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Here’s what the NFL playoff picture looks like going into Week 16

How’d you like the Chiefs now?

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With Week 15 in the books following Covid delays, we now have the full playoff picture available. Here’s where everything stands heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

AFC Playoff Picture

No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

Remaining opponents: Raiders, Steelers, Bengals
Projected finish: 13-4

This has been the most remarkable turnaround in the NFL, and it was dumb of me not to see it coming. The Chiefs started the season a disastrous 3-4, which was atrocious by their standards, and legitimately struggled against the likes of the Giants and Browns. Since then they’ve gone 7-0, and are cruising back into the playoffs.

The Chiefs’ defense is still suspect, but the offense is rolling enough again that Kansas City has enough wiggle room to be bad defensively and still win games.

No. 2: New England Patriots (9-5)

Remaining opponents: Bills, Jaguars, Dolphins
Projected finish: 11-6

I don’t think anyone saw that huge loss to Indianapolis coming, but it definitely humbled the Pats who were on a colossal roll. If anything I think that might end up being a good experience for them. Knocking a young team down a peg can galvanize a team, and it might be a really good thing for them?

Still, the Pats are scary as long as they have Bill Belichick. Nuff said, really.

No. 3: Tennessee Titans (9-5)

Remaining opponents: 49ers, Dolphins, Texans
Projected finish: 11-6

It’s really feeling like the Titans are coasting into town on fumes. Injuries have hit this team badly, and it’s become difficult to imagine them making an impact without Derrick Henry.

Don’t get me wrong, the offensive line is still enough to provide running success (see D’Onta Freeman’s 108 yards this week), but the problem is that Ryan Tannehill has played really inconsistent, often bad, football this season. Tannehill hasn’t stepped up to fill the void left by Henry, and it feels like we’re just waiting to see this team get knocked out in the playoffs.

No. 4: Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

Remaining opponents: Ravens, Chiefs, Browns
Projected finish: 9-8

The Bengals are playing so well for a young team that’s really still coming together, but they have an absolutely brutal final three games. Their playoff chances absolutely hinge on their Week 16 game against Baltimore, which really could decide who gets in.

Ultimately, sorry Bengals fans, I think they drop two of their next three and get bounced out.

No. 5: Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Remaining opponents: Cardinals, Raiders, Jaguars
Projected finish: 10-7

The win over New England was huge for the Colts’ playoff chances. Now they find themselves with a tough remaining schedule, but decidedly better prospects than a week ago.

No. 6: L.A. Chargers (8-6)

Remaining opponents: Giants, Texans, Raiders
Projected finish: 11-6

I still think this is a playoff team, and their easy final slate will prove it. The Chargers have a tendency to play up or down to their opponents, which is bad when it comes to whether they can get in — but good in terms of the playoffs themselves.

No. 7: Buffalo Bills (8-6)

Remaining opponents: Patriots, Falcons, Jets
Projected finish: 10-7

A lot hinges on Week 16 vs. New England in terms of how high Buffalo can climb, but a soft schedule will get the Bills in. Still, this team looks nowhere near as convincing as a year ago.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

As it stands there are two teams that have a realistic shot of making a run:

  • Ravens (8-6)
  • Steelers (7-6-1)

Goodness the AFC North race is wild. So much will come down to divisional matchups to decide the AFC playoff order, but ultimately I think the Ravens have what it takes to win their divisional games and sneak into the postseason, bouncing out the division-leading Bengals.

NFC Playoff Picture

No. 1: Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Remaining opponents: Vikings, Browns, Lions
Projected finish: 14-3

The Packers are the clear favorites in the conference now as the Cardinals and Buccaneers take a step back. We could very well see the NFC Playoffs heading through Lambeau. I could see this team dropping one more game to close out, especially if they secure homefield advantage and rest starters.

As it stands, I don’t think anyone will knock the Packers out of No. 1.

No. 2: Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Remaining opponents: Washington, Cardinals, Eagles
Projected finish: 13-4

I’m bumping the Cowboys up slightly in projection last week considering the Cardinals’ loss to Detroit. Performances like that matter.

For weeks Dallas has played like one of the best teams in the NFC, and that doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.

No. 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

Remaining opponents: Panthers (twice), Jets
Projected finish: 13-4

I really saw this team jumping to the No. 1 spot following their win over the Bills, but the unexpected loss to the Saints, paired with Green Bay’s win over the Cardinals changed that.

Look at this team’s remaining three games. Look at the rest of the NFC South. There is no planet in which they have a hard time getting in to the postseason at this rate.

No. 4: Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

Remaining opponents: Colts, Cowboys, Seahawks
Projected finish: 12-5

Did the Cardinals look past the Lions? Probably. Did that hurt them? Absolutely.

No. 5: Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

Remaining opponents: Vikings, Ravens, 49ers
Projected finish: 13-4

The Rams are in great shape for the rest of the season, and should be able to push Arizona for the NFC West crown.

No. 6: San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

Remaining opponents: Titans, Texans, Rams
Projected finish: 10-6

The 49ers are a dangerous team that passed a lot of its early tests and are now paying dividends. I see them getting a couple more Ws and making it in.

No. 7: Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

Remaining opponents: Rams, Packers, Bears
Projected finish: 8-9

Unless there’s a bizarre collapse in the bubble I don’t think the Vikings can hold onto this spot with their remaining schedule.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

In the NFC there are reasonably two teams that could get in:

  • Saints (7-7)
  • Eagles (7-7)

The Eagles getting a big divisional win over Washington really helps their playoff chances, and with remaining games against the Giants, Washington again, and Dallas — it’s completely conceivable they go 2-1 and find a way in.