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Week 16 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots try to lock up homefield

Week 16 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots try to lock up homefield

This is my 25th year handling the NFL playoff scenarios for the league and it never gets old, especially when you have exciting, meaningful games in the last three weeks of the season. 

This past week was no exception, as we had thrilling finishes for the early Sunday games with massive tiebreaker implications. It looks like we will have some great games next week as well. 

Most of America wakes up to playoff scenarios right about now, when more teams start clinching playoff spots and others are eliminated. We also have a lot of misinformation in the playoff scenarios market — including ESPN and others saying Carolina was eliminated this past Sunday and they are still alive heading into Monday Night Football — as everyone tries to figure out their favorite team's situation.

The time between Week 15 and 16 is usually the most interesting since we have many clinching scenarios and questions about what needs to happen over the last two weeks for "my team to get in."

Before we get to Week 16, let's recap Week 15.

Going into the week, we had 26 teams alive for 12 playoff spots with Dallas as the only team that had clinched a playoff berth. Twenty-six teams alive with three weeks to play was the most since 2004 and the third most in the NFL since 1990. The week started on Thursday as Seattle clinched the NFC West Division title by beating the Los Angeles Rams. 

Then, Saturday night's Miami win over the hapless New York Jets eliminated the San Diego Chargers, and it forced New England to win on Sunday to clinch the division. 

On Sunday, we saw Cincinnati and Philadelphia eliminated from the playoffs with their losses in the early window, while New England clinched the AFC East Division title and a first-round playoff bye and Oakland clinched a playoff berth in the afternoon. In addition, Arizona was eliminated from the playoffs with their loss.

On Monday Night, if Washington wins, that will eliminate both Carolina and New Orleans and put the Redskins back in the lead for the NFC's No. 6-seed. So during Week 15, we had three more playoff spots clinched for a total of four-of-12 spots taken and at least four more teams eliminated leaving 22 — or 20 if Washington wins — total teams left in Super Bowl contention.

QUIZ TIME: The New England Patriots have won their eighth consecutive division title — an NFL record. Which team won seven straight division titles in the 1970's? Answer Below.


CLINCHED: Dallas Cowboys — playoff berth. Seattle Seahawks — division title.
ELIMINATED: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys:
— Cowboys clinch NFC East division title and homefield advantage throughout playoffs: 
    1) DAL win or tie
    2) NYG loss or tie

Seattle Seahawks:
— Seahawks clinch a first-round bye:
    1) SEA win + DET loss + ATL loss or tie

New York Giants:
— Giants clinch a playoff berth:
    1) NYG win or tie
    2) DET loss or tie
    3) GB loss or tie
    4) TB loss or tie
    5) ATL loss 

Detroit Lions:
— Lions clinch NFC North division title:
    1) DET win + GB loss or tie
    2) DET tie + GB loss
— Lions clinches a playoff berth:
    1) DET win + TB loss or tie
    2) DET tie + TB loss
    3) DET tie + TB tie + ATL win
    4) WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie

Atlanta Falcons:
— Falcons clinch NFC South Division title:
    1) ATL win + TB loss or tie
    2) ATL tie + TB loss

— Falcons clinch a playoff berth:
    1) ATL win + ATL clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET
    2) ATL win or tie + GB loss or tie
    3) ATL win + DET loss or tie
    4) ATL tie + DET tie 
    5) WAS loss or tie + GB loss 
    6) WAS loss or tie + GB tie + DET loss 

Green Bay Packers:
— Packers clinch a playoff berth:
    1) GB win + WAS loss + TB loss + ATL win or tie + GB clinches 
          strength of victory tiebreaker over TB 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
— Buccaneers clinch a playoff berth:
    1) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS loss
    2) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS tie + TB clinches strength of victory
        tiebreaker over DET


CLINCHED: New England Patriots — division title and first-round bye. Oakland Raiders— playoff berth.
ELIMINATED: Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, N Jets, San Diego, Cincinnati.

New England Patriots:
— Patriots clinch homefield advantage throughout AFC Playoffs:
    1) NE win + OAK loss or tie
    2) NE tie + OAK loss

Oakland Raiders:
— Raiders clinch AFC West Division title and a first-round bye:
    1) OAK win + KC loss or tie
    2) OAK tie + KC loss

Pittsburgh Steelers:
— Steelers clinch AFC North Division title:
    1) PIT win

Kansas City Chiefs:
— Chiefs clinch a playoff berth:
    1) KC win or tie
    2) BAL loss or tie

Houston Texans:
— Texans clinch AFC South Division title:
    1) HOU win + TEN loss

Miami Dolphins:
— Miami clinches a playoff berth:
    1) MIA win + DEN loss or tie
    2) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss or tie
    3) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + TEN loss or tie


