Sports

Major shakeups in both AFC, NFC


Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 15’s Sunday games complete:

NFC

y – 1. Green Bay Packers (11-3), NFC North champions: They own the league’s best record – barely – after surviving shorthanded Baltimore on Sunday, a victory that enabled the Pack to lock up season’s first playoff spot. Green Bay retains inside track to secure No. 1 seed for second straight year. Remaining schedule: vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), NFC East leaders: A tie between Washington and Philadelphia on Tuesday clinches division, but Dallas – 4-0 against NFC East competition – still has time to reel in No. 1 seed. Cowboys’ 8-1 conference record moves them ahead of Arizona and Tampa Bay. Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4), NFC South leaders: Sunday night stumble vs. Saints kept them from winning first division title since 2007. Loss also hinders Bucs’ pursuit of home field and bye. Their opening night win over Dallas doesn’t matter given three-way tie with Arizona – a scenario that rewards Cowboys’ excellence in NFC games instead. The strength of victory tiebreaker keeps Tampa seeded above Arizona. Remaining schedule: at Panthers, at Jets, vs. Panthers

Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals reacts to a penalty in the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 19, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals reacts to a penalty in the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 19, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4), NFC West leaders: A third consecutive second-half swoon under Kliff Kingsbury? Cards won’t give up division lead to Rams this week given their 4-1 record against NFC West teams. But a win in either of the past two weeks would have put Arizona into playoff field. Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4), wild card No. 1: They can match the Cardinals’ record by beating the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night. But more work to be done for LA to move up the board. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

6. San Francisco 49ers (8-6), wild card No. 2: Clipping Falcons on Sunday solidifies their prospects for playoff gold, but 1-4 division record will make it tough to get a postseason home game. Remaining schedule: at Titans, vs. Texans, at Rams

7. New Orleans Saints (7-7), wild card No. 3: Upset in Tampa moves them back into wild-card position, though 5-5 record in conference games makes it unlikely Saints retain this spot in coming days. It’s worth noting they’ve beaten Washington but lost to Philadelphia. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

8. Washington Football Team (6-7), out of playoff field: Will improve conference record to 6-3 with win Tuesday but need a three-way tie with New Orleans and Minnesota for that tiebreaker to vault them back into projected field. Remaining schedule: at Eagles, at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

9. Minnesota Vikings (6-7), out of playoff field: Need win Monday night at Soldier Field against Chicago to stay on track. Washington loss would help Vikes. Remaining schedule: at Bears, vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), out of playoff field: Three more wins should get Philly, which is behind Vikes due to record in common games, into field. Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8), out of playoff field: Only one game back of final wild card, Sunday’s loss nonetheless just about cooks their goose. Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints

AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), AFC West leaders: How it started? Three wins in their first seven games. How it’s going? Winners of seven in a row, the best ongoing streak in the league, they fought off the Chargers on Thursday before things further fell into place as the Patriots and Titans tripped over the weekend. K.C. now controls path to home-field advantage for the third time in four seasons. Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

2. New England Patriots (9-5), AFC East leaders: Saturday’s loss in Indianapolis robbed them of controlling the conference’s outcome. Pats also fumbled opportunity to officially sew up postseason spot. Now they’re in jeopardy of losing divisional lead next weekend. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

3. Tennessee Titans (9-5), AFC South leaders: Mistake-filled day in Pittsburgh cost them chance to move back into conference’s No. 1 overall slot. Week 12 blowout loss at New England keeps them behind Patriots, and Tennessee must also monitor a Colts squad that continues to close gap in division. Titans next host San Francisco in final Thursday night game of 2021 season. Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Texans

4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), AFC North leaders: They jump into the division lead – for now – by virtue of Sunday’s win at Denver and a loss by Baltimore, whom Cincy beat in Week 7. Massive rematch in Week 16. Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns

5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6), wild card No. 1: Beating New England allowed them to jump the Chargers in the wild-card standings due to Indy’s better conference record (7-3). Winners of eight of their past 11, the Colts must finish with a better record than the Titans, who swept Indianapolis, to snatch AFC South. Colts head to Arizona on Christmas. Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6), wild card No. 2: Crushing loss Thursday, when they could have displaced Kansas City atop AFC West. Now Bolts are losing ground in wild-card race. Remaining schedule: at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

7. Buffalo Bills (8-6), wild card No. 3: If they win out – a reasonable possibility given their schedule – retaining the AFC East crown is still in play. That obviously starts in Week 16 at Foxborough, where a win would put Bills back in first place. Remaining schedule: at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-6), out of playoff field: Just a few weeks ago, they sat atop the conference standings. They’re currently staying home for playoffs because Buffalo has a better record in common games. Rough finishing stretch, too. Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

9. Cleveland Browns (7-6), out of playoff field: Monday afternoon game against Las Vegas looms large as win forges three-way tie atop AFC North – and that outcome would actually put the Browns, COVID-19 issues and all, in first place due to their 2-1 record against Baltimore and Cincinnati. It would also mean Bengals drop into wild-card fray as the sixth seed, Chargers sliding to seventh and Bills falling out entirely. Remaining schedule: vs. Raiders, at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1), out of playoff field: Tennessee’s miscues kept them viable, and now Steelers are only a half-game out of division lead. Lineup of opponents remains daunting. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

11. Miami Dolphins (7-7), out of playoff field: Improbable climb continues, their sixth consecutive win restoring them to .500. Fins’ 5-5 record against AFC teams moves them ahead of Denver (3-6). Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots

12. Denver Broncos (7-7), out of playoff field: Tiebreakers, time and quality of opponents very much working against them after crippling loss to Cincinnati. Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs

13. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7), out of playoff field: They’ve lost five of six – three of those defeats by at least 19 points – and watching more teams climb over them. Win at Cleveland on Monday might not do more than stop the bleeding. Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

y – clinched division

***

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL playoff picture after Week 15 2021: Major shakeups in AFC, NFC




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