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Week 16 playoff scenarios

Atop the AFC, the Broncos, Patriots and Colts brought clarity to the playoff race by clinching division titles, but beyond them, the picture remains muddled in both conferences.

Denver's scenario is simple for this week; it is only possible to clinch a bye for the wild-card round:

DENVER BRONCOS

… can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) DEN win
OR
2) DEN tie IND loss or tie

If the Broncos lose to Cincinnati, they can still earn a first-round bye with a win over Oakland the following week, no matter what the Colts do. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose to the Bengals, New England seals the No. 1 seed. Denver still needs two wins and one Patriots loss to claim the AFC's top seed.

There is a scenario by which the Broncos could get a bye week even if they lose twice; for that to happen, the Colts must lose at least once, and the Steelers must either lose to the Chiefs in Week 16 and beat the Bengals in Week 17 -- or the Steelers can win both games, but lose a strength-of-victory tiebreaker to the Broncos. (Right now, if that tiebreaker came into play in this scenario, the Broncos would win, .519 to 484.)

Here's how the rest of the playoff scenarios for Week 16 break down:

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See the best moments captured from Sunday's AFC West-sealing victory in sunny San Diego.

AFC**

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

… can clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win DEN loss

… can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) NE win
OR
2) NE tie IND loss or tie OR
OR
3) IND loss CIN loss or tie PIT loss or tie BAL loss or tie

CINCINNATI BENGALS

… can clinch AFC North with:
1) CIN win PIT loss BAL loss or tie

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) CIN win
OR
2) CIN tie BAL loss
OR
3) CIN tie KC loss or tie SD loss or tie
OR
4) KC loss SD loss BUF loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) PIT win

BALTIMORE RAVENS

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) BAL win PIT loss CIN loss
OR
2) BAL win KC loss or tie SD loss or tie
OR
3) BAL tie KC loss SD loss BUF loss or tie

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NFC**

ARIZONA CARDINALS

… can clinch NFC West and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) ARI win

DETROIT LIONS

… can clinch NFC North with:
1) DET win GB loss

… can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) DET win GB loss DAL loss

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) DET win
OR
2) DET tie PHI loss or tie
OR
3) PHI loss

DALLAS COWBOYS

… can clinch NFC East with:
1) DAL win PHI loss or tie
OR
2) DAL tie PHI loss

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) DAL win GB loss or tie DET loss or tie as long as both don't tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) SEA win PHI loss or tie
OR
2) SEA win DET loss or tie
OR
3) SEA win GB loss or tie
OR
4) SEA tie PHI loss
OR
5) SEA tie DET loss GB loss
OR
6) PHI loss DAL win or tie

GREEN BAY PACKERS

… can clinch a playoff spot with:
1) GB win PHI loss or tie
OR
2) GB win DAL win or tie
OR
3) GB tie PHI loss
OR
4) GB tie PHI tie DAL win or tie
OR
5) PHI loss DAL win or tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

… can clinch NFC South with:
1) NO win CAR loss


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PLAYOFF SEEDING AFTER WEEK 15:**
(Tiebreakers, if applicable, are in parentheses)

AFC

  1. New England, 11-3-0 (head-to-head over DEN)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .393
  1. Denver, 11-3-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .411
  1. Indianapolis, 10-4-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .429
  1. Cincinnati, 9-4-1
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .714
  1. Pittsburgh, 9-5-0 (division record over BAL)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .607
  1. Baltimore, 9-5-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .500

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN:

  1. Kansas City, 8-6-0 (head-to-head over SD, then head-to-head over BUF)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .607
  1. San Diego, 8-6-0 (head-to-head over BUF)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .536
  1. Buffalo, 8-6-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .464
  1. Houston, 7-7-0 (conference-record tiebreaker)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage:.393
  1. Miami, 7-7-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .321
  1. Cleveland, 7-7-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .519

ELIMINATED:

  1. N.Y. Jets, 3-11-0
    1. Tennessee, 2-12-0
    2. Jacksonville, 2-12-0
    3. Oakland, 2-12-0

NFC

  1. Arizona, 11-3-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .607
  1. Detroit, 10-4-0 (head-to-head vs. GB; conference record vs. DAL)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .536
  1. Dallas, 10-4-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .464
  1. New Orleans, 6-8-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .250
  1. Seattle, 10-4-0 (head-to-head vs. GB)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .607
  1. Green Bay, 10-4-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .429

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN:

  1. Philadelphia, 9-5-0
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .286
  1. Carolina, 5-8-1
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .429
  1. Atlanta, 5-9-0 (head-to-head over NO)
    Remaining opponent winning percentage: .393

ELIMINATED:

  1. San Francisco, 7-7-0
  2. Minnesota, 6-8-0
  3. St. Louis, 6-8-0
    1. Chicago, 5-9-0
    2. N.Y. Giants, 5-9-0
    3. Washington, 3-11-0
    4. Tampa Bay, 2-12-0

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