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NFL Playoff Picture Scenarios -- Week 16

By Joe Ferreira | Special to CBSSports.com

The 2012 NFL playoff picture is finally starting to crystallize as we are down to our final two weeks of the season. During Week 15, we saw two division titles captured (Houston and Green Bay) and two playoff spots secured (Baltimore and San Francisco). We also saw five more teams eliminated from the playoffs (Buffalo, Cleveland, N.Y. Jets, San Diego and Tampa Bay), leaving us with 19 teams vying to be this year's Super Bowl champion.

NFL playoff picture analysis
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Full blown playoff picture scenarios are listed below, but here are some team tiebreaker nuggets for you to munch on:

  • With Denver's win over Baltimore, all four AFC division leaders have played each other now (a rarity). Houston and New England were 2-1, while Baltimore and Denver were each 1-2.
  • Houston only needs to win one more game to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC (home-field advantage).
  • Pittsburgh can still win the AFC North by winning their final two games (Cincinnati, Cleveland) and by Baltimore losing their final two games (N.Y. Giants, at Cincinnati).
  • Baltimore cannot gain a first-round bye as the best they can be is the No. 3 seed. Their loss to Denver secured the advantage for the Broncos over the Ravens and Baltimore can't use New England in a three-way tie to negate its head-to-head loss to Denver.
  • Miami can still make the playoffs by tying Pittsburgh and Cincinnati at 8-8... where Pittsburgh would sweep Cincinnati and Miami would beat Pittsburgh on conference record.
  • Miami will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or tie this week or a Cincinnati win or tie.
  • The N.Y. Giants, who were once 6-2 and can clinch this week, can be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss + Washington win + Dallas win + Seattle win/tie.
  • Chicago, who was once 7-1, can be eliminated from playoffs with loss + Minnesota win. In fact, any loss for the Bears in the last two weeks combined with any win for the Vikings will result in Chicago missing the playoffs.
  • Only one scenario over the final two weeks will prevent the Dallas-Washington game from being a meaningful game in determining the NFC East champion. It only happens if the Giants win out and both Dallas and Washington lose in Week 16.
  • If Washington-Dallas-N.Y. Giants are tied at 9-7, Washington will be the division champion if they beat Dallas to get there due to head-to-head sweep of Cowboys and winning 3-way tie on H2H. If Dallas beats Washington to get there, the Cowboys will be division champion on better common opponents record than the Redskins (9-3 to 7-5). In either case, the Giants would finish 3rd in the division in this scenario.
  • Seattle has the obvious inside track on a wild card slot, but the Seahawks can also get to the No. 2 seed by winning out + San Francisco loss in Week 17 + one Green Bay loss. Seattle has the tiebreaker advantage over Green Bay in that scenario with a head to head win... remember that one?

PLAYOFF PICTURE SCENARIOS: WEEK 16


AFC

AFC playoff clinching scenarios include the following:

HOUSTON TEXANS

Houston can clinch a first-round bye with:

1) HOU win or tie OR

2) NE loss or tie OR

3) DEN loss

Houston can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with:

1) HOU win OR

2) HOU tie + DEN loss or tie OR

3) NE loss or tie + DEN loss


DENVER BRONCOS

Denver can clinch a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win + NE loss or tie OR

2) DEN tie + NE loss


BALTIMORE RAVENS

Baltimore can clinch the AFC North division with:

1) BAL win OR

2) BAL tie + CIN loss or tie


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Indianapolis can clinch a playoff berth with:

1) IND win or tie OR

2) IND clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over CIN OR

3) PIT loss or tie


CINCINNATI BENGALS

Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth with:

1) CIN win


NFC

Over in the NFC, here are the clinching scenarios for Week 16:


ATLANTA FALCONS

Atlanta can clinch a first-round bye with:

1) ATL win or tie OR

2) GB loss or tie OR

3) SF loss

Atlanta can clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) ATL win OR

2) ATL tie + SF loss or tie OR

3) GB loss or tie + SF loss


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

San Francisco can clinch the NFC West division with:

1) SF win or tie

San Francisco can clinch a first-round bye with:

1) SF win + GB loss or tie OR

2) SF tie + GB loss


WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Washington can clinch a playoff berth with:

1) WAS win + NYG loss + CHI loss + MIN loss


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seattle can clinch a playoff berth with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + NYG loss + CHI loss or tie OR

3) SEA tie + NYG loss + MIN loss or tie OR

4) SEA tie + CHI loss or tie + MIN loss or tie OR

5) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + CHI loss or tie OR

6) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR

7) CHI loss + MIN loss + WAS loss OR

8) CHI loss + MIN loss + DAL loss or tie + WAS tie


NEW YORK GIANTS

NY Giants can clinch a playoff berth with:

1) NYG win + CHI loss + MIN loss + DAL loss + WAS loss or tie OR

2) NYG win + CHI loss + MIN loss + WAS loss + DAL tie


Follow Joe Ferreira on Twitter: @JoeNFL


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