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NFL playoff standings 2017: Clinching scenarios for Week 16

It’s win-and-in for five teams in 2017’s penultimate week.

Green Bay Packers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Three teams had win-and-in scenarios to clinch a playoff berth last weekend. All three won, joining the Eagles and Steelers to spread the 2017 postseason field to five teams.

The Patriots did so in dramatic fashion, escaping Pittsburgh with an AFC East-clinching victory thanks to heady defensive play and an oft-criticized page in the NFL rulebook. The Vikings didn’t have anywhere near the same resistance as a dying-star Bengals team continued its inward collapse in Minnesota. Same with the Jaguars, who earned their first playoff invite since 2007 by crushing division-rival Houston into a fine powder behind a decidedly not-trash Blake Bortles.

That left the Rams as the only team with a spot to clinch left wanting, but they were facing long odds to secure their berth in Week 15. Los Angeles routed the Seahawks in a changing-of-the-guard moment in Seattle but would have needed the Lions, Saints, and Falcons to all lose in order to break their 12-season postseason drought. The Rams’ path gets much easier in Week 16: beat the Titans, and they’re NFC West champs.

The Rams aren’t the only team who can punch their ticket to the playoffs this week. Here are all your NFL clinching scenarios for Week 16.

Who’s already in the playoffs, and how did they get there?

We already covered the Patriots (AFC East champions), Vikings (NFC North champs), and Jaguars (qualified, with the inside track at the AFC South crown). They were the second wave of teams to clinch, trailing the Steelers and Eagles.

Pittsburgh used a frenzied comeback to knock off the Ravens at home in Week 14 and grab the AFC North title. A win last week against the Patriots would have put the Steelers in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage and kept their rival out of the playoffs for another week, but the fates wouldn’t allow them to fix their Patriots problem.

Philadelphia roared out to the league’s best record behind MVP candidate Carson Wentz, locking in its playoff spot in a shootout win over the Rams in Week 14. That NFC East-clinching win came at a cost, however -- Wentz was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Enter Nick Foles, who threw four touchdown passes and kept the Eagles on pace for the No. 1 seed in a too-close-for-comfort 34-29 win over the 2-12 Giants last week. That was enough to secure a first-round bye.

What’s next for the teams that are already in?

Home-field advantage, first-round byes, and division titles are all at stake in Week 16, which means no team is in position to rest its starters and begin looking ahead to January.

New England Patriots clinch home-field advantage in the AFC with:

  • a win over the Bills AND a Steelers loss to the Texans AND a Jaguars loss/tie to the 49ers

New England Patriots clinch a first-round bye with:

  • a win over the Bills AND a Steelers loss to the Texans OR
  • a win over the Bills AND a Jaguars loss/tie to the 49ers OR
  • a tie against the Bills AND a Jaguars loss to the 49ers

Philadelphia Eagles clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with:

  • a win over the Raiders OR
  • a Vikings loss to the Packers OR
  • a tie against the Raiders AND a Vikings tie against the Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers clinch a first-round bye with:

  • a win over the Texans AND a Jaguars loss/tie to the 49ers OR
  • a tie against the Texans AND a Jaguars loss to the 49ers

Minnesota Vikings clinch a first-round bye with:

  • a win over the Packers (check) AND a Panthers loss/tie to the Buccaneers OR
  • a tie against the Packers AND a Panthers loss to the Buccaneers AND a Saints loss/tie to the Falcons AND a Rams loss/tie to the Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars clinch the AFC South title with:

  • a win/tie against the 49ers OR
  • a Titans loss/tie against the Rams

OK, so who can get in with a win this week?

Five teams just need victories to lock down a playoff spot, two of which can claim division crowns. The Saints are stuck somewhere between those two groups — a victory means New Orleans’ first postseason appearance since 2013. A win and a Panthers loss makes Drew Brees and Co. NFC South champions for the first time since 2011.

Here are the franchises that control their own destinies in Week 16.

Kansas City Chiefs clinch the AFC West title with:

  • a win over the Dolphins OR
  • a Chargers loss to the Jets OR
  • a tie against the Dolphins AND a Chargers tie against the Jets

Los Angeles Rams clinch the NFC West title with:

  • a win/tie over the Titans OR
  • a Seahawks loss/tie against the Cowboys

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff spot, but not the West title with:

  • a Lions loss/tie against the Bengals AND a Panthers loss to the Buccaneers AND a Falcons loss to the Saints

New Orleans Saints clinch the NFC South title with:

  • a win over the Falcons AND a Panthers loss to the Buccaneers

New Orleans Saints clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win/tie over the Falcons OR
  • a tie in the Cowboys-Seahawks game

Carolina Panthers clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win/tie over the Buccaneers OR
  • a tie in the Cowboys-Seahawks game

Atlanta Falcons clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win over the Saints OR
  • a tie against the Saints AND a tie in the Cowboys-Seahawks game AND a Lions loss/tie against the Bengals

Who needs more than just a win to qualify for the postseason?

The Titans can end their own playoff drought with a week to spare in the regular season, but it won’t be easy — especially for a team coming off back-to-back losses to the Cardinals and 49ers. Their third straight game against the NFC West ramps up the difficulty significantly. Tennessee will have to right its ship against a Rams team one win from securing its division.

Update: The Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Colts means that the Titans can’t clinch this week.

Tennessee Titans clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win over the Rams AND a Ravens loss to the Colts AND a Bills loss to the Patriots

Who would be in if the playoffs started after Week 15?

Here are the current postseason standings and seedings:

AFC

  1. New England Patriots**
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers**
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars*
  4. Kansas City Chiefs
  5. Tennessee Titans
  6. Buffalo Bills

**clinched division
*clinched playoff berth

Still in the hunt: Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins

Eliminated: New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles**
  2. Minnesota Vikings**
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. Atlanta Falcons

**clinched division

Still in the hunt: Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys

Eliminated: Green Bay Packers, Washington, Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants


The worst call in the NFL last week