Cowboys clinch spot as Titans close on division crown, No. 1 seed

Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 16 underway:


y – 1. Green Bay Packers (11-3), NFC North champions: They own the league’s best record – barely – after surviving shorthanded Baltimore on Sunday, a victory that enabled the Pack to lock up season’s first playoff spot. Green Bay retains inside track to secure No. 1 seed for second straight year. Remaining schedule: vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

x – 2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), NFC East leaders: They locked up a playoff spot Thursday courtesy of San Francisco’s loss. The division title now a formality, Dallas – 4-0 against NFC East competition – still has time to reel in No. 1 seed, too. Cowboys’ 8-1 conference record places them ahead of Arizona and Tampa Bay. Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles

QB Dak Prescott (4) and the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth from their couches Thursday night thanks to the 49ers’ loss.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4), NFC South leaders: Sunday night stumble vs. Saints kept them from winning first division title since 2007, though a win Sunday in Charlotte will remedy that. Week 15 loss also hinders Bucs’ pursuit of home field and bye. Their opening night win over Dallas doesn’t currently matter given three-way tie with Arizona – a scenario that rewards Cowboys’ excellence in NFC games instead. Strength of victory tiebreaker keeps Tampa seeded above Arizona. Remaining schedule: at Panthers, at Jets, vs. Panthers

Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals reacts to a penalty in the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 19, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4), NFC West leaders: A third consecutive second-half swoon under Kliff Kingsbury? Cards didn’t give up division lead to Rams this week given their 4-1 record against NFC West teams, but it will be in jeopardy this weekend. A win in either of past two weeks would have put Arizona into playoff field … as will a victory on Saturday, when Cardinals host Indianapolis on Christmas. Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

5. Los Angeles Rams (10-4), wild card No. 1: They matched Arizona’s record by beating the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night. But more work to be done for LA to move up board. Remaining schedule: at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

Story continues

6. San Francisco 49ers (8-7), wild card No. 2: Missed quite a few opportunities during Thursday’s loss in Nashville. Still, they have some margin for error courtesy of a 6-5 conference record that includes wins over the Vikings and Eagles. But if those teams and Saints win in Week 16, Niners will be bumped from field. Remaining schedule: vs. Texans, at Rams

The Vikings defense clamped down on the Bears on Monday night.

7. Minnesota Vikings (7-7), wild card No. 3: Monday’s win at Chicago allowed Vikes to displace Saints by virtue of superior record in NFC games (5-4). Philadelphia’s victory Tuesday kept Vikings in projected field. Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7), out of playoff field: Two more wins should get Philly into field. It’s doable, though record in common games currently keeping them behind Minnesota. Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

9. New Orleans Saints (7-7), out of playoff field: Upset in Tampa improved outlook but not enough to hang onto final wild-card spot after Monday. Worth noting Saints have beaten Washington but lost to Philadelphia. Also worth noting COVID-19 in QB room could undermine them Monday. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

10. Washington Football Team (6-8), out of playoff field: COVID-strapped team played valiantly Tuesday but suffered major setback in Philadelphia. WFT almost certainly needs to win out. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8), out of playoff field: Only one game back of final wild card, Sunday’s loss nonetheless just about cooks their goose. Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints


1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), AFC West leaders: How it started? Three wins in their first seven games. How it’s going? Winners of seven in a row, the best ongoing streak in the league. Beat Pittsburgh, and Kansas City is going to playoffs – and as division champs if Chargers also lose. K.C. controls path to home-field advantage for the third time in four seasons but must keep Tennessee at bay. Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

2. Tennessee Titans (10-5), AFC South leaders: Thursday’s win over Niners means they’re division champs if Colts lose Saturday. Titans will also reclaim No. 1 seed if Chiefs trip courtesy of Week 7 blowout of Kansas City. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, at Texans

Titans WR A.J. Brown (11) returned from injury to have a big game Thursday night.

3. New England Patriots (9-5), AFC East leaders: Loss in Indianapolis robbed them of controlling the conference’s outcome. Now they’re in jeopardy of losing divisional lead – though they could also clinch it by beating Buffalo on Sunday if Miami also loses. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), AFC North leaders: They jumped into the division lead by virtue of Week 15 win at Denver and a loss by Baltimore, whom Cincy beat in Week 7. Massive rematch coming up. Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns

5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6), wild card No. 1: Beating New England allowed them to jump the Chargers in the wild-card standings due to Indy’s better conference record (7-3). Winners of eight of their past 11, the Colts must finish with a better record than the Titans, who swept Indianapolis, to snatch AFC South. Colts head to Arizona on Christmas. Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6), wild card No. 2: They could have displaced Kansas City atop AFC West last week. Now Bolts are losing ground in wild-card race. Remaining schedule: at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

7. Buffalo Bills (8-6), wild card No. 3: If they win out – a reasonable possibility given their schedule – retaining AFC East crown is still in play. That obviously starts in Week 16 at Foxborough, where a win puts Bills back in first place. Remaining schedule: at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-6), out of playoff field: Just a few weeks ago, they sat atop the conference standings. They’re currently staying home for playoffs because Buffalo has a better record in common games. Rough finishing stretch, too. Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1), out of playoff field: They’re only half-game out of division lead, but lineup of opponents remains daunting. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

10. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), out of playoff field: Sweep of Miami and Cleveland, whom they beat Monday afternoon, jumps Silver and Black from 13th place in conference to 10th. Still a lot of work to do, but hope remains alive. Remaining schedule: vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

11. Miami Dolphins (7-7), out of playoff field: Improbable climb continues, their sixth consecutive win restoring them to .500. Fins’ 5-5 record against AFC teams helps. Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots

The Browns suffered a massive loss to the Raiders on Monday afternoon.

12. Cleveland Browns (7-7), out of playoff field: Catastrophic loss to Las Vegas drops from ninth place when a win would have elevated them to first place in AFC North and shuffled chunk of conference. Remaining schedule: at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

13. Denver Broncos (7-7), out of playoff field: Tiebreakers, time and quality of opponents very much working against them after crippling loss to Cincinnati. Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs

x – clinched berth

y – clinched division


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL playoff picture Week 16 2021: Cowboys clinch berth, Titans win


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