NFL standings: Updated AFC, NFC playoff picture for Week 16 of 2021 season

The 2021 NFL season is closing on the end of its new 17-game schedule with only three full weeks left. Here’s checking on the updated standings and what the playoff picture is looking for Week 16.

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 16

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AFC playoff picture

Who would be in?

1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), first place, AFC West. The Chiefs went back to top-seed status after beating the Chargers in overtime in Week 15. That status extends to Week 16 with the Patriots losing to the Colts and the Titans, who beat the Chiefs in Week 7, losing to the Steelers in Week 15. The Chiefs need to win to stay ahead of the winning Titans in Week 16. The Chiefs host the Steelers next in their march to another No. 1 seed and the sole bye with home-field advantage. They would clinch another division title with a win, too. Remaining schedule: at CIN, at DEN

2. Tennessee Titans (10-5), first place, AFC South. The Titans jumped here after rallying to beat the 49ers to open Week 16, a big rebound from their tough AFC loss to the Steelers in Week 15. They are now well positioned to make sure they don’t lose thri  hold on the division. They would repeat as South champions should they get another win or the second-place Colts lose. They would jump up to No. 1 again with Remaining schedule: vs. MIA, at HOU

3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6), first place, AFC North. The Bengals ripped the Ravens a second time to complete a season sweep in Week 16 and took full control of the division. They are 4-1 in division play, also having swept the Steelers, They moved up here with the Patriots losing, which put the Bills in first place in the AFC East. The Bengals hold the tiebreaker vs. the Bills based on a 7-3 conference record. Remaining schedule: vs. KC, at CLE

4. Buffalo Bills (9-6), first place, AFC East. The Bills beat the Patriots to jump up here. They split the season series with the Patriots but the Bills hold the tiebreaker based on having the better division record, a stellar 4-1 with one East matchup left, at home against the Jets in Week 18. The Bills are in great shape to win the division for a second consecutive season with another home game against the lowly NFC Falcons in Week 17. Buffalo wanted to avoid the wild-card mess, and it’s done just that. Remaining schedule: vs. ATL, vs. NYJ

5. Indianapolis Colts (9-6), second place, AFC South. The Colts followed up their huge Week 15 win over the Patriots with another one in Week 16 at the Cardinals. They stay strong in the top spot in the wild-card race because of the Patriots and Chargers losing again in Week 16. The Colts won’t be winning the division anymore after losing to the Titans twice, but getting three games above. 500 mean the playoffs are on near lock for a second consecutive season. Remaining schedule: vs. LV, at JAX

6. New England Patriots (9-6), second place, AFC East. The Patriots fell from leading the division to second wild card by losing to the two teams now ahead of them in consecutive games. They have cooled off big time during their short losing streak but can feel good about a playoff berth still as they also own a key head-to-head victory over the Chargers, who also lost in Weeks 15 and 16. Remaining schedule: vs. JAX, at MIA

7. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), second place, AFC West. The Chargers lost badly in a major upset at the Texans in Week 16, staying hungover from their tough overtime home loss to the Chiefs in Week 15. They still remain in playoff position by virtue of having a slightly better conference record than the also losing Ravens (5-5 vs. 5-6). But they made things tougher for themselves to earn at least a wild card with two tricky division games left. The division is out of reach. Remaining schedule: vs. DEN, at LV

Who can get there?

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

The Ravens didn’t change positions with their loss to the Bengals but blew their chance to get back into first place in the AFC North. They will hope the Steelers lose to the Chiefs to at least stay in a virtual tie for No. 7 with the Chargers. The Steelers face another must-win scenario at the Chiefs after 

Who’s set to be out?

10. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
11. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
12. Denver Broncos (7-7)
13. Cleveland Browns (7-8)
14. New York Jets (4-11, eliminated)
15. Houston Texans (4-11, eliminated)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, eliminated)

The Browns fell further, losing early in Week 16. 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 winning Jets kept pace with the winning Texans by beating the Jaguars in Week 16.

