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.
WEEK 16 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
WEEK 16 NFC PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
CLINCHED: Dallas Cowboys — playoff berth. Seattle Seahawks — division title.
ELIMINATED: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles.
— Cowboys clinch NFC East division title and homefield advantage throughout playoffs:
1) DAL win or tie
2) NYG loss or tie
— 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
— 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
— 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
Week 16 AFC PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
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
— Raiders clinch AFC West Division title and a first-round bye:
1) OAK win + KC loss or tie
2) OAK tie + KC loss
— 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
— Texans clinch AFC South Division title:
1) HOU win + TEN loss
— 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
WEEK 16 TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- 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:
- CAR wins out
- TB loses out
- MIN beats GB and loses to CHI
- GB loses to DET
- NO loses to ATL
- WAS loses to CAR then loses one game and ties the other
- CAROLINA beats TB within division on conf record 7-5 to 6-6 (they tie in common opponents 6-6)
- Sets up 3-way tie for No. 6 seed between 7-7-2 (= 8-8) WAS, 8-8 MIN and 8-8 CAR
- They are all 1-1 in head-to-head play
- 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.
PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 15
- Dallas Cowboys
- Seattle Seahawks
- Atlanta Falcons
- Detroit Lions
- New York Giants
- Washington Redskins
- New England Patriots
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Tennessee Titans
- Oakland Raiders
- Miami Dolphins
Enjoy Week 16 and best of luck to your favorite team!