Current NFL playoff picture: 11 spots clinched, three to go

Sports

Congratulations to all! We have reached the time of year when we watch the game in front of us with one eye and the scoreboard with the other. Sunday began with six of the NFL’s 14 playoff spots filled. Nine others had a chance to clinch one of the eight remaining spots. (Some of their scenarios canceled out others. Math is complicated for us all.)

As it turned out, four teams clinched playoff spots in the early games, including two that won their division championships. The Bengals won the AFC North, and the Titans clinched the AFC South. All of the juicy details are below. We will update this story upon the conclusion of the late afternoon games, and then again after the Sunday night game at Lambeau Field, where the Packers could have a chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Here’s what we know at this very moment.

Note: All percentage chances to make the playoffs, clinch a division title or secure the conference No. 1 seed are via ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

Jump to: AFC | NFC
Clinching scenarios

AFC playoff standings

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Remaining schedule: at Texans


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Colts
Remaining schedule: at Broncos


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Raiders
Remaining schedule: at Browns


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 95%
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Patriots
Remaining schedule: vs. Jets

play

0:23

Devin Singletary rumbles past the goal line for a bruising rushing touchdown, extending the Bills’ lead.


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 5%
Current projected first-round matchup: at Bills
Remaining schedule: at Dolphins


Chances to make playoffs: 50%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Bengals
Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers


Chances to make playoffs: 83%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Chiefs
Remaining schedule: at Jaguars


In the AFC hunt

Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Chances to make playoffs:
61%

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Chances to make playoffs:
4%

Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Chances to make playoffs: 1%

Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
2%

Cleveland Browns (7-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
1%

Denver Broncos (7-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
1%

NFC playoff standings

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Remaining schedule: vs. Vikings, at Lions


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 88%
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. 49ers
Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Eagles
Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers

play

0:20

Tom Brady connects with Cyril Grayson in the final minute of action to put the Buccaneers on top and defeat the Jets 28-24.


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Cardinals
Remaining schedule: vs. Cardinals, at Eagles


Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 12%
Current projected first-round matchup: at Cowboys
Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks


Chances to make playoffs: 95%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Buccaneers
Remaining schedule: vs. Cowboys


Chances to make playoffs: 71%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Rams
Remaining schedule: vs. Texans, at Rams


In the NFC hunt

Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
11%

New Orleans Saints (7-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
23%

Clinching scenarios and intriguing playoff races

  • The Bengals won the AFC North, thanks to their 34-31 victory over the Chiefs, for the first time since 2015. But will history remember that it took flags on two consecutive fourth-down plays at the goal line to keep the Bengals’ winning drive alive?

  • The Titans clinched a playoff berth and the AFC South with a 34-3 victory over the Dolphins. At some point, we need to take a step back and recognize what the Titans have done under coach Mike Vrabel. After making the playoffs once in the nine years before he arrived in 2018, they have now had four consecutive winning seasons, three consecutive trips to the playoffs and now two consecutive division titles.

  • Thanks to the Chiefs’ loss, the Titans are in the driver’s seat to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Chiefs could have clinched home-field advantage if they had held on to defeat the Bengals. Now, they’re looking up to the Titans. ESPN’s FPI says Tennessee has a 76% chance to finish with the top seed and a wild-card round bye. The Chiefs have an 17% chance to reclaim and hold onto the top spot, while the Bengals have a 6% chance to finish atop the AFC. The Patriots have a 1% chance.

  • The Titans’ win eliminated the Colts’ chance to win AFC South. The Colts could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Raiders, but they lost 23-20.

  • The Rams’ 20-19 comeback victory over the Ravens means they can clinch the NFC West if the Cardinals lose to the Cowboys in the late window.

  • The Eagles’ 20-16 victory over Washington means they have a chance to clinch a playoff spot before the day is done. They need either the Vikings to lose to the Packers and the Saints to lose to the Carolina Panthers, or the Vikings to lose in combination with the 49ers losing to the Houston Texans.

  • Washington was eliminated from playoff contention. Given the Week 1 loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and its late-season COVID-19 outbreak, it’s frankly amazing that this team was still in the race in Week 17. The Falcons were also eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Bills.

  • The Bills clinched a playoff berth, thanks to their 29-15 victory over the Falcons, along with the Ravens’ loss to the Rams. That’s three consecutive trips to the postseason for the Bills under coach Sean McDermott.

  • The Patriots clinched a playoff berth after beating the Jaguars, 50-10, and getting a 34-3 loss from the Dolphins against the Titans.

  • If the Cowboys lose to the Cardinals, the Packers can clinch the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Vikings on Sunday night. ESPN’s FPI says Green Bay has an 85% chance to earn it by the end of the season. The Cowboys have an 11% chance to jump the Packers and claim the top seed, while the Buccaneers and Rams each have a 2% chance.

  • The 49ers can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Texans, if the Saints also lose to the Panthers.

  • The Chargers can eliminate three teams from playoff contention if they beat the Broncos late Sunday afternoon: the Broncos, Browns and Dolphins. The Saints will be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to the Panthers and the 49ers beat the Texans.

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