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2015 NFL playoff picture: Patriots clinch and take top spot in AFC with win over Texans

The Broncos lost to the Raiders and didn't clinch a spot in the postseason, while several teams were eliminated from contention.

The Carolina Panthers stayed undefeated and officially clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs by dominating the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. All of the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on top of that. Previously, the Cleveland Browns were the only team eliminated going into Week 14.

In addition to the Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals were the only other team to go into Sunday with a guaranteed spot in the postseason.

Sunday's afternoon games featured a handful of teams likely to be playing into January, including the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. The Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys also had playoff hopes coming into the week.

The Cowboys, who were a massive longshot to compete in the NFC East, are basically out of contention after falling to the Packers. Green Bay is now a game up on the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North and currently has the third seed in the conference with the victory. The Broncos  couldn't clinch this week due to some teams that won earlier in the day, but they did get the top seed in the conference when the Cincinnati Bengals fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they didn't keep it for long. They fell to the third seed after losing to the Oakland Raiders, while the New England Patriots took the top seed and the Bengals took the second seed. Oakland is now 6-7 on the season, but still a couple games back in the AFC wild card race.


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In the early games, there was plenty to talk about. The Seattle Seahawks improved to 8-5, strengthening their hold on a wild card spot and keeping the Cardinals honest in the still open NFC West race. Seattle has now won four consecutive games. In the NFC East division, Washington kept ahead with a win over the Chicago Bears, but the Philadelphia Eagles kept pace with them by downing the Buffalo Bills.

Consequently, the Bills and Bears both took hits to their playoff chances with the losses. The Falcons,Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts also took a hit to their playoff hopes in the early slate of games. Indianapolis lost the lead in the AFC South, though they could get it back if the Houston Texans lose on Sunday night.

The New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs both strengthened their grips on a wild card berth with wins on Sunday, as well.

On Sunday Night Football, the Patriots clinched a spot in the playoffs with a win over the Texans. They had a chance to clinch the AFC East as well, but that required a Jets loss and that didn't happen. For the Texans, are battling to get into the playoffs either with a wild card spot or by winning the AFC South. They fell back to No. 2 in the division after falling to the Pats.

Below is an updated look at the playoff picture following the morning and afternoon games on Sunday.


Carolina Panthers (13-0)
Arizona Cardinals (11-2)
Green Bay Packers (9-4)
Washington (6-7)
Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
Minnesota Vikings (8-5)

In The Hunt

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
New York Giants (5-7)


New England Patriots (11-2)
Cincinnati Bengals (10-3)    
Denver Broncos (10-3)
Indianapolis Colts (6-7)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-5)
New York Jets (8-5)

In The Hunt

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Buffalo Bills (6-7)
Houston Texans (6-6)
Oakland Raiders (6-7)
Miami Dolphins (5-7)