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NFC playoff picture

Who would be in?

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers built on their NFL-best record by beating the Browns at home in Week 16 for their fourth consecutive victory with a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. They are a win shy of last year’s total with two games left. They will remain the No. 1 seed favorites heading into Week 17, at least one game ahead. They haven’t played either the Cowboys or Buccaneers, but they have a strong conference record (8-2) to further help them in tiebreaker scenarios. Remaining schedule: vs. MIN, at DET

2. Dallas Cowboys (10-4), first place, NFC East. The Cowboys, who have clinched at least a wild-card spot, jumped up here by beating the Giants in Week 15 while the Cardinals lost to the Lions and Buccaneers lost to the Saints, thanks to having a superior conference record (8-1). The Cowboys and Cardinals have an essential tiebreaker game left when they meet in Dallas in Week 17. It still will be a challenge for the Cowboys to stay here ahead of the Buccaneers, as the latter still did beat them in Week 1. The Cowboys will win the division with a win at Washington or one more Eagles loss. Remaining schedule: vs. ARI, at PHI

3. Los Angeles Rams (10-4), first 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 tied for first place by beating the Seahawks in Week 15 and got early big benefits of the 49ers and Cardinals losing to open Week 16. Now it’s a two-team race for the title over the final three weeks, but the closing slate is tough for both teams, including the Rams playing at the Vikings in Week 16. Remaining schedule: at BAL, vs. SF

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4), first place, NFC South. The Buccaneers were shocked by the Saints again in losing their first home game of the season in Week 15 and the cost was falling a full game behind the Packers in the race for sole home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Although the Buccaneers did beat the Cowboys, the loss also created a three-way tie with the Cardinals, which favored the Cowboys to get to No. 2. The result also kept the Bucs from clinching the division over the Saints. Three up with three games left, the Bucs should still take the South, especially with a weak schedule left, starting with at the Panthers in Week 16. They need big-time help to jump the Packers now, especially with the Cowboys and Rams having tiebreakers ahead of them. Remaining schedule: at NYJ, vs. CAR

5. Arizona Cardinals (10-5), second place, NFC West. The Cardinals dropped here after losing their third consecutive game in Week 16 at home vs. the Colts and going 3-5 after a 7-0 start. The loss to the Colts after that Lions shocker also made the division race much tighter, as the Rams now a half-game up front as they step on the field in Week 16. Should the teams end up in a tie, the Cardinals still hold the division-record tiebreaker after they split the season series with the Rams. Remaining schedule: at DAL, vs. SEA

6. San Francisco 49ers (8-7), third place, NFC West. The 49ers cooled off to open Week 16 by losing to the Titans on the road, after beating the Falcons at home in Week 15 and the Bengals on the road in Week 14. They can still feel great about their wild-card chances, even though they can stop entertaining thoughts of catching either the Cardinals or Rams for the division crown. They do have key wins over the teams behind them, the Vikings and Eagles. Remaining schedule: vs. HOU, at LAR

7. Minnesota Vikings (7-7), second place, NFC North. The Vikings got back into the final wild-card spot by beating the Bears on Monday night, jumping the also .500 Saints because of having a better conference record (5-4 vs. 5-5). They stay here despite the Eagles winning in Week 16 because of a better record against the common opponents. They have their hands full vs. the Rams at home in Week 16. Remaining schedule: at GB, vs. CHI

Who can get there?

8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
9. New Orleans Saints (7-7)
10. Washington Football Team (6-8)
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
12. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
13. Seattle Seahawks (5-9)

The Saints fell down here when the Vikings won in Week 15 to push them down from winning. The Eagles took care of Washington to jump them. The Falcons and Panthers lost again to further hurt their fading chances. The Seahawks failed in their final salvo against the Rams.

Who’s set to be out?

14. New York Giants (4-10)
15. Chicago Bears (4-10, eliminated)
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 Bears joined them after losing to the Vikings in Week 15. 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.