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 after 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 POWER RANKINGS:
Cowboys, Bills, Eagles rise; Patriots, Steelers, Browns fall for Week 17
NFL standings after Week 16
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), champions, AFC West. The Chiefs clinched a sixth consecutive division title with the Week 16 rout of the Steelers after the Chargers fell hard to the Texans. For earning the No. 1 seed, home-field advantage and the lone bye in the AFC playoffs, they maintained a one-game lead over the Titans, to whom they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker because of a loss at Tennessee in Week 7. 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, but it gets more difficult to stay here with the Chiefs at home next. 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. Miami Dolphins (8-7), third place, AFC East. The Dolphins had everything go their way with the teams in front of them in the AFC in Week 16 to allow them to move into a improbable playoff position, the ultimate reward for winning seven straight game after a 1-7 start. The Dolphins control their playoff path as should they win their final two games, they would get into the tournament. They beat the Ravens but lost to the Raiders. They have the same conference record as the Chargers, whom they didn’t play. The final two games are very tough, however. Remaining schedule: at TEN, vs. NE
Who can get there?
8. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
9. Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
The Chargers fell here after losing at the Texans. They are ahead of the Raiders for now as they beat them in Week 4. The teams play each other again in Las Vegas in Week 18. Both teams wre jumped by the Dolphins and joined by the Ravens after the Dolphins won on Monday night.
Who’s set to be out?
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
12. Cleveland Browns (7-8)
13. Denver Broncos (7-8)
14. New York Jets (4-11, eliminated)
15. Houston Texans (4-11, eliminated)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, eliminated)
The Steelers fell here after being routed in Kansas City with the division and wild card now feeling out of reach. The Dolphins need to beat the Saints on Monday night to revive their chances and would jump the Ravens for No. 7, too. The Browns and Broncos are in trouble below .500. 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. Dallas Cowboys (11-4), champions, NFC East. The Cowboys clinched the divsion before taking the field in Week 16, but made a statement by stomping Washington. Their biggest asset is their stellar conference record (9-1), better than any of the top NFC contenders. Because of the three-way tie, despite the head-to-head loss to the Buccaneers, they pushed ahead of the Rams and Buccaneers again, only a game behind the Packers. Remaining schedule: vs. ARI, at PHI
3. 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
4. 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
5. Arizona Cardinals (10-5), second place, NFC West. The Cardinals, who have clinched a playoff spot like the Rams, 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 can no longer win the NFC East after the Cowboys wrapped 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. Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
9. Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
10. New Orleans Saints (7-8)
The Saints, who lost to the Dolphins to end Week 16, also 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 they stay ahead of the winning Falcons because of a better conference record.
Who’s set to be out?
11. Washington Football Team (6-9)
12. Carolina Panthers (5-10, eliminated)
13. Chicago Bears (5-10, eliminated)
14. Seattle Seahawks (5-10, eliminated)
15. New York Giants (4-11, eliminated)
16. Detroit Lions (2-12-1, eliminated)
Washington fell hard at Dallas and fell here. The Panthers joined the official no-playoff club by falling hard to the Buccaneers in Week 16. The Seahawks did the same, losing to the now same-record Bears. 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.