NFL Playoff Picture: Chiefs, Vikings Clinch; Jets Inch Closer To Wild-Card Berth

by NESN Staff

December 28, 2015

Week 16 provided some clarity in the NFC playoff picture, but the AFC still is wide open heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Kansas City Chiefs clinched a playoff berth with their 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. If the season ended today, the Chiefs would be one of the two AFC wild-card teams, but they still could win their division depending on how the Denver Broncos fare over the final two weeks. The Broncos would clinch a playoff berth with a win Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the AFC West race will come down to the final weekend.

The Bengals, meanwhile, clinched the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They can clinch a first-round bye with a win Monday night. The Steelers now are on the outside of the AFC playoff picture, while the New York Jets can clinch a playoff berth with a Week 17 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Monday night’s game also could decide the AFC South winner. If the Bengals win, the Houston Texans would clinch the division and eliminate the Indianapolis Colts.

The New England Patriots failed to lock up home-field advantage thanks to their 26-20 overtime loss to the Jets, but they still control their own destiny next week against the Miami Dolphins.

Phew. Got all that?

The Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks all have clinched a playoff berth in the NFC.

The Cardinals and Panthers have earned first-round byes, and Week 17 will determine which team gets home-field advantage. The Packers and Vikings will play for the NFC North crown in their Week 17 matchup. The loser of that game will get one of the two wild-card spots. The Redskins are locked in at the No. 4 seed, and the Seahawks will get the other wild-card spot.

Here’s how the entire NFL playoff picture looks:


First-round byes
1. New England Patriots (12-3)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-3)

Wild-card round matchups
No. 6 New York Jets (10-5) at No. 3 Denver Broncos (10-4)
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) at No. 4 Houston Texans (8-7)

Still in the hunt: Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers


First-round byes
1. Carolina Panthers (14-1)
2. Arizona Cardinals (13-2)

Wild-card round matchups
No. 6 Seattle Seahawks (9-6) at No. 3 Green Bay Packers (10-5)
No. 5 Minnesota Vikings (10-5) at No. 4 Washington Redskins (8-7)

Playoff scenarios via

Thumbnail photo via Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports Images

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