NFL Playoff Picture: Texans, Browns Big Winners on Saturday

DeAndre Hopkins

Getty Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins

The Houston Texans still have work to do and need a bit of help from other teams to lock up a bye in the NFL playoffs, but they’re trending in the right direction. After the team’s Week 15 victory over the New York Jets, the Texans moved to 10-4 on the season. And for at least one day, also jumped into the AFC’s No. 2 spot, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs.

While the New England Patriots (9-4) have a big matchup Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the top of the conference just got even more interesting. Pairing that up with the Chiefs loss to the Los Angeles Chargers only adds to the drama surrounding the home stretch of the season on the AFC side.

But Deshaun Watson and company weren’t the only big winners on Saturday. The Cleveland Browns kept their playoff hopes alive with a crucial road victory against the Denver Broncos to move to 6-7-1 on the season. Even with the win, the Browns have some work to do in order to make up ground on that final AFC playoff spot, though, and need some help as well.

There’s a lot to be sorted out in the NFL playoff picture across the board, so let’s take a look at the latest breakdown and postseason outlook.

AFC Playoff Picture

*Notates division leaders

  1. 1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)*
  2. 2. Houston Texans (10-4)*
  3. 3. New England Patriots (9-4)*
  4. 4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)*
  5. 5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)
  6. 6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
  7. 7. Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
  8. 8. Miami Dolphins (7-6)
  9. 9. Tennessee Titans (7-6)
  10. 10. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)
  11. 11. Denver Broncos (6-8)
  12. 12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)

The Browns and Broncos capped off Saturday’s action with a key matchup for the fate of both teams, and as you can see above, the outcome left a mark. Even with wins from the Texans and Browns, there is quite a bit to still be sorted out. This especially stands true if the Steelers knock off the Patriots, as Houston would be in a position to hold the No. 2 seed.

The Texans face the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars to finish the year out. Houston may also have a chance to push for the top seed, as the Chiefs face the Seattle Seahawks on the road in Week 16. They also would need at least one Chargers loss, and that entire situation would then come down to three-way tiebreakers.

Speaking of tiebreakers, Kansas City holds the division win percentage tiebreaker on the Chargers while the Ravens hold tiebreakers over the three other 7-6 teams in the Wild Card. Things may wind up looking drastically different when all is said and done, but for now, the AFC playoff race is set to be a fun one to watch in the final weeks.

Key Games for AFC Playoff Picture

Moving forward, there are multiple games that jump out beginning even on Sunday of Week 15 that could have major playoff implications. The Patriots and Steelers will be one game to monitor, as New England could lose a potential first-round bye while Pittsburgh could fall out of the picture altogether (for now) with a loss.

The Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans both have road games Sunday, facing the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. A loss for either of those two teams would drastically impact their playoff chances, especially if the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There’s also the aforementioned matchup between the Chiefs and Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 16, while the Chargers face the Ravens on Saturday of that week. Those two games alone could shake up both the top of the AFC and potentially the final Wild Card spot. And unfortunately for the Steelers, their road doesn’t get any easier next week, as they draw a road game against the New Orleans Saints.

Updated Look at NFC Playoff Picture & Key Games

*Notates division leaders

  1. 1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)*
  2. 2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)*
  3. 3. Chicago Bears (9-4)*
  4. 4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)*
  5. 5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. 6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
  7. 7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
  8. 8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  9. 9. Washington Redskins (6-7)
  10. 10. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1)
  11. 11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)
  12. 12. New York Giants (5-8)
  13. 13. Detroit Lions (5-8)

Although Saturday’s action didn’t impact the NFC, that fun starts on Sunday afternoon with a few key matchups. This side of the NFL may seem more set, but there are still seedings that need to be determined. Both the Saints and Los Angeles Rams are battling for the No. 1 seed while the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears are fighting for No. 3.

As for the final Wild Card spot, there are now eight teams with for a chance at it, as the Minnesota Vikings hold the edge even after a Week 14 loss to the Seahawks. Week 15 puts playoff hopes on the line as the Green Bay Packers face the rival Bears while the Saints (at Panthers) and Rams (vs. Eagles) could both impact the Wild Card standings.

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