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NFL Playoff Picture: Week 16

Seattle soars into NFC's top spot

Mark Menard
December 17, 2019 - 7:25 pm
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Eight teams are in the playoffs. Three division titles have been claimed. Four spots and five division crowns remain out there for the taking, along with first-round byes and home-field advantage.

With two weekends left in the regular season, let’s break down the playoff picture:

 

NFC

NORTH

1) Green Bay (11-3) | 2) Minnesota (10-4)

OUT: Chicago (7-7) | Detroit (3-10-1)

The Bears bowed out of the divisional race after losing at Lambeau to the Packers, leaving just Green Bay and Minnesota. The Vikings trail the Pack by 1 game. Green Bay won the first meeting way back in Week 2, but the two are set for a huge rematch to close out Week 16 on Monday Night Football that could very well decide this division.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

Green Bay can clinch the NFC North title with:
A win or tie at Minnesota

 

WEST

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

OUT: Los Angeles (8-6) | Arizona (4-9-1)

The top of the NFC West flip-flops again as the Seahawks’ win in Charlotte and the 49ers’ shocking home loss to Atlanta evens up the two teams again, this time at 11-3. The Seahawks’ Week 10 head-to-head win is the tiebreakers. The rematch is set for the final weekend of the season.

 

EAST

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

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

The Cowboys and Eagles both earned wins, keeping them locked in a tie atop the NFC East. Dallas won the first meeting in Week 7. The rematch comes Sunday afternoon and could finally prove whether or not anyone really wants to win this division.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

Dallas can clinch the NFC East title with:

A win at Philadelphia

 

SOUTH

CHAMPION: New Orleans (11-3)

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

New Orleans won the NFC South in Week 13.

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) Seattle (11-3) | 2) Green Bay (11-3) | 3) New Orleans (11-3) | 4) Dallas (7-7)

The Seahawks secured their second straight trip to the postseason. Likewise, the Packers punched their first postseason ticket in three years. Those two along with the Saints comprise a three-way tie atop the NFC.

Yes, the Saints beat the Seahawks in Week 3, but Green Bay’s presence eliminates that tiebreaker, since head-to-head only comes into play in three-way ties if one team either beat both of the other teams or lost to both of the other teams.

Therefore, New Orleans gets eliminated by the conference record tiebreaker, with the Seahawks and Packers at 8-2 and the Saints at 8-3.

From there, the rarely-used “common games” tiebreaker comes into play. Seattle and Green Bay share four opponents on their schedules, the minimum for the common games tiebreaker to be used. The quartet involved here is Carolina, Minnesota, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The Seahawks will play the Niners twice when all is said and done. Likewise the Packers with the Vikings.

Seattle has already clinched this tiebreaker over the Packers. They’re 4-0 against the competition listed above with one game against San Francisco left. Green Bay is 2-2 with one game against Minnesota left. Advantage Seattle. Hence the Seahawks elevate all the way to #1 with Green Bay sitting at #2.

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

 

WILD CARD

1) San Francisco (11-3) | 2) Minnesota (10-4)

3) Los Angeles (8-6)

San Francisco was bumped back down to wild-card status for the second time in three weeks after suffering a shocking last-minute loss to the Falcons at home, but the silver lining is that the Rams’ loss to Dallas insured the 49ers will end the NFL’s fourth-longest active playoff drought, booking their first postseason berth since 2013.

The Vikings sit 1 game behind San Fran and 2 games ahead of the only remaining NFC wild-card contender, the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, with two games left to play.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Minnesota can clinch a playoff berth with:

A win or tie against Green Bay

An LA Rams loss or tie at San Francisco

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Philadelphia (7-7)

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

Chicago (7-7) | Tampa Bay (7-7) | Atlanta (5-9) | Carolina (5-9)

Arizona (4-9-1) | Detroit (3-10-1) | New York (3-11) | Washington (3-11)

Chicago leads Tampa Bay based on conference record: 6-5 vs. 5-6.

The Atlanta/Carolina and New York/Washington ties are settled at the divisional level.

 

AFC

NORTH

CHAMPION: Baltimore (12-2)

OUT: Pittsburgh (8-6) | Cleveland (6-8) | Cincinnati (1-13)

The NFL’s third golden ticket has been claimed. Already having clinched a playoff spot last week, the Ravens leveled up to a division championship this week, salting it away early with a Thursday night win over the Jets, maintaining at least a three-game edge over Pittsburgh with just two to play. (That lead became 4 games after the Steelers’ Sunday night loss to Buffalo.

