Week 16 is here with the end of the 2020 NFL regular season just around the corner. Every win means everything in trying to lock down seeding, division titles or wild-card berths to get into the playoffs, while every loss is devastating.
The postseason field has expanded by one team each in the AFC and the NFC to a total of 14 has made the late-season results more interesting. Based on the current standings, here’s an updated look at what each conference tournament would look like if the playoffs started now:
WEEK 16: Sporting News’ latest NFL power rankings
NFL standings for Week 15
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1), champions, AFC West. The Chiefs are rolling with soon-to-be two-time regular-season MVP Patrick Mahomes in their mighty defense of Super Bowl 54. They are only a win away from securing home-field advantage and the lone bye in this year’s playoffs. They also can lock down the top seed with a loss by either the Bills or the Steelers. Remaining schedule: vs. ATL, vs. LAC
2. Buffalo Bills (11-3), champions, AFC East. The Bills took care of the division title in Week 15 and now can focus on keeping No. 2 over the Steelers, whom they beat in Week 14. But they also need to keep winning so they don’t drop as low as No. 4 behind the Titans, to whom they lost. Remaining schedule: at NE, vs. MIA
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3), first place, AFC North. The Steelers, losers of three straight games after starting 11-0 thanks to the offensive struggles tied to the shaky play of Ben Roethlisberger, can now forget about the No. 1 seed. They need to finish a game ahead of the Bills to go back up to No. 2 but they do have a key win against the Titans, who are right behind them. The Steelers can still rebound to win the North with a victory or a Browns loss in one of the final two games, which are tough. Should the Steelers lose in Week 16 and the Browns win, Week 17 becomes a de facto division title game. Remaining schedule: vs. IND, at CLE
4. Tennessee Titans (10-4), first place, AFC South. The Titans hold the South lead by a division-record tiebreaker over the Colts, despite having the same overall record. They can’t catch the Chiefs, but they have an outside shot at No. 2, having beaten the Bills earlier in the season. The Titans would clinch at least a playoff berth with a win over the Packers or a loss by either the Dolphins or Ravens. They can clinch the South with a win and a Colts loss. Remaining schedule: at GB, at HOU
5. Cleveland Browns (10-4), second place, AFC North. The Browns will edge out the Steelers for the division if they win out and the Steelers lose the Colts in Week 16. The Browns can clinch at least their first wild-card berth since 2002 with a win over the Jets plus a loss by either the Colts, Dolphins or Ravens. Remaining schedule: at NYJ, vs. PIT
6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4), second place, AFC South. The Colts, who split with the Titans, need to stay even with them going into Week 17 to have any shot of stealing the division. The Cols would clinch at least a wild-card berth with a win over the Steelers plus a loss by either the Dolphins or Ravens. Remaining schedule: at PIT, vs JAX
7. Miami Dolphins (9-5), second place, AFC East. The Dolphins cannot clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 as they are in a virtual tie with the Ravens for the final AFC playoff spot. They finish with two tricky road games against the Raiders and Bills. They have zero margin for error as the Ravens have an incredibly easy closing stretch in relation to what they have. Remaining schedule: at LV, at BUF
Who can get there?
8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
9. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
The Ravens close with winnable games against the Giants and Bengals as they try to catch the Dolphins, who for now hold a one-game conference-record tiebreaker against them (6-4 vs. 6-5). If both teams win out, the Dolphins would get in, holding a one-game edge in conference record. The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over the Colts and Browns but lost to the Titans. The Raiders are hanging on by a thread after consecutive home losses to the Colts and Chargers and would be eliminated with a loss to the Dolphins.
