the good news is that the Dolphins lost as well. Miami's failure to close the gap means they still trail by 2 games and have no remaining margin for error if they want to knock the Patriots from the top of the East mountain.

THIS WEEK:

New England hosts Buffalo in divisional action. Miami hosts Jacksonville. New York hosts Green Bay.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

NEW ENGLAND can clinch their 10th straight divisional title with:

            Win or tie

            Loss or tie by Miami

 

AFC South

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) Houston beat the NY Jets. 2) Indianapolis shut out Dallas. 3) Tennessee shut out the NY Giants. 4) Jacksonville lost to Washington.

STANDINGS

#1 Houston (10-4), #2 Indianapolis (8-6), #3 Tennessee (8-6), #4 Jacksonville (4-10)

Houston took care of the outcome they could control in service of taking home the crown in the AFC South, but the Colts and Titans continued to foil the Texans' hopes and dreams with victories of their own. However, like the Patriots in the East, Houston now holds a 2 game lead over both Indy and Tennessee, meaning one more win puts the South race to bed.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis holds the lead over Tennessee thanks to the tiebreaker they currently hold after their head-to-head win back in Week 11. They'll play a rematch though in the season finale.

THIS WEEK:

Houston travels to Philadelphia. Indianapolis hosts the NY Giants. Tennessee hosts Washington. Jacksonville travels to Miami.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

HOUSTON can clinch the AFC South title with:

            Win or tie

            Loss or ties by Indianapolis AND Tennessee

 

DIVISION LEADERS: AFC

STANDINGS

#1 Kansas City (11-3), #2 Houston (10-4), #3 New England (9-5), #4 Pittsburgh (8-5-1)

KC continues to hold the top spot in the AFC, but they're facing challengers from all sides, with the Chargers pulling even on the divisional front, the Patriots holding a crucial head-to-head tiebreaker if they can catch up, and now Houston closing the gap between themselves and the Chiefs.

As it stands, the Chiefs will still grab the #1 seed if they win their final two games, but the Texans now sit just 1 game back with the Pats trailing by 2 games. The Steelers are still in play for a first-round bye, but #1 overall is out of their reach.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

KANSAS CITY can clinch home-field advantage with:

            Win AND a loss by the LA Chargers AND a loss or tie by Houston

            Win AND a loss by the LA Chargers AND clinches the strength of victory over Houston

HOUSTON can clinch a first-round bye with:

            Win AND a loss or tie by New England

            Tie AND a loss by New England

HOUSTON can clinch a playoff berth with:

            Loss or tie by Baltimore

            Loss by Pittsburgh

            Loss or tie by Tennessee and Houston clinches strength of victory over Baltimore

PITTSBURGH can clinch a playoff berth with:

            Win AND losses by Indianapolis AND Tennessee

 

WILD CARD RACE: AFC

STANDINGS

#1 Los Angeles (11-3), #2 Baltimore (8-6), #3 Indianapolis (8-6), #4 Tennessee (8-6), #5 Miami (7-7)

We now know for certain that one of the AFC's two wild-card spots will go to a team from the West, with both the Chiefs and Chargers having now clinched playoff spots. We just don't know which one will be forced to travel the first weekend of the postseason. Right now, it's still the Chargers who sit atop the wild-card pack as the overall #5 seed in the AFC. With a 3-game lead over all other challengers, they can't be overtaken. So whoever falls short in the West, they'll enter the playoffs in the #5 position.

That leaves the rest of the field fighting over one remaining spot, and four teams sit within one game of it. The Ravens are still in control of it at the moment, winning the tiebreaker over Indy thanks to a 6-4 conference record compared to the Colts' 6-5. (Tennessee does not factor in because they lag behind Indianapolis due to divisional tiebreakers, meaning the Titans cannot rank higher than Indy.

Even after a loss, the Dolphins sit just 1 game back of the final playoff spot.

 

THE AFTERTHOUGHTS: AFC

#6 Cleveland (6-7-1), #7 Denver (6-8), #8 Cincinnati (6-8), #9 Buffalo (5-9)

#10 Jacksonville (4-10), #11 New York (4-10), #12 Oakland (3-11)

Of the teams listed in this category, the bottom six are all officially ousted from the playoff race. But Cleveland remains alive mathematically… for now.

 

NFC North

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) Chicago took down 3) Green Bay. 2) Minnesota dominated Miami. 4) Detroit lost to Buffalo.

STANDINGS

#1 Chicago (10-4), #2 Minnesota (7-6-1), #3 Green Bay (5-8-1), #4 Detroit (5-9)

The Bears’ win over the Packers handed Chicago its first division title – and first playoff berth – since 2010, ending an eight-year drought and relegating the Vikings to the wild card chase.

