Sunday’s games have delivered four important moments in the 2019 NFL playoffs:
The Eagles moved into the driver’s seat in the NFC East race.
The Ravens clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Titans took control of, but did not clinch, the No. 6 spot in the AFC.
The Browns were eliminated from playoff contention.
We’ll update this post Sunday evening after the Bears host the Chiefs, who are currently the AFC’s No. 3 seed. In the meantime, here is a look at the NFL playoff picture and standings through Sunday’s early games of Week 16.
Note: X denotes a team that has clinched a playoff berth, Y shows a team that has clinched its division and Z indicates a team that has secured a first-round bye. An asterisk shows home-field advantage.
The Ravens clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with Sunday’s win over the Browns. They have now won 11 consecutive games and have a chance to rest and protect their key players in what will be a meaningless Week 17 game for them against the Steelers. Pittsburgh will still be in the playoff mix, which could impact how the Ravens deploy their personnel.
Next up: vs. Pittsburgh (Week 17)
The Patriots clinched the AFC East with Saturday’s victory over the Bills, their 17th division title in the past 19 seasons. If the Chiefs lose Sunday, the Patriots can lock up at least the No. 2 seed. Otherwise, they can do so with a victory in Week 17 over the Dolphins.
Next up: vs. Miami (Week 17)
The Chiefs entered Week 15 having already secured the AFC West title, but their Week 15 victory over the Broncos preserved the possibility of moving into the No. 2 seed over the final two weeks of the season. Because they have defeated the Patriots, the Chiefs would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker if they finished tied at 12-4.
Next up: at Chicago (Sunday night)
For all the criticism they’ve received for recent trades and their use of quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans are AFC South champions for the fourth time in five seasons. The only question now is where they’ll be seeded in the AFC bracket. They can move up to No. 3 if they beat the Titans in Week 17 and the Chiefs lose one (or both) of their remaining games, thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs.
Next up: vs. Tennessee (Week 17)
The Bills clinched a playoff spot in Week 15 by defeating the Steelers, but Saturday’s loss to the Patriots ended their hopes of a division title. Instead, they are locked in as a (very dangerous) fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.
Next up: vs. N.Y. Jets (Week 17)
Despite their loss Sunday to the Saints, the Titans are in the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot in the AFC. They can clinch the spot with a Week 17 victory over the Texans, or losses by the Steelers and Colts.
Next up: at Houston (Week 17)
Final AFC wild card chart from today. The Raiders are alive. pic.twitter.com/01LpKzEEC8
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 23, 2019
In the hunt
They had their hands full Saturday night, but the 49ers came back to beat the Rams and keep themselves in position to claim the NFC’s top seed if they can beat the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 17. Otherwise, they will enter the playoffs as a wild-card team. Such is the strength of the NFC West this season: The 49ers will find out in Week 17 whether they’ll have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, or play on the road in the wild-card round.
Next up: at Seattle (Week 17)
The Saints temporarily took over the No. 2 spot after Sunday’s victory over the Titans. They’ll stay there if the Packers lose Monday night to the Vikings. If the Packers win, the Saints will be back down to No. 3. The Packers would hold the tiebreaker at the moment because of a better conference record. As part of any effort to ascend to the No. 1 seed, they’ll need to root for a Packers loss or a Seahawks win over the 49ers in Week 17.
Next up: at Carolina (Week 17)
Regarding the race for the No. 1 seed: Seattle’s loss was Green Bay’s gain. pic.twitter.com/SkbH9zhL3I
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 23, 2019
The Packers clinched a playoff spot in Week 15 after defeating the Bears, and they can win the NFC North with a victory Monday night in Minnesota. But the Packers are in good shape regardless. Even if they lose to the Vikings, they can clinch the division by beating the Lions in Week 17.
Next up: at Minnesota (Monday)
Sunday’s massive victory over the Cowboys put the Eagles in the driver’s seat for the NFC East title. They can clinch it in Week 17 with a victory over the Giants or a loss by the Cowboys to the Redskins. The only way the Eagles would fall short of the division title, and miss the playoffs, is if they lost to the Giants and the Cowboys beat the Redskins.
Next up: at N.Y. Giants (Week 17)
The Seahawks’ unexpected loss Sunday to the Cardinals didn’t impact their path to a potential NFC West title, but it will make it harder for them to clinch home-field advantage. The Seahawks can still win the division if they defeat the 49ers at home in Week 17. But to be the No. 1 seed, the Seahawks need one of two additional scenarios to take place. The first: A Saints loss in Week 17 and the Packers to finish 1-1. The second: A Saints loss, an 0-2 finish by the Packers and a 2-0 finish by the Vikings.
Next up: vs. San Francisco (Week 17)
The Vikings clinched a playoff spot Saturday night by virtue of the Rams’ loss and subsequent elimination from the playoffs. And they still have a chance to win the NFC North if they can win their final two games and the Packers lose their final two games. Otherwise, they’ll go into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Vikings could be the No. 5 seed, though, if they win their final two games and finish 12-4.
Next up: vs. Green Bay (Monday)