The NFL standings have stayed fairly static through the first two-thirds of Week 15, but there have been some significant developments in the NFL playoff picture heading towards Week 16. With the 2020 NFL playoff race heating up, let’s take a look at the AFC and NFC playoff standings.
NFL playoff picture for Week 16
The current NFL playoff standings have a different shape in the new playoff format
After around 30 years of featuring 12 playoff teams, six for each conference, the NFL expanded their playoffs to a 14-team system for the 2020 season. Each conference will now feature three wild card teams instead of two for the first time since the 2002 expansion. The additional wild card team places a premium on the number one seed. Only that team receives a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs.
The remaining six teams in each conference will face off on wild card weekend, as the three remaining divisional winners hosting the three wild card teams (#2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, and #4 vs. #5). This change in the NFL structure has significantly altered the playoff scenarios and how we view both the playoff picture and standings in the NFC and AFC.
Current AFC playoff standings
1) Kansas City Chiefs, 12-1 – clinched the AFC West
2) Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-2 – clinched a playoff berth
3) Buffalo Bills, 11-3 – clinched the AFC East
4) Tennessee Titans, 10-4
5) Indianapolis Colts, 10-4
6) Cleveland Browns, 9-4
7) Miami Dolphins, 9-5
Outside looking in: Baltimore Ravens (9-5), Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
The Bills joined the Chiefs and Steelers in confirming playoff places with their win in Week 15. The Steelers have not won the division yet, but the expectation is those three teams will be battling it out with the Titans or Colts for seeding.
Behind those three, the NFL playoff picture is somewhat murkier entering Week 16. The Colts and Titans both won to keep their race for the AFC south neck and neck. Victories for the Dolphins and Ravens means they both remain in their spots in the 2020 NFL playoff race. Neither team can afford to stumble down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Patriots slipped out of the playoff race in the AFC for the first time in 11 years. Finally, the Raiders are clinging on by their fingertips at the bottom of the AFC playoff standings.
Current NFC playoff standings
1) Green Bay Packers, 11-3 – clinched the NFC North
2) New Orleans Saints, 10-3 – clinched a playoff berth
3) Seattle Seahawks, 10-4 – clinched a playoff berth
4) Washington Football Team 6-8
5) Los Angeles Rams, 9-4
6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9-5
7) Arizona Cardinals 7-6
Outside looking in: Chicago Bears (7-7), Minnesota Vikings (6-8), New York Giants (5-8), Dallas Cowboys (5-9), San Francisco 49ers (5-9), Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1)
The NFL playoff picture on the NFC side has many permutations entering Week 16. The Green Bay Packers put themselves one step closer to clinching the first-round bye with a Saturday night victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The Seahawks have temporarily taken control of the NFC West, but the Rams can move back to the third seed with a victory over the New York Jets. At the bottom of the NFC playoff standings, the picture will clear a little more if the Cardinals win against the Eagles.
The Buccaneers’ comeback victory against the Falcons keeps them two games clear of the Bears who are the best of the rest right now.
Meanwhile, a loss for the Washington Football Team keeps the NFC East open for the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys to stake a claim still.
NFL playoff scenarios heat up in Week 16
AFC playoff scenarios
In the AFC, the Chiefs have their future in their own hands. Win out and they are the number one seed. The Bills look set to push the Steelers all the way for the second seed and a guarantee of a home game in round two of the playoffs.
The Titans can hold the Colts at bay by winning out, but both have tough games in Week 16. The Titans host the Packers on Sunday Night Football, while the Colts travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
The situation between the Browns, Dolphins, and Ravens is extremely tight. The Ravens have the tie break advantage over the Browns. Therefore, even with a win on Sunday Night Football, the Browns have little margin for error. The Ravens have the easiest schedule in the last two weeks.
NFC playoff scenarios
The situation in the NFC is extremely convoluted from top to bottom. The Packers cannot afford a mistake against the Titans in Week 16, with the Seahawks, Rams, and Saints all sitting right behind them.
In the NFC West, the Rams can lock up the division by defeating the Seahawks. That is assuming they beat the Jets in Week 16.
The NFC East remains extremely open following the loss by Washington and the victory for the Dallas Cowboys. All four teams can still win that division heading towards Week 16.
Week 16 clinching scenarios
With just two weeks remaining, the NFL playoff picture is becoming much clearer heading into Week 16. Which teams can lock up a spot in the 2020 NFL playoff race in Week 16?
The Rams should have an opportunity to lock up their spot atop the NFC West standings and ensure themselves a home playoff game. They need to beat the Jets in Week 15, and then if they beat the Seahawks in Week 16, they will win the division.
Other clinching scenarios are likely to include the opportunity for the Chiefs to clinch the number one seed in the AFC.
As more clinching scenarios become known we will update this article.
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