May 9, 2021

NFL playoff picture 2020 – Week 16 standings, bracket, scenarios and outlook for the postseason

7 min read

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The first year of the NFL’s expanded playoffs has left us with seven postseason spots still in play as Week 17 approaches. That’s more than in any year since at least 1990, the most recent time the field expanded, and sets up a wild final week of the regular season.

Here is the full postseason outlook and clinching scenarios that lie ahead, along with analysis from ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), after Sunday night’s Packers victory.

Note: X denotes a team that has clinched a playoff berth, Y shows a team that has clinched its division and Z indicates a team that has secured a first-round bye.

Jump to: AFC | NFC

AFC

FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 1, clinched

It doesn’t matter how it happens, as long as it does happen, right? The Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on Sunday, even though they were on the ropes for much of the game. Ultimately, they won when Falcons Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo missed what would have been a game-tying 39-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining.

The Chiefs will get the AFC’s only first-round bye, and their next road game will come either at the Super Bowl or in the 2021 season.

Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers


FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 2, 80.9%

The Bills lost out on their small chance to be the top seed in the AFC, but Monday night’s win at New England kept them in the driver’s seat to land the No. 2 seed in the conference. To clinch it, they’ll need a win in Week 17 or a loss by the Steelers.

Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins


FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 3, 80.9%

The Steelers snapped out of their extended funk at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Colts, roaring back from a three-touchdown deficit to win and clinch the AFC North. They moved up to the second spot temporarily, and they will remain there entering Week 17 if the Bills lose Monday night to the Patriots.

Remaining schedule: at Browns


FPI chances to make playoffs: 92.2%
FPI chances to win division: 64.9%
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 4, 64.9%

The Titans failed to clinch the AFC South title on Sunday night in losing to the Packers, but they’ll have multiple opportunities to do so in Week 17, thanks to the Colts’ loss in Pittsburgh. The Titans will clinch if they beat the Texans or via a loss by the Ravens, Colts or Dolphins.

Remaining schedule: at Texans


FPI chances to make playoffs: 83.5%
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 7, 35.9%

The Dolphins pulled off one of the most dramatic and meaningful victories of the season on Saturday night, maintaining their spot in the AFC’s top seven by beating the Raiders. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s comeback might not only push the Dolphins into the playoffs, but it also could hold out the Browns or another qualified team.

The Dolphins can’t clinch in Week 16, but a victory in Week 17 over the Bills would do it, as would a loss by the Ravens, Browns or Colts.

Remaining schedule: at Bills


FPI chances to make playoffs: 91.9%
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 5, 51.8%

Sunday’s win over the Giants, combined with the Browns’ loss to the Jets, pushed the Ravens back into the playoff picture. They’ve now won four consecutive games and aren’t a team that anyone in the AFC would look forward to playing. To clinch a postseason spot, all they’ll need to do is win in Cincinnati in Week 17. The Ravens also would get in if the Browns or Colts lose.

Remaining schedule: at Bengals

FPI chances to make playoffs: 51.9%
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 7, 22.9%

The Browns’ loss Sunday to the Jets was so, well, the Browns. Playing with a roster depleted by COVID-19 protocols, the Browns lost to a one-win team, and they are hanging on to their playoff chances by a thread.

They have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Colts and can clinch a playoff spot in Week 17 by beating the Steelers at home. They also can clinch if the Colts lose or via this combination: the Titans losing their final game and the Ravens, Colts and Dolphins all winning in Week 17.

Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers


Still in the AFC hunt

Indianapolis Colts (10-5): Sunday’s collapse in Pittsburgh leaves the Colts out of — but not eliminated from — the playoff picture, thanks to tiebreaker disadvantages to the Titans, Browns and Dolphins. The Colts will need help in Week 17 to secure a spot. First, they need a win over the Jaguars. Then they need a loss by either the Titans, Ravens, Browns or Dolphins. A win and a Titans loss also would give the Colts the AFC South title. It sounds like a lot, but FPI gives the Colts a 80.4% chance of making the playoffs.

