The NFL put on a rare show Saturday: a triple-header of games, each with significant playoff implications. Over the course of about 10 hours, we saw:
The Texans clinch the AFC South.
The Patriots win the AFC East.
The Vikings clinch a playoff spot.
The Rams, defending NFC champions, get eliminated from postseason contention.
Sunday will bring further intrigue as the Ravens try to lock down the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Cowboys attempt to win the NFC East. In the meantime, here is a look at the NFL playoff picture and standings through Saturday’s 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 North title in Week 15 by defeating the Jets and need one more victory to ensure the AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They can also get there if the Chiefs and Patriots lose. And even if the Ravens lose Sunday to the Browns, they can clinch at least a No. 2 seed — and thus a first-round bye — if the Chiefs lose.
Next up: at Cleveland
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 win over the Broncos preserved the possibility of moving into one of the top two seeds over the final two weeks of the season. Because they have defeated the Ravens and Patriots, the Chiefs would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker if they finished tied at 12-4 with either team, or both.
Next up: at Chicago
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)
The Steelers lost in Week 15 for only the second time in their past nine games. But they remained in the No. 6 seed because of the Titans’ loss to the Texans. They currently hold the tiebreaker over the Titans because of one fewer conference loss.
Next up: at N.Y. Jets
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 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
Even after their Week 15 domination of the Colts, the Saints remain in the conference’s third seed. The Packers hold the tiebreaker at the moment because of a better conference record. The Saints can still get into the conversation for a first-round bye, or perhaps even home-field advantage, but they’ll need help from the Packers to do it.
Next up: at Tennessee
The Cowboys’ resounding Week 15 victory over the Rams sets up the opportunity to clinch the NFC East. If they defeat the Eagles in Philadelphia, they’ll win the division based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. But if the Eagles win, Philadelphia could secure the division with a victory in Week 17 at the Giants.
Next up: at Philadelphia
The Seahawks can ensure an NFC West title by winning their final two games, including a Week 17 matchup against the 49ers. But that would not necessarily guarantee them the No. 1 overall seed. If they finish tied with the Saints, for example, they would lose on a head-to-head tiebreaker. As with the 49ers, there is much to be determined on the Seahawks’ fate.
Next up: vs. Arizona
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.
Next up: vs. Green Bay