Cowboys clinch spot as Titans close on division crown, No. 1 seed

Here’s how the NFL playoff image looks with Week 16 underway:


y – 1. Green Bay Packers (11-3), NFC North champs: They own the league’s finest record – hardly – after enduring shorthanded Baltimore on Sunday, a triumph that allowed the Load to secure season’s very first playoff area. Green Bay keeps inside track to protect No. 1 seed for 2nd straight year. Staying schedule: vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

x – 2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), NFC East leaders: They secured a playoff area Thursday thanks to San Francisco’s loss. The department title now a procedure, Dallas – 4-0 versus NFC East competitors – still has time to draw in No. 1 seed, too. Cowboys’ 8-1 conference record positions them ahead of Arizona and Tampa Bay. Staying schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles

QB Dak Prescott (4) and the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth from their couches Thursday night thanks to the 49ers' loss.

QB Dak Prescott (4) and the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth from their sofas Thursday night thanks to the 49ers’ loss.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4), NFC South leaders: Sunday night stumble vs. Saints kept them from winning very first department title given that 2007, though a win Sunday in Charlotte will correct that. Week 15 loss likewise prevents Bucs’ pursuit of house field and bye. Their opening night win over Dallas does not presently matter provided three-way tie with Arizona – a circumstance that rewards Cowboys’ quality in NFC video games rather. Strength of triumph tiebreaker keeps Tampa seeded above Arizona. Staying 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 responds to a charge in the 4th quarter of the video game versus the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 19, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4), NFC West leaders: A 3rd successive second-half swoon under Kliff Kingsbury? Cards didn’t quit department cause Rams today provided their 4-1 record versus NFC West groups, however it will remain in jeopardy this weekend. A win in either of previous 2 weeks would have put Arizona into playoff field … as will a triumph on Saturday, when Cardinals host Indianapolis on Christmas. Staying schedule: vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

5. Los Angeles Rams (10-4), wild card No. 1: They matched Arizona’s record by beating the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night. However more work to be provided for LA to go up board. Staying schedule: at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

6. San Francisco 49ers (8-7), wild card No. 2: Missed out on numerous chances throughout Thursday’s loss in Nashville. Still, they have some margin for mistake thanks to a 6-5 conference record that consists of wins over the Vikings and Eagles. However if those groups and Saints win in Week 16, Niners will be bumped from field. Remaining schedule: vs. Texans, at Rams

The Vikings defense clamped down on the Bears on Monday night.

The Vikings defense clamped down on the Bears on Monday night.

7. Minnesota Vikings (7-7), wild card No. 3: Monday’s win at Chicago allowed Vikes to displace Saints by virtue of superior record in NFC games (5-4). Philadelphia’s victory Tuesday kept Vikings in projected field. Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7), out of playoff field: Two more wins should get Philly into field. It’s doable, though record in common games currently keeping them behind Minnesota. Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

9. New Orleans Saints (7-7), out of playoff field: Upset in Tampa improved outlook but not enough to hang onto final wild-card spot after Monday. Worth noting Saints have beaten Washington but lost to Philadelphia. Also worth noting COVID-19 in QB room could undermine them Monday. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

10. Washington Football Team (6-8), out of playoff field: COVID-strapped team played valiantly Tuesday but suffered major setback in Philadelphia. WFT almost certainly needs to win out. Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

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


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. Beat Pittsburgh, and Kansas City is going to playoffs – and as division champs if Chargers also lose. K.C. controls path to home-field advantage for the third time in four seasons but must keep Tennessee at bay. Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

2. Tennessee Titans (10-5), AFC South leaders: Thursday’s win over Niners means they’re division champs if Colts lose Saturday. Titans will also reclaim No. 1 seed if Chiefs trip courtesy of Week 7 blowout of Kansas City. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, at Texans

Titans WR A.J. Brown (11) returned from injury to have a big game Thursday night.

Titans WR A.J. Brown (11) returned from injury to have a big game Thursday night.

3. New England Patriots (9-5), AFC East leaders: Loss in Indianapolis robbed them of controlling the conference’s outcome. Now they’re in jeopardy of losing divisional lead – though they could also clinch it by beating Buffalo on Sunday if Miami also loses. Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), AFC North leaders: They jumped into the division lead by virtue of Week 15 win at Denver and a loss by Baltimore, whom Cincy beat in Week 7. Massive rematch coming up. 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: They could have displaced Kansas City atop AFC West last week. 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 AFC East crown is still in play. That obviously starts in Week 16 at Foxborough, where a win puts 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. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1), out of playoff field: They’re only half-game out of division lead, but lineup of opponents remains daunting. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

10. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), out of playoff field: Sweep of Miami and Cleveland, whom they beat Monday afternoon, jumps Silver and Black from 13th place in conference to 10th. Still a lot of work to do, but hope remains alive. Remaining schedule: vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

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 groups helps. Staying schedule: at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots

The Browns suffered a massive loss to the Raiders on Monday afternoon.

The Browns suffered a massive loss to the Raiders on Monday afternoon.

12. Cleveland Browns (7-7), out of playoff field: Catastrophic loss to Las Vegas drops from ninth place when a win would have elevated them to first place in AFC North and shuffled chunk of conference. Staying schedule: at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

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

x – clinched berth

y – clinched department


Follow U.S.A. TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This short article initially appeared on U.S.A. TODAY: NFL playoff image Week 16 2021: Cowboys clinch berth, Titans win

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.