There are five weeks remaining in the 2021 NFL regular season, and only one team is officially out of playoff contention. The Houston Texans got that unfortunate distinction following their shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13.
In Week 14, a trio of NFC contenders can take a more positive step and become the first teams to clinch postseason berths.
The Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the top three teams, respectively, in the NFC standings through 13 weeks. The Cardinals (10-2) are the only team with double-digit wins at this point in the season, but the Packers and Bucs are hot on their heels at 9-3. The Packers also own a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals thanks to a Week 8 win in Arizona.
Next up for the Cardinals is a Monday Night Football showdown against the Los Angeles Rams, who Arizona already beat in L.A. earlier this season. The Packers will also be in primetime when they take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. The Bucs will have a test at home against the Buffalo Bills in one of the marquee afternoon games on Sunday.
There are four other games with NFC teams that could play a heavy factor in clinching scenarios. The Minnesota Vikings host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals, the New Orleans Saints square off against the New York Jets on the road and the Carolina Panthers welcome the Atlanta Falcons.
While the race for playoff seeding will likely continue into the final day of the regular season, Week 14 offers the Cardinals, Packers and Bucs an opportunity to check something off their list. Here is a look at how each team could punch its ticket to the playoffs:
How can the Arizona Cardinals clinch the playoffs in Week 14?
The Cardinals can clinch a playoff berth with any of the following scenarios:
- Cardinals win or tie
- Vikings loss or tie + 49ers loss
- Vikings loss or tie + Saints loss or tie + Panthers loss or tie
- 49ers loss + Saints loss or tie + Falcons/Panthers tie
Even with a win, the Cardinals cannot clinch an NFC West title on Monday. A victory would put them three games up on the Rams with the head-to-head tiebreaker in hand and offer them a chance to secure the division in Week 15 against the Detroit Lions.
How can the Green Bay Packers clinch the playoffs in Week 14?
The Packers can earn their third straight division title on Sunday with either of the following scenarios:
- Packers win + Vikings loss or tie
- Packers tie + Vikings loss
Even if the Vikings win and keep the NFC North race alive, the Packers can still clinch a playoff berth with either of the following scenarios:
- Packers win + Saints loss or tie + 49ers loss
- Packers win + Saints loss or tie + Rams loss + 49ers tie
How can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the playoffs in Week 14?
The Bucs can become the first team to clinch their division with a win on Sunday along with some help from the Jets and Falcons. Here is the situation that locks up an NFC South title for Tampa Bay:
- Buccaneers win + Saints loss or tie + Panthers loss or tie
There is also a far-fetched scenario in which the Bucs can still clinch a playoff berth with a tie. It is the only clinching situation that includes Sunday’s tilt between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team:
- Buccaneers tie + Panthers loss + Saints loss + Vikings loss + 49ers loss or tie + Washington loss or tie