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:
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NFL standings for Week 15
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), first place, AFC West. The Chiefs went back to enjoying the top-seed status after beating the Chargers in overtime in Week 15. That status will extend to Week 16 with the Patriots losing to the Colts on Saturday night and the Titans, who beat the Chiefs in Week 7, losing to the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs host the Steelers next in their march to another No. 1 seed and the sole home-field advantage. Remaining schedule: vs. PIT, at CIN, at DEN
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 but kept them ahead of the losing Titans, whom they beat in Week 12. The Patriots saw their division lead dwindle to one game over the Bills after 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
3. Tennessee Titans (9-5), first place, AFC South. The Titans blew their chance to jump to the No. 1 seed ahead of the winning Chiefs and also stayed behind the losing Patriots. Their division lead is down to only one game over the winning Colts, but Tennessee is still a strong South favorite by virtue of sweeping Indianapolis much earlier in the season. Remaining schedule: vs. SF, vs. MIA, at HOU
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), first place, AFC North. The Bengals jumped all the way here from out of the picture thanks to their win over the Broncos and the Ravens losing to the Packers in Week 15. Although the teams have identical records, Cincinnati has the tiebreaker because it won at Baltimore in Week 17. There’s a chance the division will be a three-way virtual tie should the Browns win on Monday. But the Bengals would still have the tiebreaker there with the best division record at 3-1. Remaining schedule: vs. BAL, vs. KC, at CLE
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 this wild-card spot ahead of the tight 8-6 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 (8-6), second place, AFC East. The Bills beat the Panthers to stay even with the winning Colts, to whom they lost at home in Week 11 and losing Chargers. Buffalo remains here for now as they have an inferior conference record to both Indianapolis and Los Angeles. But the tiebreaker is barely in the Bills’ favor vs. the Ravens. Remaining schedule: at NE, vs. ATL, vs. NYJ
Who can get there?
8. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
9. Cleveland Browns (7-6)
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)
The Ravens fall all the way from No. 4 and the division lead behind the winning Colts, losing Chargers and winning Bills. The Browns have a big opportunity to join the 8-6 pack with a win over the Raiders on Monday. The Steelers made it a third AFC North team in this mix with their big win over the Titans.
Who’s set to be out?
11. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
12. Denver Broncos (7-7)
13. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
14. New York Jets (3-11, eliminated)
15. Houston Texans (3-11, eliminated)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12, eliminated)
The Dolphins keep on winning during their six-game streak but they are trying to make too much ground after a 1-7 start, especially with the logjam in front. The Broncos are in the same boat after starting the season 3-0. The Raiders have been fading hard for a while. The Texans pulled even with the losing Jets by beating the Jaguars on Sunday.
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NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Green Bay Packers (10-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers jumped the Buccaneers again by beating the Bears on Sunday night in Week 14 and matching the record of the reigning Super Bowl champions. They have 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. They outlasted the Ravens and went further ahead of the losing Cardinals in Week 15. They will stay ahead of the Buccaneers going into Week 16’s Saturday Christmas game. Remaining schedule: 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 in Week 14 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 two-team race until the end. The Bucs are big home favorites at home agianst the Saints on Sunday night. Remaining schedule: at CAR, at NYJ, vs. CAR
3. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), first place, NFC East. The Cowboys jumped up here by beating the Giants while the Cardinals lost to the Lions thanks to having a superior conference record (8-1 vs. 6-4). The Cowboys and Cardinals have an essential tiebreaker game left when they meet in Dallas in Week 17. It still will be difficult for the Cowboys to get into the top two ahead of the Packers and Buccaneers, as the latter beat them in Week 1. The Cowboys would clinch the division title in Week 15, however, if Washington loses to the Eagles on Tuesday. Remaining schedule: vs. WAS, vs. ARI, at PHI
4. Arizona Cardinals (10-4), first place, NFC West. The Cardinals dropped here after losing their second consecutive game and going 3-4 after a 7-0 start. The loss to the Lions also made the division race much tighter, as the Rams can create a virtual tie with a win over the Seahawks on Tuesday to close Week 15. The Cardinals will still be in first place no matter what going into Week 16 as they hold the division-record tiebreaker after they split the season series with the Rams. Remaining schedule: vs. IND, at DAL, vs. SEA
5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4), second place, NFC West. The Rams revived their division-winning chances by beating the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 14 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. They can tie for first place by beating the Seahawks and make sure they also keep their distance from the 49ers. Remaining schedule: at MIN, at BAL, vs. SF
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-6), third place, NFC West. The 49ers stayed hot in Week 15 by beating the Falcons at home, following their key win over the Bengals on the road in Week 14 that pushed them above .500. They can feel great about their wild-card chances, even though catching either the Cardinals or Rams for the division crown with three games left to play is a long shot. Remaining schedule: 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. The Eagles present a must-win opportunity in Week 15. Remaining schedule: at DAL, vs. PHI, at NYG
Who can get there?
8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
10. New Orleans Saints (6-7)
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
12. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)
13. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
14. Chicago Bears (4-8)
The Eagles get their shot at Washington in Week 15, while the Vikings can benefit from playing the Bears and the Falcons get their chance vs. the 49ers. The Falcons and Panthers lost again in Week 15 to further hurt their fading chances. The Seahawks have their final foray against the Rams.
Who’s set to be out?
15. New York Giants (4-10)
16. Detroit Lions (2-11-1, eliminated)
The Giants are toast here stuck deep in last place in the NFC East with all their injuries. The Lions made it two wins for the season by shocking the Cardinals in Week 15. They need to keep thinking ahead to 2022 but the rebuilding year is ending on some nice highs.