Week 15 in the NFL is finally in the books, with the last two games getting played on Tuesday night. The playoff picture headed into weekend No. 16 is therefore finalized as well, and it still has the New England Patriots in the second seed in the AFC despite their loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
Heading into Week 16 with a 9-5 record, tough, the Patriots’ position is far from secure. In fact, their upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills could either solidify their standing among the top teams in the conference, or push them into the wild card positions — forcing them to hold onto their playoff lives over the last two weeks of the regular season.
At the moment, though, the AFC playoff picture looks as follows:
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
- New England Patriots (9-5)
- Tennessee Titans (9-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
- Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
- Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
- Buffalo Bills (8-6)
Week 16 features some huge games as far as the playoff outlook is concerned, and it has the potential to massively shake up the standings. The Titans will kick things off against the 8-6 San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, followed by two Saturday games featuring the Browns at the 11-3 Green Bay Packers and the Colts at the 10-4 Arizona Cardinals.
Sunday’s slate of games, meanwhile, will see the Patriots host the Bills as well as three other massive all-AFC battles. At 1 p.m. ET, the Ravens will visit the Bengals with the AFC North lead on the line. At 4:25 p.m. ET, the Steelers and Chiefs and Broncos and Raiders will meet. The Chargers traveling to Houston pales in comparison.
On Monday, finally, the Dolphins will play the 7-7 New Orleans Saints on the road. That primetime matchup will end a week that will have huge playoff implications across the board.
As far as the Patriots are concerned, they appear to be in a solid spot regardless of their result against the visiting Bills.
New England will almost certainly clinch a playoff spot with a win, while the odds of making the tournament are calculated at a solid 94 percent by FiveThirtyEight even in case of a loss. That being said, the AFC East will pretty much be decided one way or the other: a Patriots win gives them a 99 percent chance at taking back the division crown; a loss drops that number to just 12.
The NFC’s playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:
- Green Bay Packers (11-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)
- Arizona Cardinals (10-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (10-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (8-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-7)
The NFC saw the first team clinch its postseason ticket: the Packers officially qualified for the tournament by beating the Ravens 31-30 on the road. But while they are in a good position atop the conference, they have not wrapped up the No. 1 seed just yet: four teams sit at 10-4 behind them, and everything still is possible in the top-heavy conference.