10. New England Patriots (6-8)
11. Denver Broncos (5-9)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
13. Houston Texans (4-10)
14. Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1)
15. New York Jets (1-13)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13)
The Patriots became too inconsistent to get back into the wild-card race and the Week 15 loss at the Dolphins officially eliminated them. The Broncos and Texans are doing better than expected of late, but it’s more thinking about next year for both teams. The Chargers can think about what could have been with all their close losses, despite two recent wins. The Bengals were done when Joe Burrow went down in Week 11. The Jaguars and Jets are battling for the top draft pick and the order finally changed with the Jaguars losing again and the Jets winning in Week 15.
NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Green Bay Packers (11-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers are in very good shape to keep home-field advantage and the lone bye for the NFC playoffs. They lead the Saints by a full game and own the head-to-head tiebreaker. They also lead by the Seahawks by one game and own the conference-record tiebreaker (9-2 vs. 7-3). The Packers would clinch No. 1 with a win over the Titans and a Seahawks loss to the Rams. Remaining schedule: vs. TEN, at CHI
2. New Orleans Saints (11-4), champions, NFC South. The Saints have really hurt their chances of getting No. 1 by losing consecutive games to the Eagles and Chiefs. Now the focus will be trying to hold off the Seahawks for No. 2, armed with the conference-record tiebreaker (8-2 vs. 7-3). They finally wrapped up the division with their Christmas win over the Vikings. Remaining schedule: at CAR
3. Seattle Seahawks (10-4), first place, NFC West. The Seahawks are coming off a great Week 15, as their win at Washington coupled with the Rams’ shocking loss to the Jets gave them a one-game lead in the quest for their first division title since 2016. The Seahawks need help to jump the Packers and Saints, but they would win the West and secure at least this seed by beating the Rams at home on Sunday. Remaining schedule: vs. LAR, at SF
4. Washington Football Team (6-8), first place, NFC East. Washington, despite losing to the Seahawks to stay below .500 in Week 15, is in position to clinch the division in Week 16. A win over the Panthers while the Giants lose to the Ravens would do it. A loss opens the door for both the Giants and the winner of Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game to steal the division in Week 17. Remaining schedule: vs. CAR, at PHI
5. Los Angeles Rams (9-5), second place, NFC West. The Rams, a game behind, cannot clinch the division with a win over the Seahawks for a season sweep. They would still need a win or a Seahawks loss in Week 17 to accomplish that. The Rams can clinch a playoff spot, however, by beating the Seahawks. They also can secure at least a wild-card berth with a a Bears loss or Cardinals win. Remaining schedule: at SEA, vs. ARI
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) second place, NFC South. The Buccaneers no longer can win the division after the Saints’ win to open Week 16. They are on the brink of securing a wild-card berth, however, and can do so with a win over the Lions or a loss by the Bears. Remaining schedule: at DET, vs. ATL
7. Arizona Cardinals (8-6), third place, NFC West. The Cardinals cannot win the NFC West unless the Rams beat the Seahawks and the Cardinals then beat the Rams while the Seahawks also lose again in Week 17. The Cardinals can clinch a wild-card spot in Week 16 with a win over the 49ers coupled by a loss by the Bears. Remaining schedule: vs. SF, at LAR
Who can get there?
8. Chicago Bears (7-7)
The Bears need to win out and hope the Cardinals lose at least once to have a chance to get No. 7. The Vikings dropped out of this mix and into elimination with their Christmas loss at the Saints.
Who’s likely out?
10. Dallas Cowboys (5-9)
11. New York Giants (5-9)
14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1)
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-9)
12. Detroit Lions (5-9)
13. San Francisco 49ers (5-9)
15. Carolina Panthers (4-10)
16. Atlanta Falcons (4-10)
The Cowboys, Giants and Eagles are all still looking up at Washington. The Cowboys and Eagles, who play each other in Week 16, need to win out and for Washington to lose twice. The Giants need to finish even with Washington to win the division, as they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Lions and Falcons are down here after both firing their coaches during the season. The 49ers joined them in elimination with consecutive home losses to the Bills and Washington. The rebuilding Panthers’ Week 15 loss in Green Bay was their eighth one-possession defeat this season.
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