The title is the second straight AFC North crown for Baltimore and the sixth division title in team history.

 

WEST

CHAMPION: Kansas City (10-4)

OUT: Oakland (6-8) | Denver (5-9) | Los Angeles (5-9)

Kansas City won the AFC West in Week 14.

 

EAST

1) New England (11-3) | 2) Buffalo (10-4)

OUT: New York (5-9) | Miami (3-11)

With the Patriots and Bills both winning this week, Buffalo remains just 1 game back of the Pats. New England won the first meeting between the two back in Week 4. The rematch comes Saturday. A Patriots win means an 11th straight AFC East crown. A Bills upset in Foxborough means Week 17 will be very interesting for Brady and Belichick.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

New England can clinch the AFC East title with:

A win or tie against Buffalo

 

SOUTH

1) Houston (9-5) | 2) Tennessee (8-6)

OUT: Indianapolis (6-8) | Jacksonville (5-9)

The Texans all but wrapped up the AFC South with their win over Tennessee. The two will meet again in the regular season finale, but Houston now holds a 1-game edge, a head-to-head win, AND have clinched a better divisional record than the Titans at 4-1 vs. 2-3.

The Titans need Houston to drop both of their final two games to have a shot at winning the South. The Colts meanwhile were eliminated from the race by their Monday night loss to New Orleans.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

Houston can clinch the AFC South title with:

A win at Tampa Bay

A tie AND a Tennessee tie against New Orleans

A Tennessee loss

 

DIVISION LEADERS

1) Baltimore (12-2) | 2) New England (11-3) | 3) Kansas City (10-4) | 4) Houston (9-5)

Nothing much changes this week as all four division leaders collected victories. Houston no longer has a path to the #1 seed but could still sneak into a first-round bye with some help. The Patriots meanwhile have booked their 11th straight trip to the playoffs, a streak that’s six years longer than the next best of five straight years for Kansas City.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:

Baltimore can clinch a first-round bye with:

A win or tie at Cleveland

A Kansas City loss or tie at Chicago

A New England loss at Buffalo

Baltimore can clinch homefield advantage with:

A win at Cleveland

A tie AND a New England loss or tie at Buffalo

A Kansas City loss or tie at Chicago AND a New England loss

 

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

A win against Buffalo AND a Kansas City loss or tie at Chicago

A tie AND a Kansas City loss

 

Houston clinches a playoff berth with:

A win at Tampa Bay

A tie AND a Pittsburgh tie at the NY Jets

A Pittsburgh loss

 

WILD CARD

1) Buffalo (10-4) | 2) Pittsburgh (8-6)

3) Tennessee (8-6)

After suffering through an 18-year playoff drought from 1999-2017, the #BillsMafia has seen their beloved football club punch a postseason ticket two of the last three seasons. Buffalo is in after gutting out a prime time win in Pittsburgh, thereby adding a Week 15 win over the Steelers to a Week 5 win over the Titans, ensuring they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over both of their nearest wild-card competitors.

After both teams suffered defeats in Week 15, the Steelers and Titans remain tied for the second and final AFC wild card berth. Pittsburgh has the slim edge due to conference record: 6-4 vs. 6-5.

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS

1) Cleveland (6-8) | 2) Indianapolis (6-8) | 3) Oakland (6-8)

AFC record separates the three 6-8 teams: Cleveland – 6-4 | Indianapolis – 5-6 | Oakland – 4-6.

 

ELIMINATED

Jacksonville (5-9) | Denver (5-9) | Los Angeles (5-9) | New York (5-9) | Miami (3-11) | Cincinnati (1-13)

Denver joins the ranks of the eliminated.

The four 5-9 teams are separated by conference record with the Jags and Broncos at 5-6, the Chargers at 3-7, and the Jets at 2-8.

From there, Jacksonville holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver thanks to a win in Week 4.

 

GAMES TO WATCH: WEEK 16

The Patriots and Bills square off in a pivotal AFC East showdown Saturday afternoon, a game that could signal a turning of the tides where the Patriots are concerned.

The 49ers and Rams battle Saturday night in a crucial game for the Niners’ hopes for the NFC West crown and the overall #1 seed.

The Ravens can clinch the AFC’s top seed by beating the Browns.

The Titans host the Saints looking to keep their playoff hopes alive while New Orleans still has designs on the NFC’s top seed.

Philadelphia hosts Dallas in a game that could determine the NFC East champion.

Minnesota and Green Bay square off in Minneapolis in a game that could determine the NFC North champion.

 

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