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What Week 15 means for the 2021 NFL playoff picture

With the postseason race tightening, a handful of teams can clinch their playoff bid in Week 15.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

With the 2021 NFL season winding down, the playoff race is heating up. Let’s take a look at how this week’s games will shape the postseason picture.

The Chiefs claimed the top spot in the AFC with a dramatic overtime win against the Chargers on Thursday, and are holding on heading into Sunday after the Patriots lost 27-17 to the Colts. The Titans can no longer clinch the AFC South on Sunday as they needed a Colts loss.

Things are really confusing over in the AFC North. The Ravens once looked like they could run away with the division, but some hard luck and an injured Lamar Jackson have left things wide open. They have a tough game against the Packers this week, and both the Browns and Bengals have a chance to take the lead in the division with a Baltimore loss. The Bengals play the Broncos this week, while a COVID-ravaged Browns roster takes on the Las Vegas Raiders in a game that’s been moved to Monday.

The Bills’ are barley hanging on after losing three of their last four. They’ve currently got a leg up thanks to their conference record, and the schedule is doing them a big favor this week by sending a struggling Panthers team to Buffalo.

Over in the NFC, we have three teams sitting at 10-3. The Packers have the edge over the Bucs and Cardinals, thanks to their 8-2 record in the NFC. Arizona and Tampa Bay are 6-3 within the conference, so they’d need the Ravens to beat the Packers this week, while winning their own games, to take over the top spot in the conference standings.

The Packers can wrap up an NFC North title with a win or a Vikings loss or tie against the Bears on Monday. The Cardinals can clinch a playoff spot with a win. The Buccaneers can also clinch the NFC South with a win or even a tie.

The Cowboys have a great shot at picking up their 10th win and expanding their lead in the NFC East with a game against the Giants this week. Dallas can clinch with a win and a tie between Washington and Philadelphia or a win, a Washington loss and a strength-of-victory tiebreaker against the Eagles.

The Rams, looking for their 10th win, host the Seahawks this week. Los Angeles is the other NFC team that can clinch a playoff spot this week, but in addition to a win over the Seahawks, they’d need several scenarios to play out for that to happen.

AFC playoff picture

1. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-4
2. Tennessee Titans, 9-4
3. New England Patriots, 9-5
4. Baltimore Ravens, 8-5

5. Indianapolis Colts, 8-6
6. Los Angeles Chargers, 8-6
7. Buffalo Bills, 7-6

Outside looking in: Cleveland Browns (7-6), Cincinnati Bengals (7-6), Denver Broncos (7-6), Pittsburgh Steelers, (6-6-1), Las Vegas Raiders (6-7), Miami Dolphins (6-7)

Week 15 schedule

Panthers (5-8) @ Bills (7-6)
Jets (3-10) @ Dolphins (6-7)
Titans (9-4) @ Steelers (6-6-1)
Bengals (7-6) @ Broncos (7-6)
Packers (10-4) @ Ravens (8-5)
Raiders (6-7) @ Browns (7-6)

Chiefs beat Chargers
Patriots-Colts result

NFC playoff picture

1. Green Bay Packers, 10-3
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 10-3
3. Arizona Cardinals, 10-3
4. Dallas Cowboys, 9-4

5. Los Angeles Rams, 9-4
6. San Francisco 49ers, 7-6
7. Washington Football Team, 6-7

Outside looking in: Minnesota Vikings (6-7), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), Atlanta Falcons (6-7), New Orleans Saints (6-7), Carolina Panthers (5-8), Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

Week 15 schedule

Panthers (5-8) @ Bills (7-6)
Cardinals (10-3) @ Lions (1-11-1)
Cowboys (9-4) @ Giants (4-9)
Falcons (6-7) @ 49ers (7-6)
Packers (10-4) @ Ravens (8-5)
Saints (6-7) @ Buccaneers (10-3)
Vikings (6-7) @ Bears (4-9)
Seahawks (5-8) @ Rams (9-4)
Washington (6-7) @ Eagles (6-7)