NFC

FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 1, 79.7%

The Packers weren’t able to clinch the NFC’s top spot, despite Sunday night’s victory over the Titans, because both the Saints and Seahawks won in Week 16. They can rectify that by beating the Bears in Week 17. FPI is giving Green Bay an 82% chance to lock up the No. 1 seed.

If they lose to the Bears, the Packers can still secure home-field advantage if the Seahawks lose to the 49ers. The Seahawks would have the tiebreaker between the teams if they both finish 12-4.

Remaining schedule: at Bears


FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 2, 68.9%

The Saints clinched their fourth consecutive NFC South championship with Friday’s wild victory over the Vikings. Now the question is whether they’ll be able to leapfrog the Packers for the No. 1 spot in the conference. The simplest way to do it will be to beat the Panthers and then have the Seahawks win and the Packers lose in Week 17. FPI gives it about a 13% chance of happening.

Remaining schedule: at Panthers


FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Clinched
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 3, 68.2%

The Seahawks clinched the NFC West with Sunday’s victory over the Rams. And they’re not yet eliminated from the race for the NFC’s top seed, but they would need to beat the 49ers in Week 17 and also have the Packers and Saints lose in Week 17. It’s not likely, but it’s also not out of the question. FPI puts the chances of it happening at 5%.

Remaining schedule: at 49ers


FPI chances to make playoffs: 59.7%
FPI chances to win division: 59.7%
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 4, 59.7%

After 16 weeks of wildness, the NFC East title is going to come down to Week 17. Washington will win it if it beats the Eagles. If not, the winner of the Week 17 matchup between the Giants and Cowboys will clinch the division.

And yes, that means a sub-.500 team will officially win the division, one way or the other. Yuck. It has happened only two other times in the Super Bowl era: the 2014 Panthers (7-8-1) and the 2010 Seahawks (7-9). Whoever wins the NFC East will be the first team in NFL history (of 342 candidates) to start a season 2-7 or worse and go on to make the playoffs, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Remaining schedule: at Eagles


FPI chances to make playoffs: Clinched
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 5, 84%

The Bucs clinched a playoff berth on Saturday by crushing the Lions, but the Saints’ win on Friday eliminated them from the NFC South title race. Regardless, the Buccaneers should be able to clinch the 5-seed in the NFC playoffs next weekend with a victory over Atlanta.

Remaining schedule: vs. Falcons


FPI chances to make playoffs: 87.3%
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 6, 46.7%

The Rams failed to clinch a playoff berth this weekend in losing to the Seahawks. They’ll now need either a win in Week 17 or a loss by the Bears to do so. If the Rams lose and the Bears win, L.A. will miss the postseason after entering Week 16 with a 96.2% chance to make the playoffs, per FPI.

Remaining schedule: vs. Cardinals


FPI chances to make playoffs: 75.3%
FPI chances to win division: Eliminated
Most likely seed, per FPI: No. 7, 62.6%

Sunday’s victory at Jacksonville, following the Cardinals’ loss Saturday to the 49ers, catapulted the Bears to the brink of clinching an unlikely playoff berth. They’ll either need to beat the Packers in Week 17 or have the Cardinals lose to the Rams in order to secure their postseason spot.

Remaining schedule: vs. Packers

Still in the NFC hunt

Arizona Cardinals (8-7): Saturday’s loss to the 49ers left the Cardinals needing help to get into the playoffs. They’ll need a win over the Rams in Week 17 to do it (37.4% chance, per FPI).

Dallas Cowboys (6-9): The Cowboys can win the NFC East if they beat the Giants in Week 17 and Washington loses to the Eagles. Of the teams still alive, Dallas has the lowest FPI playoff odds at 16.2%.

New York Giants (5-10): Similarly, the Giants can win the NFC East if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and Washington loses to the Eagles. FPI is giving New York a 24.1% chance of making it happen.

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