Minnesota’s reign as North champion comes to an end, but they’ve got more pressing concerns with a wild-card spot currently in their grasp but zero margin for error if they want to hang onto it.

THIS WEEK:

Detroit hosts Minnesota in divisional action. Chicago travels to San Francisco. Green Bay travels to the NY Jets.

 

NFC West

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) Los Angeles lost their second straight, falling to Philadelphia. 2) Seattle got upset by 3) San Francisco. 4) Arizona got blasted by Atlanta.

STANDINGS

#1 Los Angeles (11-3), #2 Seattle (8-6), #3 San Francisco (4-10), #4 Arizona (3-11)

The Los Angeles Rams are the NFC West Champion.

THIS WEEK:

Arizona hosts Los Angeles in divisional play. Seattle hosts Kansas City. San Francisco hosts Chicago.

 

NFC East

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) Dallas saw their five-game winning streak end in Indianapolis. 2) Philadelphia upset the LA Rams on the road. 3) Washington beat Jacksonville. 4) New York got shut out by Tennessee.

STANDINGS

#1 Dallas (8-6), #2) Philadelphia (7-7), #3 Washington (7-7), #4 New York (5-9)

The Cowboys could have put this race to bed this week, but instead their offense faltered as they were shut out by the Colts. That allowed both Philly and Washington to close the gap to just 1 game and put the East very much back in play, perhaps until the final week of the season.

The Eagles get the tiebreaker for #2 after beating Washington in Week 13. The two will square off again in the season finale.

THIS WEEK:

Dallas hosts Tampa Bay. Philadelphia hosts Houston. Washington travels to Tennessee. New York travels to Indianapolis.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

DALLAS can clinch the East title with:

            Win

            Tie AND losses or ties by Philadelphia AND Washington

            Losses by Philadelphia AND Washington

 

NFC South

WEEK 15 RESULTS

1) New Orleans beat 2) Carolina, stretching the Panthers' losing streak to six games. 3) Atlanta blasted Arizona. 4) Tampa Bay lost to Baltimore.

STANDINGS

#1 New Orleans (12-2), #2 Carolina (6-8), #3 Atlanta (5-9), #4 Tampa Bay (5-9)

The New Orleans Saints are the NFC South champion.

THIS WEEK:

Carolina hosts Atlanta in divisional play. New Orleans hosts Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay travels to Dallas.

 

DIVISION LEADERS: NFC

STANDINGS

#1 New Orleans (12-2), #2 Los Angeles (11-3), #3 Chicago (10-4), #4 Dallas (8-6)

The Saints now sit just one win away from grabbing the NFC's top seed, with Los Angeles now a full game behind them and Chicago sitting 2 games back. Dallas is the only division leader no longer in line for a first-round bye, but the Bears still have a path.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

NEW ORLEANS can clinch home-field advantage with:

            Win

            Tie AND a loss or tie by the LA Rams

            Loss by the LA Rams AND a loss or tie by Chicago

NEW ORLEANS can clinch a first-round bye with:

            Tie

            Loss or tie by Chicago

            Loss by the LA Rams

LOS ANGELES can clinch a first-round bye with:

            Win AND a loss or tie by Chicago

            Tie AND a loss by Chicago

DALLAS can clinch a playoff berth with:

            Tie AND a loss by Minnesota

 

WILD CARD RACE: NFC

STANDINGS

#1 Seattle (8-6), #2 Minnesota (7-6-1), #3 Philadelphia (7-7), #4 Washington (7-7)

Seattle's loss kept them from clinching one of the two available wild-card spots, meaning just 1 game separates four teams in the battle for two playoff tickets. Philadelphia and Washington both sit just a half-game behind Minnesota for #6 seed and just 1 game behind Seattle for the #5 seed.

SCENARIOS TO WATCH:

SEATTLE can clinch a playoff berth with:

            Win AND a loss or tie by Washington

            Win or tie AND a loss by Minnesota

            Win AND clinching strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Washington

            Win AND a tie by Minnesota AND clinching strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Minnesota

            Tie AND a loss or tie by Philadelphia AND a loss by Washington

MINNESOTA can clinch a playoff berth with:

            Win AND a loss or tie by Philadelphia AND a loss by Washington

 

THE AFTERTHOUGHTS: NFC

#5 Carolina (6-8), #6 Green Bay (5-8-1), #7 Atlanta (5-9), #8 Tampa Bay (5-9)

#9 New York (5-9), #10 Detroit (5-9), #11 San Francisco (4-10), #12 Arizona (3-11)

While not officially out, the Panthers' loss to New Orleans seems to have effectively ended their bid for the postseason, especially with the news that Cam Newton has been shut down for the rest of the year by the coaching staff. As for the four teams tied at 5-9, it comes down to conference record: Atlanta – 5-5; Tampa Bay – 4-6; New York – 4-7; Detroit – 3-7.

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