There was still a lot to be decided heading into the penultimate week of the NFL season. Several playoff bids were won or lost in Week 16, while three teams clinched their seed.
Last week, the 49ers, Seahawks, Packers, Patriots, and Bills all joined the playoff party. This week, the Vikings and Texans sewed up their spots. The action all started with a triple-header on Saturday, when the Texans and Patriots won their respective divisions.
The Patriots’ win over the Bills was one of three rivalry games that could determine a divisional winner. The Eagles got the leg up on the Cowboys for NFC East supremacy Sunday, and the Packers beat the Vikings for the NFC North title on Monday Night Football.
On top of that, a couple teams that were clinging to what little playoffs hopes they had found themselves eliminated.
Let’s run through the (tie-free) scenarios for Week 16.
The Texans officially repeated as AFC South champs with:
Houston entered the season as the favorite in the AFC South, but things got a little interesting in the back half of the year with the re-emergence of the Titans under ... Ryan Tannehill? The Texans were looking at two games against the Titans in the final three weeks and fortunately for them, they beat Tennessee last week.
That means the Texans could secure the division this week in a couple ways:
The Texans took care of business on Saturday, hanging on to beat the Bucs and win the AFC South for the fourth time in five years.
The Patriots keep the AFC East crown in New England with:
The Patriots could’ve clinched two different things this week. The first was the AFC East, which they were able to do despite a valiant effort from the Josh Allen-led Bills.
The Patriots have hit some turbulence in December, going just 2-2 this month. But before we ponder their demise, let’s remember they still won the AFC East for a record 11th straight time.
All it took for the Patriots to win their division for the 16th time in the last 17 seasons was:
- Their 24-17 win over the Bills
They could’ve also snagged a top-two seed, which would’ve given them a first-round bye. Here’s what needed to happen:
However, the Chiefs easily handled the Bears, which means the Patriots don’t have that bye (yet).
The Ravens earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC with:
This week, two different things happened with the Ravens, who had already won the AFC North. They locked down a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
Baltimore is the team to beat right now. The Ravens own 11 consecutive wins, including over playoff teams like the Patriots, 49ers, and Bills. They also got revenge Sunday on the last team that beat them this year: the Browns.
Here’s how the Ravens captured the No. 1 seed in the AFC:
- A 31-15 win over the Browns
The Cowboys could’ve claimed the rather sad NFC East with:
No matter what, the NFC East will host a playoff game in the Wild Card Round, and the Cowboys could’ve been that team if they won this week. Instead, they lost to the Eagles, their only competition for the division. The Cowboys aren’t eliminated, however. They still have an outside chance to seize the NFC East if they win and the Eagles lose next week.
Here’s what the Cowboys needed to clinch this week:
- A win against the rival Eagles, who would’ve been eliminated from the playoffs as well
But now, the Eagles are in the driver’s seat for the division title.
The Packers denied the Vikings the NFC North by:
The Packers and Vikings are both in the playoffs, but they were also fighting for the NFC North in Week 16. Then the Packers wrapped up the division on Monday Night Football.
Green Bay won the NFC North with:
- Their 23-10 win over, who else, the Vikings
Speaking of the Vikings, they’re playoff bound thanks to:
Minnesota fell short of winning the division, but at the very least, the Vikings clinched a wild card bid.
Here’s what the Vikings needed to assure themselves a playoff berth:
- A win over the Packers OR
- A Rams loss to the 49ers
Thanks to the 49ers beating the Rams in a thriller Saturday evening, the Vikings were already in before they played on Monday evening.
Yeah, but who was eliminated in Week 16?
Four more teams were on the chopping block this week, though only two of them were knocked out: the Rams and Browns, both surprise team based on preseason predictions.
Without further ado, here are the tie-free elimination scenarios for Week 16 (once again with a hat tip to NFL Playoff Scenarios on Reddit).
Sean McVay’s Rams will go back to the drawing board now with:
- Their loss to the 49ers
The shaky bolt holding the Browns bandwagon together finally flew loose with:
- Their 31-15 loss to the Ravens.
The Eagles could’ve severed the bonds of false hope with:
- A loss to the Cowboys
Not only are they still alive because of their win over the Cowboys, but they’re now the favorite to win their division.
Jon Gruden’s Raiders could’ve waved bye to the playoffs with:
- A Raiders loss to the Chargers OR
- A Steelers win over the Jets OR
- A Titans win over the Saints OR
- A Colts loss to the Panthers
None of those happened, however. The Raiders are still alive!
If the playoffs started today, which teams would be in?
The Ravens, Bills, and Vikings are locked into their seeds, but the others will be up for grabs in Week 17. This is how things would look if the playoffs got underway now:
- San Francisco 49ers (12-3)*
- Green Bay Packers (12-3)**
- New Orleans Saints (12-3)**
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-4)*
- Minnesota Vikings (10-5)*
- Baltimore Ravens (13-2)**
- New England Patriots (12-3)**
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)**
- Houston Texans (10-5)**
- Buffalo Bills (10-5)*
- Tennessee Titans (8-7)
*clinched a playoff spot