With only 5 of the 12 playoff berths clinched, there are still plenty of races still going on deep into the season.
The Chiefs and Chargers are both 11-3 and have clinched playoff berths headed into Week 16. Neither team can clinch the division before Christmas, as the tiebreaker can’t be settled until Kansas City’s Week 17 matchup against Oakland. If the Chiefs win that, then they own the tiebreaker. If they lose, then the #1 seed belongs to the Chargers.
Houston leads the division by 2 games with 2 weeks remaining. They can clinch the division this week with a win or tie OR a loss or tie by the Colts and Titans. They can also secure a first-round bye with a win AND a loss or tie by the Patriots.
The Patriots also lead their division by 2 games despite back-to-back losses. They can clinch their 10th straight AFC East title with a win or tie OR a loss or tie by the Dolphins.
Pittsburgh’s win over the Patriots eliminated the Bengals and Browns from contention in the division. The Steelers hold a 1/2 game lead over the Ravens and can clinch the AFC North title with a win or tie AND a loss or tie by Baltimore. Both teams face tough road tests this week, so the division will most likely come down to the final game of the season.
The first wildcard is already claimed by either the Chargers or Chiefs, but the second is a wide open race. No team can book their spot in Week 16, but Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Miami will all he jockeying for position heading into the final week of the season.
With Pittsburgh’s win over the Patriots, the Cleveland Browns are out of the running for the AFC North. To earn the #6 seed, the Browns first need to win their final two games (obviously). Along with that, Cleveland needs Miami and Baltimore to both lose out. Then, they also need the Colts and Titans to both lose in Week 16 and then tie when they play each other in Week 17. I’d say crazier things have happened, but they really haven’t.
The Saints can clinch home-field throughout with a win Sunday against the Steelers OR a loss by the Rams. The Bears, currently the #3 seed, have the tiebreaker over the Rams if they finish with the sake record, so both LA and Chicago are still fighting for a first-round bye.
The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win or tie against Tampa Bay AND a loss or tie by Washington. With a loss, the door is open for both Washington and even Philly to steal the division crown in the final week.
Carolina’s loss effectively eliminates them from the playoffs. The Panthers would need to win out and have Minnesota, Philadelphia, AND Washington lose out. As for the rest of the field, it’s wide open. The Seahawks, Vikings, Eagles, and Redskins are all within a game of each other, fighting over both spots. Hopefully Week 16 can clear out the paths for all these teams.
Photo Credit: NFL, Associated Press, Getty Images, Sports Illustrated, USA Today Sports