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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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Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins played much of the Redskins Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers with a sprained ankle.

The rookie had a very noticeable limp and struggled to put weight on his bad leg. Haskins was clearly not at full health. Backup quarterback Case Keenum was seen warming up multiple times on the sideline, but never entered the game.

In the team's postgame press conference, interim head coach Bill Callahan said he never considered pulling Haskins from the game. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who was teammates with Haskins at Ohio State and has known the quarterback for a while, never thought that Haskins would exit the game, either.

"I know Dwayne. I've known him for a while now," McLaurin told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay. "He's a tough guy, and I feel like he gives us a good chance to win games. I knew if he was out there, he was going to be good to go. He was hobbled a little bit, but he wasn't going to use that as an excuse at all. It was cool to see him fight through it. We just hope that he can get healthy for next week."

McLaurin was then asked whether he thought Haskins should have been pulled. The wideout commended his quarterback for his toughness, and believes that will go a long way in terms of earning respect from his teammates.

"I mean, I'm not a doctor, so I feel like if you feel like you can play, then you try to play. Only that person knows how bad it is," McLaurin said. "He's a tough guy. He's a guy trying to earn the respect of this team. He's a quarterback, he's young. I feel like stuff like that really puts you in a step forward to get some respect. He was noticeably hurt and he fought for us."

Haskins finished 16-for-27 for 171 yards. He connected on an incredible late touchdown pass with McLaurin to pull the Redskins within five with just over a minute remaining in the game. On the two-point conversion try, Haskins put his body on the line, diving for the goal line headfirst. He didn't convert.

The Packers recovered the Redskins ensuing onside kick attempt, the Burgundy and Gold's final hope at pulling off the upset. 

The Redskins offensive line did not help out a hobbled Haskins much either. The rookie was sacked four times in the loss and hit the turf on numerous other occasions.

Although the Redskins weren't able to pull off the upset, Haskins showed poise and toughness by fighting through a noticeable injury and giving the Redskins everything he had.


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The Redskins’ far-fetched playoff dreams were officially dashed after losing to the Packers

The Redskins’ far-fetched playoff dreams were officially dashed after losing to the Packers

The Redskins entered Lambeau Field in Week 14 with a 3-9 record, but because the NFC East has been such a mess this year, they still had very slim playoff hopes. 

Thanks to their 20-15 loss against the Packers, however, those slim hopes are now nonexistent. Washington will not play in the postseason for the fourth straight campaign. 

The Burgundy and Gold would’ve had to finish by winning their final four contests and also would’ve needed major help from the Cowboys to the Eagles in order to sneak into the playoffs. That scoreboard watching isn’t necessary anymore, of course. 

“It’s tough being eliminated,” Terry McLaurin said in the visitor's locker room. “Our division is so open.”

Now, the team will use the next three weeks to further look at Dwayne Haskins’ growth as well as the development of other young pieces on both sides of the ball. Then, when those games wrap up, they’ll need to find a new head coach for 2020 and consider other possible changes within the franchise as well. 

When this season began back in July at training camp, there was some thought that the Redskins could compete behind a potentially improved defense and a run-centric offense. Those things didn’t emerge, though, and now, the organization will again be irrelevant on the field when January comes around.