  • If Washington wins MNF, we have the possibility of all 12 playoff spots being clinched during Week 16. It would be DAL, SEA, DET, ATL, NYG and WAS in NFC and NE, OAK, PIT, HOU, KC and MIA in the AFC.
  • CAROLINA is still alive for the playoffs going into MNF (contrary to many media reports). Here's what they need:
  1. CAR wins out
  2. TB loses out
  3. MIN beats GB and loses to CHI
  4. GB loses to DET
  5. NO loses to ATL
  6. WAS loses to CAR then loses one game and ties the other
  7. CAROLINA beats TB within division on conf record 7-5 to 6-6 (they tie in common opponents 6-6)
  8. Sets up 3-way tie for No. 6 seed between 7-7-2 (= 8-8) WAS, 8-8 MIN and 8-8 CAR
  9. They are all 1-1 in head-to-head play
  10. CAROLINA claims No. 6 seed based on better conference record (7-5 vs. WAS 5-6-1 and MIN 5-7)
  • Many more notes to come after Monday night

QUIZ ANSWER: The Los Angeles Rams won the NFC Western Division title from 1973 to 1979 and saw their streak end in 1980 when the 12-4 Atlanta Falcons bested the 11-5 Rams for the division championship.  Yes, the Atlanta Falcons were in the NFC "West" from the Conference's formation in 1970 until NFL Realignment in 2002.




  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. Atlanta Falcons
  4. Detroit Lions
  5. New York Giants
  6. Washington Redskins

AFC  PLAYOFFS              

  1. New England Patriots        
  2. Kansas City Chiefs        
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers        
  4. Tennessee Titans           
  5. Oakland Raiders            
  6. Miami Dolphins           

Enjoy Week 16 and best of luck to your favorite team!

MORE NFL: Redskins are in control of playoff destiny

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy. 


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Redskins Draft Countdown: WR James Washington's numbers don't impress but he could be a solution for the Redskins

Redskins Draft Countdown: WR James Washington's numbers don't impress but he could be a solution for the Redskins

Redskins Draft Countdown

James Washington

Wide receiver
Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington measured at 5 feet 11 inches at the combine and his 40 time was a pedestrian 4.54.

But forget about the numbers. His catch radius is larger than his height would indicate, and he plays much faster than the stopwatch says he does.

His route tree needs to be cleaned up but his ability to get open deep, make receptions on back shoulder throws and, yes, Redskins fans, fade patterns will make him a productive receiver while he learns.

Height: 5-11
Weight: 213
40-yard dash: 4.54

Projected draft round: 1-2

What they’re saying

He doesn't look like a receiver and he doesn't run routes like a receiver, but then you see him get open deep and make all those explosive plays, and you know exactly what he does for an offense.

—A Big 12 assistant coach via

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins needed a wide receiver to line up opposite Josh Doctson after Terrelle Pryor fizzled out last year. They went out and signed Paul Richardson to a free agent contract, solving the immediate need.

But in the NFL, you should always be looking for your next receiver. It takes most of them at least a season to develop so if you wait until you really need a pass catcher it’s too late to draft one. Washington has the capability to contribute early and develop from there.  

Film review: vs. Pitt, vs. TCU, vs. Oklahoma

—Like most coaches, Jay Gruden wants his wide receivers to block and Washington certainly gives it the effort. He helped backs gain extra yards on stretch plays with hustling blocks downfield. His technique may need some work—a long touchdown run against Oklahoma was called back when he was hit for holding—but the effort is there.

—Against the Sooners, Washington got by a cornerback who was in off coverage and beat him for a long gain. Later in the game, the corner was in press coverage and Washington made one move and beat the defender on a post for a touchdown. We can insert the usual cautions about Big 12 defenses here, but it still was impressive to watch.

—Speed is important but so is how fast a receiver can stop to catch a pass. On one underthrown fade pattern, Washington was able to slam on the brakes while the cornerback kept on running, making the catch for a nice gain out of the end zone an easy one.

—Against TCU he split two defenders on a deep pass. He caught the ball in stride and then he found a second gear and easily outraced the defensive backs to the end zone to complete the 86-yard play. This is a good example of Washington playing faster than his 40 time.

Potential issues: Washington is not a good enough prospect to warrant the No. 13 pick, but he could easily be gone by the time the time their second-round pick is on the clock. As noted above, the quality of the defenses he faced in compiling 74 receptions for 1,549 yards (20.9 per catch) and 13 touchdowns has to be considered.

Bottom line: If I’m the Redskins, I have a talk with Jamison Crowder’s agent before the draft to gauge what his client would want in order to sign an extension prior to the 2018 season. If it’s something the Redskins consider reasonable, they should look elsewhere in the second round. But if a 2019 Crowder departure seems likely,  they should look at Washington if he’s there in the second round. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.