Current NFL playoff picture: 11 spots, three left

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The NFL’s penultimate regular season on Sunday in the 2021 campaign ended with 11 of its 14 playoff spots occupied. Six of its eight divisions have champions. And one of its two upper seeds is clustered. The day started with the Bengals and Titans beating AFC North and AFC South respectively. It ended with the Packers securing the NFC’s top seed with a rampage over the Vikings; and as a result, the Eagles got one of the NFC’s wildcard slots. (Earlier on Sunday, the Bills and Patriots also secured playoff spots.)

There’s one game left in Week 17. The Steelers will host the Browns on Monday Night Football, and because the Steelers remain in the AFC mix, we’ll update this story once again at the end of the game. Otherwise, the rest of the league’s playoff picture awaits until week 18. The following is all we know about what happened on Sunday and what may happen in the coming week.

Note: All percentage chances of reaching the playoffs, winning a division title or securing the No. 1 seed of the conference are via ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

Jump to: AFC | NFC
Clinching scenarios

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AFC playoff position

ten

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: 78 %
Remaining schedule: at Texans


kc

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: 17%
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. Chargers
Remaining schedule: at the Broncos


cin

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: 4%
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. Colts
Remaining schedule: at Browns


buf

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: 95%
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. Patriots
Remaining schedule: vs. Jets

Game

0:23

Devin Singletary rumbles past the finish line for a roaring, roaring touchdown that increases Bills’ lead.


ne

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: 5%
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: one%
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at Bills
Remaining schedule: by dolphins


ind

Chances of reaching the playoffs: 85%
Chances of winning division: Eliminated
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at Bengals
Remaining schedule: at Jaguars


lac

Chances of reaching the playoffs: 58%
Chances of winning division: Eliminated
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at Chiefs
Remaining schedule: at the Raiders


In the AFC hunt

lv

Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
Chances of reaching the playoffs:
51%

pit

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Chances of reaching the playoffs:
4%

bal

Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Chances of reaching the playoffs:
thaw%

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NFC playoff position

gb

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Knaldet
Remaining schedule: at Lions


lar

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: 76%
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. Eagles
Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers


tb

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. 49ers
Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers

Game

0:20

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


dal

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Knaldet
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: vs. Cardinals
Remaining schedule: at the Eagles


ari

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: 24%
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at the Cowboys
Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks


sf

Chances of reaching the playoffs: 62%
Chances of winning division: Eliminated
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at Buccaneers
Remaining schedule: at Rams


phi

Chances of reaching the playoffs: Knaldet
Chances of winning division: Eliminated
Chances of earning No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Currently expected matchup in the first round: at Rams
Remaining schedule: vs. Cowboys


In the NFC hunt

no

New Orleans Saints (8-8)
Chances of reaching the playoffs:
38%

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Clinching scenarios and exciting playoff races

  • The Packers have won the NFC’s topseed for the second season in a row, and their next significant match will be a division round match to be decided on the weekend of 22-23. January.

  • The Packers’ victory allowed the Eagles to win a playoff spot, with Philadelphia winning six out of seven games. Who had Nick Sirianni as the first rookie coach this season to secure a place in the playoffs?

  • Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals means the AFC’s final No. 1 seed will have at least five defeats, tied for the AFC’s top team since the NFL began the seeding process in 1975. The most recent team of this type with five losses was the 2002 Raiders, who advanced to the Super Bowl XXXVII.

  • The Bengals won the AFC North for the first time since 2015, thanks to their 34-31 victory over the Chiefs. But will history remember that it required the flag of two consecutive fourth-down games on the finish line to keep the Bengals’ winning drive alive? The Bengals can win the No. 1 seed in the AFC in Week 18 with a win over the Browns and losses to the Titans, Chiefs and Patriots or a win and a Bills win plus losses to the Titans and Chiefs.

  • The Titans took a playoff spot and AFC South with a win over the Dolphins. At some point, we need to take a step back and acknowledge what the Titans have done under coach Mike Vrabel. After reaching the playoffs once in the nine years before arriving in 2018, they have now had four consecutive winning seasons, three consecutive trips to the playoffs and now two consecutive division titles. The Titans can win the top seed in Week 18 with (A) a win in Houston, (B) loss of Chiefs, Bengals and Patriots or (C) loss of Chiefs and Bengals combined with a win of Bills.

  • The Titans ‘victory eliminated the Colts’ chance of winning the AFC South. The Colts could have won a playoff spot with a win over Las Vegas, but they lost 23-20. The Colts can win a playoff spot with (A) a win over the Jaguars, (B) a loss to the Ravens, Chargers and Steelers (Week 17) or (C) a loss to the Chargers and Steelers (Week 17 and 18) and a Dolphins winner.

  • The Bills got a spot in the playoffs, thanks to their 29-15 victory over the Falcons along with the Ravens’ loss to the Rams. These are three consecutive trips to the postseason for the Bills under coach Sean McDermott. They will win the AFC East for the second year in a row if they beat the Jets at home in Week 18.

  • The Patriots took a playoff spot after beating the Jaguars 50-10 and suffering a 34-3 loss from the Dolphins against the Titans. New England could still win the AFC East with a Week 18 win over the Dolphins and a Bills loss. To gain home advantage as the No. 1 seed, the Patriots would need a week-18 win and loss to the Bills, Titans and Chiefs.

  • The Chargers’ victory over the Broncos eliminated the Broncos, Dolphins and Browns from the playoffs. More importantly for the Chargers: It created a win-and-in situation for their Week 18 game at the Raiders. That game will also be a win-and-in scenario for the Raiders, who have won three consecutive games to get back in the race. The Raiders can also come in with losses to the Colts and Steelers (in either Week 17 or 18).

  • The Saints avoided playoff elimination by defeating the Panthers. They can win a playoff spot with a win over the Falcons combined with a 49ers loss.

  • The 49ers did not reach a playoff spot on Sunday, but they can do so in Week 18 with a win over the Rams or a loss to the Saints.

  • The Rams were unable to win NFC West on Sunday, thanks to the Cardinals’ win, but Los Angeles can do so with a Week 18 win over the 49ers or a Cardinals loss. The Cardinals can win the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks and a Rams loss. But Arizona can not get to No. 1 seed.

  • The Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs, marking the first time in coach Mike Zimmer’s eight-year tenure that they have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Washington was also eliminated from the playoffs, but given the Week 1 loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and its COVID-19 outburst in the late season, it’s honestly amazing that this team was still in the race in Week 17. The Falcons was the third NFC team eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday with their loss to the Bills. And as mentioned, the Broncos, Dolphins and Browns were eliminated in the AFC.

  • Despite losing five games in a row, the Ravens are not out of it yet. To get to the playoffs, they must beat the Steelers in Week 18 and suffer losses to the Colts, Browns, Chargers and Dolphins.

  • The Steelers can win a playoff spot by winning their last two games – Monday night against the Browns and in Week 18 at the Ravens – and get a loss by the Colts.

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