The 2021 NFL season is closing on the end of its new 17-game schedule with only three full weeks left. Here’s checking on the updated standings and what the playoff picture is looking for Week 16.
The league kept its expanded playoff field, with 14 of its 32 teams (43.8 percent) set to qualify for the latest postseason. That includes 7 each from the AFC and NFC, with only the No. 1 seeds getting byes on top of home-field advantage.
Who would be in, who’s still in contention, and who should be thinking about next season? Here’s a comprehensive look:
NFL standings for Week 16
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), first place, AFC West. The Chiefs went back to top-seed status after beating the Chargers in overtime in Week 15. That status extends to Week 16 with the Patriots losing to the Colts and the Titans, who beat the Chiefs in Week 7, losing to the Steelers in Week 15. The Chiefs need to win to stay ahead of the winning Titans in Week 16. The Chiefs host the Steelers next in their march to another No. 1 seed and the sole bye with home-field advantage. They would clinch another division title with a win, too. Remaining schedule: at CIN, at DEN
2. Tennessee Titans (10-5), first place, AFC South. The Titans jumped here after rallying to beat the 49ers to open Week 16, a big rebound from their tough AFC loss to the Steelers in Week 15. They are now well positioned to make sure they don’t lose thri hold on the division. They would repeat as South champions should they get another win or the second-place Colts lose. They would jump up to No. 1 again with Remaining schedule: vs. MIA, at HOU
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6), first place, AFC North. The Bengals ripped the Ravens a second time to complete a season sweep in Week 16 and took full control of the division. They are 4-1 in division play, also having swept the Steelers, They moved up here with the Patriots losing, which put the Bills in first place in the AFC East. The Bengals hold the tiebreaker vs. the Bills based on a 7-3 conference record. Remaining schedule: vs. KC, at CLE
4. Buffalo Bills (9-6), first place, AFC East. The Bills beat the Patriots to jump up here. They split the season series with the Patriots but the Bills hold the tiebreaker based on having the better division record, a stellar 4-1 with one East matchup left, at home against the Jets in Week 18. The Bills are in great shape to win the division for a second consecutive season with another home game against the lowly NFC Falcons in Week 17. Buffalo wanted to avoid the wild-card mess, and it’s done just that. Remaining schedule: vs. ATL, vs. NYJ
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-6), second place, AFC South. The Colts followed up their huge Week 15 win over the Patriots with another one in Week 16 at the Cardinals. They stay strong in the top spot in the wild-card race because of the Patriots and Chargers losing again in Week 16. The Colts won’t be winning the division anymore after losing to the Titans twice, but getting three games above. 500 mean the playoffs are on near lock for a second consecutive season. Remaining schedule: vs. LV, at JAX
6. New England Patriots (9-6), second place, AFC East. The Patriots fell from leading the division to second wild card by losing to the two teams now ahead of them in consecutive games. They have cooled off big time during their short losing streak but can feel good about a playoff berth still as they also own a key head-to-head victory over the Chargers, who also lost in Weeks 15 and 16. Remaining schedule: vs. JAX, at MIA
7. Pittsbrugh Steelers (7-6-1), second place, AFC North. hThe Steelers’ stay in this spot behind the Bengals will be temporary as they are losing to the Chiefs badly in Week 16 and are bound to dropping back to .500 after beaing the Titans in a must-win scenario in Week 15. Remaining schedule: vs. CLE, at BAL
Who can get there?
8. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
The Ravens didn’t change positions with their loss to the Bengals but can still get up to No. 7 and the last wild card with a Steelers loss and whatever happens between the Broncos and Raiders late afternoon game.
Who’s set to be out?
10. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
11. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
12. Denver Broncos (7-7)
13. Cleveland Browns (7-8)
14. New York Jets (4-11, eliminated)
15. Houston Texans (4-11, eliminated)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, eliminated)
The Browns fell further, losing early in Week 16. The Dolphins keep on winning during their six-game streak but they are trying to make too much ground after a 1-7 start, especially with the logjam in front. The Broncos are in the same boat after starting the season 3-0. The Raiders have been fading hard for a while. The winning Jets kept pace with the winning Texans by beating the Jaguars in Week 16.
NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Green Bay Packers (12-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers built on their NFL-best record by beating the Browns at home in Week 16 for their fourth consecutive victory with a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. They are a win shy of last year’s total with two games left. They will remain the No. 1 seed favorites heading into Week 17, one game ahead of multiple teams. They have a head-to-head win over the Rams for a key tiebreaker They haven’t played either the Cowboys or Buccaneers, but they have a strong conference record (8-2) to further help them break ties. Remaining schedule: vs. MIN, at DET
2. Los Angeles Rams (11-4), first place, NFC West. The Rams revived their division-winning chances by beating the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 14 to even the season series. They tied for first place by beating the Seahawks in Week 15 and got early big benefits of the 49ers and Cardinals losing to open Week 16. The Rams clinched at least a playoff spot by beating the Vikings. Now it’s a two-team race for the title over the final two weeks, but the closing slate is tough for both teams. Give Los Angeles the clear edge with a one-game lead. Remaining schedule: at BAL, vs. SF
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4), champions, NFC South. The Buccaneers rebounded from their home division upset loss vs. the Saints in Week 15 to routing the Panthers on the road in Week 16. After winning Super Bowl 55 as a wild-card playoff team, they have earned their first division title with Tom Brady at the helm. They are still in a tough spot get back up to the No. 1 seed, given the Packers (conference record) and Rams (head-to-head) hold tiebreakers against them. They would need to tie only with the Cowboys, whom they beat in Week 1, to Remaining schedule: at NYJ, vs. CAR
4. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), first place, NFC East. The Cowboys, who have clinched at least a wild-card spot, can finish anywhere between Nos. 1 and 4 because of how the tiebreakers play out. Their biggest asset is their stellar conference record (8-1), better than any of the top NFC contenders. The Cowboys will clinch the division title in Week 16 with a win over Washington or a Raiders win before they play despite the second-place Eagles winning. Remaining schedule: vs. ARI, at PHI
5. Arizona Cardinals (10-5), second place, NFC West. The Cardinals dropped here after losing their third consecutive game in Week 16 at home vs. the Colts and going 3-5 after a 7-0 start. The loss to the Colts after that Lions shocker also made the division race much tighter, as the Rams now are a full game up front after they beat the Vikings in Week 16. Should the Cardinals and Rams end up in a tie, the Cardinals for now still hold the division-record tiebreaker after they split the season series with the Rams. Remaining schedule: at DAL, vs. SEA
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-7), third place, NFC West. The 49ers cooled off to open Week 16 by losing to the Titans on the road, after beating the Falcons at home in Week 15 and the Bengals on the road in Week 14. They can still feel great about their wild-card chances, even though they can stop entertaining thoughts of catching either the Rams or the Cardinals for the division crown. They do have key wins over the teams behind them, the Eagles and Vikings. They also hold a slight conference record tiebreaker (6-5 vs. 5-5) over the Saints. Remaining schedule: vs. HOU, at LAR
7. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7), second place, NFC East.The Eagles jumped into playoff position thanks to the losing Vikings falling a game behind. They will stay ahead of the Saints going into Week 17 no matter what happens to them on Monday night, thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Saints in Week 11. The Eagles still have slim chance of winning the East as the Cowboys can wrap things up in Week 16, ahead of the teams closing the season against each other in Week 18. Remaining schedule: at WAS, vs. DAL
Who can get there?
8. New Orleans Saints (7-7)
9. Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
10. Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
11. Washington Football Team (6-8)
12. Seattle Seahawks (5-9)
The Saints lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Eagles based on losing at Philadelphia in Week 11. The Vikings lost to the Rams to fall back, but stay ahead of the winning Falcons because of a better conference record. Washington and the Seahawks are down to their true final chances in Week 16.
Who’s set to be out?
14. Carolina Panthers (5-10, eliminated)
14. Chicago Bears (4-10, eliminated)
15. New York Giants (4-11, eliminated)
16. Detroit Lions (2-11-1, eliminated)
The Panthers joined this official no-playoff club by falling hard to the Buccaneers in Week 16. The Giants are stuck deep in last place in the NFC East with all their injuries. The Bears joined them in elimination in Week 15. The Lions lost in Week 16 to change little after their big upset win over the Cardinals.