Updated NFL Playoff Picture: Scenarios & Potential Matchups After Week 15

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Peyton Manning practiced this week, but will still be out today against Pittsburgh. (Getty)

After what seemed like a major development at the top of the AFC standings, the Patriots resumed their place as the top seed. New England can clinch a first-round bye with a win and some help, but they’d mostly like to get through their game against the Titans injury-free. That help comes in the form of a Broncos loss, something that could very well happen when they travel to Heinz Field. Denver is allowing a league-low 17.3 points per game, but the Steelers have scored 30 or more in five straight outings.

A win from the Steelers would see the them move into the playoff picture, bumping out the Jets. New York has played one more game in the AFC, thus holds a half-game lead over Pittsburgh in the tiebreaker. That deficit will be made up today, and could put Pittsburgh on pace for a second consecutive Wild Card berth.

Despite being at least two games out of the Wild Card race, the AFC South is still very much up for grabs. It may not have the tradition of the NFC East, but it definitely shares it’s affinity for bad football. The Titans look destined for the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, but the three other teams are still thinking postseason. We’ll know more after Texans-Colts, but keep an eye on Jacksonville- a win puts them a game behind the division leader with the Texans still on the schedule.

Divisional games in the final week of the season are going to have a massive impact on the final standings. Conference record is an important tiebreaker, and three of the eight NFL divisions are still up for grabs. In the NFC, Giants-Eagles and Packers-Vikings are both at the end of the rainbow, making it enticing to look ahead to future matchups. But if the Giants don’t knock off the undefeated Panthers today, they might have a hard time hanging around the division race.

For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.

Here’s how the playoff standings look right now:


AFC Seeding

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Denard Robinson and the Jaguars could sneak into the playoffs, starting with a win today. (Getty)

The Division Leaders:

1. New England Patriots — 12-2 — Clinched AFC East
2. Cincinnati Bengals — 11-3
3. Denver Broncos — 10-4
4. Houston Texans — 7-7

The Wild Card Contenders:

5. Kansas City Chiefs — 9-5
6. Pittsburgh Steelers — 9-5
7. New York Jets — 9-5

Clinching Scenarios:

– New England clinches first-round bye with win and Denver loss

– Cincinnati clinches AFC North with win and Pittsburgh tie OR Pittsburgh loss

– Cincinnati clinches playoff spot with win OR Kansas City loss

– Denver clinches AFC West with win and Kansas City loss

– Denver clinches playoff spot with win

Potential Wild Card Matchups:

Steelers at Broncos

Chiefs at Texans


NFC Seeding

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Russel Wilson is leading the Seahawks back into the posteason. (Getty)

The Division Leaders:

1. Carolina Panthers — 14-0 — Clinched NFC South
2. Arizona Cardinals — 12-2 — Clinched playoff berth
3. Green Bay Packers — 10-4 — Clinched playoff berth
4. Washington Redskins — 7-7

The Wild Card Contenders:

5. Seattle Seahawks — 9-5
6. Minnesota Vikings — 9-5

Clinching Scenarios:

– Carolina can clinch home-field advantage through playoffs with win and Arizona loss

– Arizona clinches NFC West with win OR Seattle loss

– Arizona clinches first-round bye with win and Green Bay loss

– Green Bay clinches playoff spot with win OR Washington loss OR New York loss

– There are five ways Seattle can clinch a playoff spot, the easiest being a win and a loss from either Washington or New York

– There are seven ways Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot, the easiest being a win and a loss from both Atlanta and Washington

Potential Wild Card Matchups:

Seahawks at Redskins

Vikings at Packers



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