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Which NFL Teams Can Clinch Playoff Spots in Week 16?

Last Updated: December 27, 2021
Four teams can punch a ticket to the NFL postseason this weekend — but their scenarios require very special, highly unexpected sort of help from Washington and the Eagles.

The mood around the NFL is getting strange. Key players are sidelined due to health and safety protocols, fearsome teams like the Cardinals and Bucs suddenly having difficulty winning win games, and Patrick Mahomes is back in the MVP conversation after being a 40-1 betting underdog a few short weeks ago.

The league sure picked an interesting time to debut its first 17-game season.

With that in mind, it’s time to start talking playoffs as the race for the postseason gets hotter than one of those roasting chestnuts Nat King Cole warned us about.

So, who can clinch a playoff berth in Week 16, which officially begins after Tuesday night’s doubleheader of rescheduled games? Let’s run down the scenarios for four teams who all happen to need a very, VERY specific result in order to punch their tickets.

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Can Clinch Playoffs in Week 16

Arizona Cardinals

Record: 10-4
Current seed: NFC No. 4
Can clinch: NFC playoff berth
Condition:Vikings lose or tie vs. Rams AND Washington vs. Eagles ends in a tie

Los Angeles Rams

Record: 9-5
Current seed
: NFC No. 5
Can clinch
: NFC playoff berth
: Win vs. Rams AND Vikings lose or tie vs. Rams AND Washington vs. Eagles ends in a tie

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 10-4
Current seed: NFC No. 3
Can clinch: NFC playoff berth
Condition:Washington vs. Eagles ends in a tie AND Vikings lose or tie vs. Rams

Wait a minute… all four Week 16 playoff hopefuls need WFT and the Eagles to play to a stalemate? Yes, you read this correctly. Such is the way of things with the Cardinals losing two straight and the Buccaneers stunningly refusing to score a single point against New Orleans over the weekend.

Fortunately for Tom Brady and Co., Tampa Bay still owns a tiebreaker over the Cardinals as of this writing due to the NFL’s “strength of victory” formula.

Can Clinch Division in Week 16

Dallas Cowboys

Record: 10-4
Current seed: NFC No. 2
Can clinch: NFC East
Condition: Washington vs. Philadelphia ends in a tie

The Cowboys are mathematically the only team that can join Green Bay as the only division clincher in the league. If and when they make it across the line, they own a notable tiebreaker over fellow 10-4 teams Arizona and Tampa Bay due to their superior winning percentage in NFC games, where Dallas is a terrific 8-1.

Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 10-4
Current seed: AFC No. 1
Can clinch: AFC West
Condition: Win AND Chargers loss/tie; tie AND Chargers lose vs. Texans

Winners of seven straight after beginning the season 3-4, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs suddenly find themselves atop the dizzying AFC. With merely a win against the Steelers Sunday, they clinch a playoff berth — but they can win the AFC West division yet again with a bit of help from the Houston Texans.

New England Patriots

Record: 9-5
Current seed: AFC No. 4
Can clinch: AFC East
Condition: Win vs. Bills AND Dolphins lose or tie vs. Saints

Who are these New England Patriots? As long as the Dolphins don’t win against New Orleans, Rookie of the Year favorite Mac Jones can earn the rare distinction of being a first-year QB in the postseason with one more big victory against the division rival Buffalo Bills.

Tennessee Titans

Record: 9-5
Current seed: AFC No. 2
Can clinch: AFC South
Condition: Win vs. 49ers AND Colts lose vs. Cardinals

Despite losing potential MVP pick Derrick Henry for at least the bulk of the playoff hunt, the Titans are right in the thick of it. If they take care of business at home against San Francisco, all they need is for the flailing Cardinals to get back on track. If the Redbirds top the Colts, Tennessee becomes AFC South champs.

Already Clinched Playoff Berths

Green Bay Packers (clinched NFC North division title)

Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Detroit Lions
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Jets

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.