The 2021 NFL season is closing on the end of its new 17-game schedule. It’s time again to check in on the updated standings and what the playoff picture is looking like for Week 15.
The league kept its expanded playoff field, with 14 of its 32 teams (43.8 percent) set to qualify for the latest postseason. That includes 7 each from the AFC and NFC, with only the No. 1 seeds getting byes on top of home-field advantage.
Who would be in, who’s still in contention, and who should be thinking about next season? Here’s a comprehensive look:
NFL POWER RANKINGS:
49ers, Chiefs, Cowboys climb; Bills, Ravens, Steelers slide for Week 15
NFL standings for Week 15
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), first place, AFC West. The Chiefs go back to enjoying the top-seed status after beating the Chargers in overtime in Week 15. With the Patriots losing to the Colts on Saturday night, that will at least extend until Sunday when Titans, who beat the Chiefs, can jump the Chiefs with a win over the Steelers, who happen to be the Chiefs’ next opponent in Week 16. Remaining schedule: vs. PIT, at CIN, at DEN
2. Tennessee Titans (9-4), first place, AFC South. The Titans kept pace with the Patriots, to whom they lost, by shutting out the Jaguars in an expected easy victory in Week 14. Tennessee has a weak slate remaining to help its seeding cause. The Titans’ division lead over the Colts is a game and a half and they also swept them earlier in the season. Remaining schedule: at PIT, vs. SF, vs. MIA, at HOU
3. New England Patriots (9-5), first place, AFC East. The Patriots saw their seven-game winning streak end with Saturday night’s tough road loss at Indianapolis. That dropped them behind the both the winning Chiefs and Titans, whom they beat. They could see their division lead dwindle to one game over the Bills should that team beat the Panthers on Sunday, ahead of a Buffalo rematch in Week 16. Outside of the division, the Patriots are still supported by a strong record (7-2) in AFC play. Remaining schedule: vs. BUF, vs. JAX, at MIA
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-5), first place, AFC North. The Ravens lost Lamar Jackson and the Week 14 game at Cleveland, despite putting up a comeback fight through the last position with backup QB Tyler Huntley. They have no real breaks in their schedule as they grittily continue to try to overcome an overwhelming amount of injuries from wire to wire. They will fall to a wild card should the Bengals beat the 49ers. Remaining schedule: vs. GB, at CIN, vs. LAR, vs. PIT
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6), second place, AFC South. The Colts came out of their Week 14 bye with a huge Saturday night win over the Patriots in Week 15. They jumped up one spot in the wild-card race because of a better conference record now (7-3 vs. 5-4) than the Chargers, who lost in overtime to the Chiefs on Thursday night. The Colts also put more pressure on the injury-riddled Titans in the division race. It doesn’t get any easier, however, with the NFC’s Cardinals on the road on Christmas next Saturday. Remaining schedule: at ARI, vs. LV, at JAX
6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6), second place, AFC West. The Chargers missed their chance to get into first place after losing to the Chiefs at home to open Week 15. They still hold a wild-card spot, pending the results of the tight 7-6 pack behind them. They still have a great chance to make the playoffs, at worst as a No. 7 seed. The Chargers have a 5-4 conference record, including interdivision wins over the Browns and Bengals. Remaining schedule: at HOU, vs. DEN, at LV
7. Buffalo Bills (7-6), second place, AFC East. The Bills finally showed some fight again in rallying to push the Buccaneers to overtime in Tampa , but they still couldn’t rebound in Week 14, losing again after falling in another close game to the Patriots to close Week 13 on Monday night. They cling to the last playoff spot over the same-record Browns, Bengals and Broncos. Remaining schedule: vs. CAR, at NE, vs. ATL, NYJ.
Who can get there?
8. Cleveland Browns (7-6)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
10. Denver Broncos (7-6)
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)
The idle Colts saw the Browns even their record while the Steelers failed to get to 7-5-1 by losing to the Vikings to open Week 14 on Thursday night. The Broncos did the same to get above .500, something the Raiders failed to do.
