The Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers clinched their playoff spots on Sunday, joining the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs as this year’s postseason contenders. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers were all eliminated from playoff contention. It’s the first time the Packers have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2005 and 2006.
The Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and New England Patriots don’t have to focus on the future just yet: Each team has a 93 percent chance or better to make this year’s postseason as division winners. The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-13 on Sunday but failed to gain ground because the Philadelphia Eagles secured a 30-23 victory over the Rams, despite starting quarterback Carson Wentz sidelined with a stress fracture in his back.
Now the Redskins need two more victories to close out the season, including one against the Eagles in the regular season finale, just to get their playoff chances to 80 percent. Then, it’s up to the rest of the league to help out. The Redskins have just a 17 percent chance of finishing the season 9-7, which likely means a few teams ahead of them will need to fall back over the final two weeks.
Two more wins for the Eagles puts them in a similar spot, and because they already have a win over Washington earlier in the season, they have slightly better playoff odds. But the Minnesota Vikings still remain in control of the second wild-card spot, the only postseason berth truly up for grabs in the NFC.
Over in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, fresh off a 17-10 victory over the Patriots, have seen their playoff odds rise to 75 percent, and that includes a 68 percent chance of winning the AFC North outright.
If Pittsburgh falters, the Baltimore Ravens, currently the second AFC wild-card team, could ascend to the top of the division, which would push the Steelers down to that wild-card slot, leaving four teams fighting for one AFC postseason spot.
Baltimore beating the Chargers on Sunday would boost their playoff chances from 45 to 74 percent, and a second win over the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale not only gets them in, it gives Baltimore a 75 percent chance at the division crown if the Steelers also lose to the Saints in Week 16. The chance of this scenario playing out is around 15 percent, so it’s unlikely the Ravens make it to the postseason as a division leader, but they should return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, like the Ravens, are 8-6 with postseason hopes intact, but their paths to the playoffs likely travel through the wild card only, limiting their odds. In fact, if both the Colts and Titans win in Week 16, and either the Ravens or Steelers lose, that opens the door to the winner of the Week 17 matchup between Indianapolis and Tennessee going to the playoffs.
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