Introduction (please read!)

With only 3 weeks to go, the playoff picture is becoming increasingly clear. With that said, we have at least one clear path for any team that has not yet clinched and is not yet eliminated to make the playoffs. This post is here to show one way for each team to make the playoffs. Note that the scenarios listed here are not exhaustive - there may be other ways for these teams to reach the playoffs. The scenarios listed here are the simplest way for each team (in terms of either needed help or avoiding tiebreaker silliness). There will only be one scenario listed for each team, as the goal of this post is to show the path of least resistance, not all the possibilities. With a few exceptions for teams close to clinching, every scenario begins with the team in question winning out.


NFC East

PHIPHI & DALDAL have already clinched playoff berths


  • NYG wins 2 games



  • WAS wins out


Both of these put the teams above 10 wins, which clinches a playoff berth on record alone


NFC North

MINMIN has already clinched a playoff berth.

CHICHI has already been eliminated from playoff contention.


  • DET wins out
  • WAS loses a game
  • SEA loses a game



  • GB wins out
  • DET loses a game beyond their loss to GB
  • WAS loses 2 games
  • SEA loses a game


DET has a head-to-head loss to SEA, so the simplest way to get past is for SEA to lose a game to finish ahead on record. GB is guaranteed to finish ahead of SEA. DET/GB at 9-8 would fall to Strength of Victory which is currently neck-and-neck, so GB wants another DET loss to avoid needing that step.


NFC South


  • TB defeats CAR (week 17)
  • TB wins another game



  • CAR wins out



  • ATL wins out
  • TB loses a game beyond the loss to ATL
  • CAR loses a game
  • NO loses a game



  • NO wins out
  • TB loses 2 games


All of these are for clinching the NFC South. TB & CAR control their own destinies, as TB & CAR play week 17. TB has head-to-head over NO and division record over ATL, so if they knock CAR out, they only need one more win to clinch. ATL basically can’t win a tiebreaker, so they need all 3 teams to get to 10 losses. NO has head-to-head over ATL, and will give CAR their 10th loss in the process of winning out, so they only need help from TB.


NFC West

SFSF has already clinched a playoff berth

ARIARI and LARLAR have already been eliminated from playoff contention


  • SEA wins out
  • WAS loses a game


SEA has a head-to-head sweep over DET & NYG, so they only need to be able to tie DET on record to get in.



AFC East

BUFBUF has already clinched a playoff berth


  • MIA wins out



  • NE wins out



  • NYJ wins out
  • NE loses a game


MIA winning out clinches it for them on record alone. NE winning out includes a win over MIA, and NE has division record on MIA, as well has head-to-head over NYJ. With NYJ & MIA below them, NE clinches. NYJ loses the head-to-head to NE, but if NE loses a game, and NYJ wins out, the NYJ win includes a win over MIA. NYJ would have head-to-head over MIA, and record over NE.


AFC North


  • CIN wins a game



  • BAL wins 2 games



  • PIT wins out
  • LAC loses out
  • NE loses 2 games
  • NYJ loses 2 games
  • JAX loses a game



  • CLE wins out
  • BAL or LAC loses out
  • NE loses 2 games
  • NYJ loses 2 games
  • JAX loses a game
  • LV loses a game


For CIN/BAL, passing 10 wins clinches a berth on record alone. PIT & CLE cannot win any tiebreakers against non-divisional teams at 9-8, but CLE has division record over BAL, so CLE doesn’t need quite as much help if BAL loses out, as they have an extra seed to work with. However, PIT winning out includes a win over LV, while CLE winning out doesn’t, so CLE needs the extra LV loss as well. Note that JAX at 9-8 wins their division, so the JAX loss is to prevent TEN from finishing 9-8 and 2nd in their division. A TEN loss to a non-JAX team would accomplish the same thing.


AFC South

HOUHOU is already eliminated from playoff contention


  • TEN beats JAX (week 18)



  • JAX wins out



  • IND wins out
  • TEN loses out
  • JAX loses their 2 non-TEN games.


TEN clinches the division with a win over JAX regardless of other games (TEN has division record over JAX in that case). JAX winning out results in them clinching their division over TEN on head-to-head. IND cannot win a tiebreaker against TEN or JAX, so IND has to win out and have TEN & JAX finish 7-10.


AFC West

KCKC has already clinched a playoff berth

DENDEN is already eliminated from playoff contention


  • LAC wins out



  • LV wins out
  • LAC loses 2 games
  • NYJ loses a game
  • NE loses a game
  • JAX loses a game


LAC winning out clinches on record alone. LV is basically the reverse of CLE/PIT in that they win almost every tiebreaker. The only exception is the head-to-head loss to TEN, so they need to prevent TEN from losing the division at 9-8. This can be accomplished with a TEN loss to a non-JAX team or a JAX loss.


For any questions, please head to the reddit post or reach out to me on Twitter!