Who’s set to be out?
12. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
13. Miami Dolphins (6-7)
14. New York Jets (3-10)
15. Houston Texans (2-11)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
Being below .500 in the loaded AFC makes it difficult to make any kind of run over the final five weeks with so many teams logjammed. The Dolphins are pointing upward while the Raiders have faded hard to match their record. The eliminated Jets, Texans and Jaguars keep staying just ahead of the NFC Lions.
NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Green Bay Packers (10-3), first place, NFC North. The Packers jumped the Buccaneers again by beating the Bears on Sunday night and matching the record of the reigning Super Bowl champions. They improved their conference record to a spectacular 8-2. On top of beating the Cardinals, a Cardinals’ loss pushed them up to No. 1 at the end of Week 14. Remaining schedule: at BAL, vs. CLE, vs. MIN, at DET
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3), first place, NFC South. The Buccaneers kept vying for the No. 1 seed by staying perfect at home with their overtime survival against the AFC’s Bills. They got through their last tough game and have a weak division-heavy schedule with the Jets providing another respite in Week 17. It figures to be a three-team race until the end. Remaining schedule: vs. NO, at CAR, at NYJ, vs. CAR
3. Arizona Cardinals (10-3), first place, NFC West. The Cardinals fell here after they failed to stay ahead of the Packers and Buccaneers with their loss against the Rams on Monday night. The Cardinals lose the tiebreaker to both teams. They also blew a chance to get close to sewing up the division with the lead down to one game vs. the Rams and three vs. the 49ers. Remaining schedule: at DET, vs. IND, at DAL, vs. SEA
4. Dallas Cowboys (9-4), first place, NFC East. The Cowboys stayed here and got closer to winning the division by holding on in Washington in Week 14, building on their Week 13 road win at New Orleans. They now hold a commanding three-game lead over Washington and the Eagles with only four games left, three of them in division play around a tough home date with the Cardinals. Moving up will be difficult give how well the Cardinals, Packers and Buccaneers have consistently played. Remaining schedule : at NYG, vs. WAS, vs. ARI, at PHI
5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4), second place, NFC West. The Rams revived their division-winning chances by beating the Cardinals in Arizona on Monday to even the season series. They cut the lead to one game and also maintained a two-game cushion over the third-place 49ers, to whom they also lost, in the wild-card race. Remaining schedule: vs. SEA, at MIN, at BAL, vs. SF
6. San Francisco 49ers (7-6), third place, NFC West . The 49ers rebounded from their Seahawks’ hiccup loss in Week 13 by winning an overtime thriller over the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 14, They are now the only NFC team with their exact record of one game above .500, putting them right behind the Rams, whom they beat. Remaining schedule: vs. ATL, at TEN, vs. HOU, at LAR
7. Washington Football Team (6-7), second place, NFC East . Washington lost to the Cowboys in Week 14 to pretty much kill its division-winning hopes but stayed in wild-card position in the final spot now behind the 49ers with a superior conference record to the other 6-7 teams, the Eagles and Vikings. Remaining schedule: at PHI, at DAL, vs. PHI, at NYG
Who can get there?
8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
10. Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
11. New Orleans Saints (6-7)
12. Carolina Panthers (5-8)
13. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)
14. Chicago Bears (4-8)
15. New York Giants (4-9)
The Falcons, Vikings and Saints all won in Week 14 to match losing Washington and the idle Eagles and put more pressure on the 49ers to make the final two wild-card spots in the NFC an absolute mess. The Panthers keep fading and the Seahawks are trying to make a late surge.
Who’s set to be out?
16. Detroit Lions (1-11-1)
The Lions got their first win in dramatic fashion after being close against the Steelers, Browns and Bears. They played major spoiler to the Vikings and can do that to a few more teams. But they have been officially eliminated from playoff consideration in 2021.
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