Playoff scenarios for every NFL team


With 32 more games in the regular season, the playoff picture is coming into focus — but in some cases that focus is blurry enough that you need to squint.

So if you’re having trouble keeping all the scenarios straight, we’re here to help.

Below we list every team that’s still in playoff contention, where they stand in the playoff order, and how their paths to the playoffs look over the final two weeks of the season.


Already clinched playoff berths

1. Texans: Clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win one more game.

2. Broncos: Clinch a first-round playoff bye if they win out.

3. Patriots: Clinch the No. 3 seed if they win out, need help to get a first-round playoff bye.

4. Ravens: Clinch the AFC North with one more win.

Control their own destiny

5. Colts: Clinch a wild card with one more win.

6. Bengals: Clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Steelers on Sunday.

7. Steelers: Clinch a playoff berth with two more wins.

Need a lot of help

8. Dolphins: Can reach the playoffs if they beat the Bills and Patriots, and the Steelers beat the Bengals but lose to the Browns, and the Bengals lose to the Ravens in addition to losing to the Steelers, and the Jets lose at least one more game.


Already clinched playoff berths

1. Falcons: Clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with one more win.

2. 49ers: Clinch a first-round playoff bye with two more wins.

3. Packers: Clinch the No. 3 seed if they win out, need help to get a first-round playoff bye.

Control their own destiny

4. Redskins: Clinch the NFC East if they win out.

5. Seahawks: Clinch a wild card if they win one more game.

6. Cowboys: Currently behind the Vikings in the NFC, but clinch the NFC East if they win out.

7. Giants: Currently behind the Vikings in the NFC, but clinch a playoff berth if they win out.

Need some help

8. Vikings: Would be a wild card if the playoffs started today, but even if they win out they need either the Giants to lose once or the Seahawks to lose twice in order to make the playoffs.

9. Bears: Can reach the playoffs by winning out and having both the Giants and Vikings lose once, or either the Giants or Vikings lose once plus the Seahawks losing twice, or a couple of more complex scenarios. Basically, the Bears lose most tiebreakers and therefore will likely need to finish 10-6 while the other NFC wild card hopefuls finish 9-7.

Need a lot of help

10. Rams: Technically still alive but would need to win both remaining games while the Vikings, Bears and Giants all lose out, plus either the Redskins or Cowboys lose in Week 16 and then the team that loses in Week 16 wins the Week 17 Cowboys-Redskins game.

And there you have it. A Rams-Dolphins Super Bowl is still possible.

37 responses to “Playoff scenarios for every NFL team

  1. The Saints are mathematically still alive and can make the playoffs if all the other teams lose. : /

    I would like to see the Seahawks beat the 49ers Sunday and, per usual, would like the Falcons lose tonight (tho I don’t think that’ll happen.)

    Saints will win in Dallas.

    that is all

  2. Individually, all the scenarios for the Dolphins are quite doable. The main problem is actually beating the Patriots. It would not surprise me at all if everything happened as needed and the Patriots beat the Dolphins. I haven’t expected the Dolphins to be a playoff team this year but they did look pretty good for a stretch. As long as Tannehill develops into a good QB, I don’t much care what happens this season

  3. The Packers only need to win one game to clinch the 3 seed (not win out). GB will have 11 wins and the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins can only get to 10 if the win out. GB can clinch the 2 seed by winning out and having the Niners lose one game of their final 2.

  4. Packer fans know the Cards ain’t beating the ‘Niners in Week 17, so they’ll be HUGE Seahawk fans tomorrow. The irony is delicious.

  5. And the Raiders still maintain the ball hit Frenchy Fuqua, making Franco’s catch illegal. They want the officials to go upstairs to confirm it. Madden still had one challenge and one timeout left.

  6. As a Dolphin fan I have heard people talking about them going to the playoffs off and on. Each one of those times I swear I hear Jim Mora’s playoff rant going off in my head. Even if Miami made the playoffs (and it is painful for me to say this) I would feel they shouldn’t be there.

  7. I think there’s a scenario where the Bears would make it in if they win out and the Vikings lose twice, but I don’t recall the exact details. Also, if the Bears and Cowboys both finish 9-7, and Dallas finishes 2nd. in their division, the Bears are in.

  8. Awesome, according to this the redskins and cowboys can both clinch the same division if they win out.

  9. @bossyrossy – That’s because the Redskins and Cowboys play each other next week. It’s only possible for one of them to win out, so that’s correct.

    What is not correct (at least one thing) is the vikings scenario. If the Vikings win out and the Giants and Seattle win out, the Vikes can still get in if the winner of the Redskins/Cowboys game loses the week before. Then the Giants would be 10-6 and division winners, Seattle or the 49ers would have the the 5th seed, and the Vikes would have the 6th seed at 10-6 with both the Cowboys and Redskins at 9-7. Basically the Vikes need 2 teams in the NFC East to go 1-1 or Seattle to lose out. There are some ways to get in if the Vikes go 9-7, but then they need a couple teams to lose out.

  10. @zvikes.

    Fellow Vikings fan here. I wouldn’t take this list as comprehensive regarding playoff scenarios. There are ways in the playoffs with a 9-7 finish.

    The bottom line is the Vikings cannot win any tiebreakers involving the Seahawks, Redskins, or Giants.

    Assuming the Vikings beat the Packers in week 17, the Vikes do win tiebreakers against Chicago and Dallas (which is the scenario right now.)

    So to get in at 9-7, the Vikings have to hope the Bears lose one more game, and that Dallas finishes 2nd in the NFC East.

  11. Love the fact that these steeler tools are looking straight past Cincy. Good thing those people carry around those big towels to cry into tomorrow.

  12. The Vikings have to win @Houston or its all over. The Giants and Seahawks have two home games each, with Seattle having a free win coming against the Rams.

    So the Vikings playoff hopes will be determined Sunday, where they must beat the Texans and hope the Giants lose at home to the Ravens.

    Am I right?

  13. I can’t wait til the Ravens loose their next two games and give the Division to the mighty Steelers. It’s gonna be delicious.


    Even if the Ravens lose the last 2 and the Steelers when the last 2. the Ravens still win the division with a better conference record..

  14. jmc1718 says:

    Even if the Ravens lose the last 2 and the Steelers when the last 2. the Ravens still win the division with a better conference record..


    False. If Steelers, Ravens and Bengals all finish 9-7 the Steelers take the division and the Ravens fall to 6. I’d say there’s about as good a chance the Ravens lose their last 2 games as the Steelers win both theirs, so this isn’t unlikely.

    The difference between going to Foxboro and hosting the Colts…

  15. @znorseman

    Close, the Vikings have to win this week (which they’re about to) to have any chance at controlling own destiny in Week 17.

    The Vikings become Win and In next week if Vikings beat Houston and the Giants lose to Baltimore.

    So at 3:25, we just have to switch which purple team to cheer for.

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