NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios for Week 15

Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) 

Despite losing three of their last four games, the Chiefs now have an outside shot at the AFC West title after the Denver Broncos fell to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football. A win today against the Oakland Raiders will put the Chiefs in a two-way tie with the Broncos for the division league. That being said, Denver holds the tiebreaker after defeating Kansas City twice this season.

Scenario: Clinches a playoff spot with a win OR a loss by either the Miami Dolphins or Baltimore Ravens 


New England Patriots (10-3) 

Denver’s loss on Thursday night was huge for New England’s chances to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Simply put, if the Patriots win out, they are going to have home-field advantage for the duration of the AFC Playoffs. The interesting dynamic here is that the Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) are also just one game behind New England for the No. 2 seed in the AFC. The Patriots can hold destiny in their own hands as it relates to the AFC East today against the Miami Dolphins.

Scenario: Clinches AFC East with a win over Miami. Clinches playoff spot with a Baltimore loss or tie. 


Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) 

By virtue of their win over the Indianapolis Colts last week, the Bengals have pretty much locked up the No. 3 seed in the AFC. Now only one game behind New England for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, Marvin Lewis’ squad has their eyes set on making their run to the Super Bowl much easier come January.

Scenario: Clinches AFC North with a win and a Ravens loss or tie. Can also clinch the division with a tie and Ravens loss. Can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Miami Dolphins loss/tie or a tie and a Dolphins loss. 


Seattle Seahawks (11-2) 

Seattle blew a golden opportunity to clinch the NFC West last week against the San Francisco 49ers. Even a win today on the road against the New York Giants wouldn’t mean that Pete Carroll’s squad could clinch the division. That being said, a two game lead in the division with three games left to play is what I would call a sure bet. Outside of the division, Seattle has its eyes set on home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Scenario: Clinches NFC West and a first-round bye with a win over the Giants and a 49ers loss/tie to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or a tie against the Giants and a 49ers loss. Clinches home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win, a New Orleans Saints loss and a 49ers loss/tie. 


New Orleans Saints (10-3) 

New Orleans still has an outside shot at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but its primary goal here needs to be winning the NFC South and capturing a first-round bye. New Orleans is one game ahead of the Carolina Panthers for the division crown. It would, however, need the Seahawks to lose two of their final three and to win out themselves in order to grab home-field.

Scenario: New Orleans can clinch a playoff spot simply by defeating the St. Louis Rams today. It can also clinch a playoff spot with a loss a handful of ways. 1) Arizona and Dallas loss or 2) Arizona and Philadelphia loss or 3) Arizona tie, 49ers and Cowboys loss. 


Carolina Panthers (9-4)

Carolina is still holding out hope in the NFC South, but it needs to be more worried about the Arizona Cardinals in the wild card race. Arizona defeated Carolina earlier this season, which means that it holds the tiebreaker should the two teams finish with the same record. As of right now, Carolina does hold a one-game lead for the No. 6 overall spot and has a tiebreaker of its own for the No. 5 seed due to a win over the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season.

Scenario: Clinches playoff spot with a win AND losses by San Francisco, Arizona AND Dallas. Can also clinch with a win AND losses Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia. 


San Francisco 49ers (9-4) 

The 49ers were in must-win mode against Seattle last week, and did what they needed to do in order to nearly guarantee themselves a playoff spot. A lot would have to go wrong for this team to miss a third consecutive playoff appearance. With that said, a division doesn’t appear to be in the cards. San Francisco would have to win out with Seattle losing two of its final three games. Good luck with that.

Scenario: Clinches playoffs spot with a win over Tampa Bay, an Arizona Cardinals loss and a Dallas Cowboys loss/tie. Can also clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses by Arizona and the Philadelphia Eagles. 


Elimination Scenarios

New York Jets: A loss to the AND win by the Ravens.

Buffalo Bills: a loss OR wins by the Dolphins, Ravens OR  Jets.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A loss AND wins by the Dolphins, Jets OR Ravens.

Cleveland Browns: A loss OR wins by the Dolphins, Ravens OR Jets.

Tennessee Titans: A loss OR wins by the Dolphins, Ravens OR Jets.

Jacksonville Jaguars: A loss OR wins by the Dolphins, Ravens OR Jets.

Oakland Raiders: A loss OR wins by the Dolphins, Ravens OR Jets.


Current Playoff Standings if Season Were to End Today…


American Football Conference

1. Denver Broncos (11-3)

2. New England Patriots (10-3)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)

4. Indianapolis Colts (8-5)

5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)


National Football Conference

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-2)

2. New Orleans Saints (10-3)

3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-5)

4. Detroit Lions (7-6)

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)

6. San Francisco 49ers (9-4)