NFL playoff picture 2021 – Week 17 standings, bracket, clinching scenarios, division races and postseason outlook

The NFL’s penultimate regular-season Sunday of the 2021 campaign ended with 11 of its 14 playoff spots filled. Six of its eight divisions have champions. And one of its two top seeds are clinched. The day started with the Bengals and Titans clinching the AFC North and AFC South, respectively. It ended with the Packers securing the NFC’s top seed with a rampage over the Vikings; and as a result, the Eagles clinched one of the NFC’s wild-card spots. (Earlier on Sunday, the Bills and Patriots also secured playoff berths.)

One game remains in Week 17. The Steelers will host the Browns on Monday Night Football, and because the Steelers remain in the AFC mix, we’ll update this story one more time at the game’s conclusion. Otherwise, the rest of the league’s playoff picture will wait until Week 18. What follows is everything we know about what happened Sunday and what could happen in the coming week.

Note: All percentage chances to make the playoffs, clinch a division title or secure the conference No. 1 seed are via ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

Jump to: AFC | NFC
Clinching scenarios

AFC playoff standings

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: 78%
Remaining schedule: at Texans

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: 17%
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Chargers
Remaining schedule: at Broncos

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: 4%
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Colts
Remaining schedule: at Browns

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 95%
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Patriots
Remaining schedule: vs. Jets

play

0:23

Devin Singletary rumbles past the goal line for a bruising rushing touchdown, extending the Bills’ lead.

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 5%
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: 1%
Current projected first-round matchup: at Bills
Remaining schedule: at Dolphins

Chances to make playoffs: 85%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Bengals
Remaining schedule: at Jaguars

Chances to make playoffs: 58%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Chiefs
Remaining schedule: at Raiders

In the AFC hunt

Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
Chances to make playoffs:
51%

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Chances to make playoffs:
4%

Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
2%

NFC playoff standings

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Clinched
Remaining schedule: at Lions

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 76%
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Eagles
Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. 49ers
Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers

play

0:20

Tom Brady connects with Cyril Grayson in the final minute of action to put the Buccaneers on top and defeat the Jets 28-24.

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Clinched
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: vs. Cardinals
Remaining schedule: at Eagles

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: 24%
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Cowboys
Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks

Chances to make playoffs: 62%
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Buccaneers
Remaining schedule: at Rams

Chances to make playoffs: Clinched
Chances to win division: Eliminated
Chances to earn No. 1 seed: Eliminated
Current projected first-round matchup: at Rams
Remaining schedule: vs. Cowboys

In the NFC hunt

New Orleans Saints (8-8)
Chances to make playoffs:
38%

Clinching scenarios and intriguing playoff races

  • The Packers have clinched the NFC’s top seed for the second consecutive season, and their next meaningful game will be a divisional-round matchup to be determined on the weekend of Jan. 22-23.

  • The Packers’ victory allowed the Eagles to clinch a playoff spot, capping a run in which Philadelphia has won six of seven games. Who had Nick Sirianni as the first rookie coach this season to lock in a trip to the playoffs?

  • The Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals means that the AFC’s eventual No. 1 seed will have at least five defeats, tied for the most for the AFC’s top team since the NFL began the seeding process in 1975. The most recent such team with five losses was the 2002 Raiders, who advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII.

  • The Bengals won the AFC North for the first time since 2015, thanks to their 34-31 victory over the Chiefs. But will history remember that it took flags on two consecutive fourth-down plays at the goal line to keep the Bengals’ winning drive alive? The Bengals can clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC in Week 18 with a win over the Browns and losses by the Titans, Chiefs and Patriots or a win and a Bills win plus losses by the Titans and Chiefs.

  • The Titans clinched a playoff berth and the AFC South with a victory over the Dolphins. At some point, we need to take a step back and recognize what the Titans have done under coach Mike Vrabel. After making the playoffs once in the nine years before he arrived in 2018, they have now had four consecutive winning seasons, three consecutive trips to the playoffs and now two consecutive division titles. The Titans can clinch the top seed in Week 18 with (A) a win at Houston, (B) losses by the Chiefs, Bengals and Patriots or (C) losses by the Chiefs and Bengals combined with a win by the Bills.

2 Related

  • The Titans’ win eliminated the Colts’ chance to win AFC South. The Colts could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory over Las Vegas, but they lost 23-20. The Colts can clinch a playoff spot with (A) a win at the Jaguars, (B) losses by the Ravens, Chargers and Steelers (Week 17) or (C) losses by the Chargers and Steelers (Weeks 17 and 18) and a Dolphins win.

  • The Bills clinched a playoff berth, thanks to their 29-15 victory over the Falcons along with the Ravens’ loss to the Rams. That’s three consecutive trips to the postseason for the Bills under coach Sean McDermott. They’ll clinch the AFC East for the second consecutive year if they beat the Jets at home in Week 18.

  • The Patriots clinched a playoff berth after beating the Jaguars 50-10 and getting a 34-3 loss from the Dolphins against the Titans. New England could still clinch the AFC East with a Week 18 victory at the Dolphins and a Bills loss. To clinch home-field advantage as the No. 1 seed, the Patriots would need a Week 18 win and losses by the Bills, Titans and Chiefs.

  • The Chargers’ win over the Broncos eliminated the Broncos, Dolphins and Browns from playoff contention. More importantly for the Chargers: It set up a win-and-in situation for their Week 18 game at the Raiders. That game also will be a win-and-in scenario for the Raiders, who have won three consecutive games to get back into the race. The Raiders also can get in with losses by the Colts and Steelers (in either Week 17 or 18).

  • The Saints avoided playoff elimination by defeating the Panthers. They can clinch a playoff berth with a win at the Falcons combined with a loss by the 49ers.

  • The 49ers didn’t clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, but they can do it in Week 18 with a win at the Rams or a loss by the Saints.

Here’s how the postseason bracket looks at the moment and what scenarios lie ahead.
• Playoff picture and clinching scenarios »
• ESPN’s interactive NFL Playoff Machine »
• Standings » | Football Power Index »

  • The Rams weren’t able to clinch the NFC West on Sunday, thanks to the Cardinals’ win, but Los Angeles can do it with a Week 18 win over the 49ers or a Cardinals loss. The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks and a Rams loss. But Arizona can’t get to the No. 1 seed.

  • The Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention, marking the first time in coach Mike Zimmer’s eight-year tenure when they have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Washington also was eliminated from playoff contention, but given the Week 1 loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and its late-season COVID-19 outbreak, it’s frankly amazing that this team was still in the race in Week 17. The Falcons were the third NFC team eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday with their loss to the Bills. And as mentioned, the Broncos, Dolphins and Browns were eliminated in the AFC.

  • Despite losing five consecutive games, the Ravens aren’t out of it yet. To get into the playoffs, they will need to beat the Steelers in Week 18 and get losses by the Colts, Browns, Chargers and Dolphins.

  • The Steelers can clinch a playoff berth by winning their final two games — on Monday night against the Browns and in Week 18 at the Ravens — and getting a loss by the Colts.