UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
NFL

NFL Playoff Projections, Week 16

Think a memorable Week 15 helped clear up the playoff picture considerably? Think again. Our projections have four of the six NFC seeds changing hands over the final two weeks, with a not-too-far-fetched scenario for a fifth (get nervous, New Orleans). We have the AFC a little more chalk, but volatility in the West, North and South divisions make it anything but over.

Below, we lay out the playoff picture two ways: 1) As though the season ended today, and 2) As though the season will play out the way we predict it will. We use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us or find us on Twitter. You can find the Week 16 clinching scenarios here. Without further ado...

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. New Orleans (L); vs. Carolina (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seedExtra Point: By proving us wrong and winning that classic trap game at Seattle last week, the Falcons earned the right to play what is essentially a meaningless game against the Saints on Monday night. All Atlanta has to do win one of its final two and it won't see anything but the Georgia Dome, save potentially Cowboys Stadium in February, until next season.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed (wins tiebreaker with Eagles on head-to-head)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. N.Y. Jets (L); at Green Bay (L)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 3 seed (wins tiebreaker with Green Bay on division record)Extra Point: A two-game losing skid is no way to enter the postseason. But with two games against playoff-hungry teams, and a division title already in hand, it's hard to imagine the Bears hanging onto that No. 2 seed.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Minnesota (W); vs. Dallas (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2 seedExtra Point: Losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Bears likely won't factor for the red-hot Eagles, who are in great shape to grab a first-round bye because they're closing against two teams with nothing but pride to play for.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed (wins tiebreaker with Seahawks on head-to-head)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. San Francisco (L); at Seattle (L)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 6-10; outExtra Point: If the Rams were presented before the season with this exact scenario -- win final two games against division rivals to guarantee a playoff berth -- they would have gobbled it up. A loss Sunday wouldn't eliminate St. Louis, but it would take its destiny out of its hands.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Atlanta (W); vs. Tampa Bay (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 5 seedExtra Point: A Saints' loss Monday, coupled with a Bucs win, would set up a huge Week 17 showdown. If New Orleans and Tampa Bay finished tied at 10-6, the Bucs would win the tiebreaker based on common games.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Green Bay (L); at Washington (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; outExtra Point: It's simple for the Giants: Win this week and they're in. Lose, and spend the next Sunday rooting like crazy for the Bears to beat the Packers.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. N.Y. Giants (W); vs. Chicago (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 6 seed (wins tiebreaker with N.Y. Giants on head-to-head)Extra Point: It's also simple for the Packers: Lose this week and they're out. Win, and they get to do it all over again in another must-win game against the Bears at Lambeau. No rest for the weary.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Seattle (W); at New Orleans (L)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 9-7; outExtra Point: The Bucs would have been in good shape had they beaten the Lions. Now, at miimum, they need to win their final two games, including a Week 17 trip to New Orleans, and get a lot of help. If the Giants, Saints and Eagles all win in Week 16, Tampa Bay will be eliminated from playoff contention.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Tampa Bay (L); vs. St. Louis (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 7-9; outExtra Point: One thing we know for sure -- the NFC West won't be decided Sunday. The only team that can be eliminated with a loss is San Francisco, while both Seattle and St. Louis would remain alive and play for the division title in Week 17.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at St. Louis (W); vs. Arizona (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 7-9; No. 4 seed (wins tiebreaker with Seattle on division record)Extra Point: Should the Niners squeak in, we can't imagine they'll enjoy the prospect of facing the defending Super Bowl champs.

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Buffalo (W); vs. Miami (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 14-2; No. 1 seedExtra Point: If the Patriots can't win one of two against the Bills or Dolphins, they probably don't deserve the No. 1 seed.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Carolina (W); at Cleveland (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2 seed (wins tiebreaker with Baltimore on division record)Extra Point: Even though they are out of it, the Browns could play a big factor in who wins the AFC North since they play both the Ravens and Steelers in the final two weeks. Don't forget that Cleveland closed strong last season, winning four straight.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Tennessee (W); vs. Oakland (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 3 seedExtra Point: Let's say the Chargers finish 10-6. If the Chiefs lose to the Titans and beat the Raiders, K.C. would lose the tiebreaker with San Diego based on common games. If the Chiefs beat the Titans and lose to the Raiders, K.C. would lose the tiebreaker with San Diego based on division record. So, basically, no room for error for Kansas City.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed (wins tiebreaker with Jacksonville on common games)Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Oakland (W); vs. Tennessee (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 4 seedExtra Point: A Week 16 win for the Colts, coupled with a Jags loss, clinches precisely nothing. Why? Say Indy beats Oakland, but loses to Tennessee to finish 9-7; and say Jacksonville loses to Washington but beats Houston to also finish 9-7. In that scenario, the Jags win the tiebreaker on division record.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Cleveland (W); vs. Cincinnati (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 5 seed (wins tiebreaker with N.Y. Jets on head-to-head)Extra Point: Doomsday scenario for the Ravens would be to somehow lose to both the Browns and Bengals, while the Chargers win out (but fall short of winning the AFC West). If that is the case, San Diego would win the tiebreaker on conference record

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6 seedRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Chicago (W); vs. Buffalo (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 6 seedExtra Point: The Jets would have to really try hard not to make the postseason after that big win over the Steelers. Taking care of business on the road again, this time in Chicago, is the simplest way to do it.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Cincinnati (W); at Denver (W)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; outExtra Point: Oddly enough, we think San Diego's road-road finish (at Cincy, at Denver) is more desirable than K.C.'s home-home finales, especially given the tiebreaker scenarios we laid out in the Chiefs blurb.

***

If The Playoffs Started Today: OutRemaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Washington (W); at Houston (L)Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 9-7; outExtra Point: All hope is not lost for Jacksonville, which has two non-playoff teams left on the schedule. The bottom line is the Jags still will need help to make the postseason.

NOTE: The 7-7 Raiders and the 6-8 Titans are still mathematically alive for the playoffs

More NFL

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.