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2013 NFL playoff picture: Clinching scenarios for Week 16

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There are only two weeks left in the regular season and plenty of playoff spots still up for grabs. Here are all the clinching scenarios in Week 16.

Wesley Hitt

Update: Here's the latest playoff picture following Sunday's games.

Six more teams joined the mathematically eliminated group in Week 15, leaving 19 remaining teams with postseason hopes still alive. With nothing but divisional matchups in Week 17, this Sunday will be the last chance for many teams to earn a leg up in the wild card race before facing divisional foes in the season finale. For others, Week 16 could be the chance to eliminate remaining doubt and officially clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Let's run down the scenarios in play on Sunday.


1. Denver Broncos (11-3) *
2. New England Patriots (10-4)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)
4. Indianapolis Colts (9-5) *
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) *
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

In the hunt: Miami Dolphins (8-6), San Diego Chargers (7-7), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

The Chiefs joined the clinched ranks in Week 15 and drew even with the Broncos for the top spot in the AFC. However, losses to Denver in weeks 11 and 13 have the Chiefs on the losing end of a tiebreaker between the two AFC West teams. If the Broncos can earn back-to-back wins over the Texans and Raiders, they'll have the No. 1 spot in the AFC.

Clinching scenarios:

  • Denver clinches the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win plus a Kansas City loss. The Broncos clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a win, Kansas City loss and a New England loss or tie.
  • New England clinches the AFC East with a win or tie; or with a Miami loss or tie. The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win, a Cincinnati loss or tie, plus an Indianapolis loss or tie; or if New England can finish its game in a tie, it will need a Cincinnati loss plus an Indianapolis loss. The Patriots clinch a playoff spot with a Cincinnati loss or tie.
  • Cincinnati clinches the AFC North with a win and a Baltimore loss or tie, or a tie of their own plus a Baltimore loss. The Bengals can clinch a playoff spot with a win, a Miami loss or tie, or a tie plus a Miami loss.
  • Baltimore clinches a playoff berth with a win, plus a Miami loss and a San Diego loss or tie.
  • Miami clinches a playoff spot with a win and losses from Baltimore and Cincinnati.


1. Seattle Seahawks (12-2) *
2. New Orleans Saints (10-4)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
4. Chicago Bears (8-6)
5. Carolina Panthers (10-4)
6. San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

In the hunt: Arizona Cardinals (9-5), Green Bay Packers (7-6-1), Detroit Lions (7-7), Dallas Cowboys (7-7)

The Seahawks shook off their loss to the 49ers in Week 14 with a Week 15 shutout and can officially clinch the best record in the NFC with a win over the Cardinals in Week 16. While the 49ers are still not out of the running for the NFC West title, a win for the Seahawks isn't exactly bad news for the team; it would seal San Francisco's place in the postseason. The biggest game of Week 16 is a Sunday game between the Saints and Panthers that will likely decide the NFC South and the owner of a first-round bye in the postseason.

Clinching scenarios:

  • Seattle clinches the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout playoffs with a win or tie, or a San Francisco loss or tie.
  • New Orleans clinches the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win. The Saints clinch a playoff spot with an Arizona loss, or a tie and a San Francisco loss or tie, or a tie plus an Arizona tie, or a San Francisco loss and an Arizona tie.
  • Carolina clinches a playoff spot with a win or a tie plus an Arizona or San Francisco loss. Losses from both the Cardinals and 49ers would also lock up a spot for the Panthers.
  • San Francisco clinches a playoff spot with a win or an Arizona loss, or the highly unlikely event a San Francisco tie and Arizona tie.
  • Philadelphia clinches the NFC East with a win on Sunday night plus a Dallas loss or tie, or a tie and a Dallas loss.
  • Chicago clinches the NFC North with a win plus a Detroit loss or tie and a Green Bay loss.

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