The Packers' decision to put Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve could have some ramifications on the NFC playoff race even though Green Bay has already been eliminated. 

For one, it makes the Vikings path to a first-round bye much more manageable. The Vikings have to travel to Green Bay on Sunday, and you have to think that their chances of winning just shot up by about 5000 percent now that the Packers have decided to shut down Rodgers for the rest of the season. 

The other team that could end up feeling some playoff side effects from the Rodgers decision is the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are already a long shot to make the postseason their odds just became slightly longer now that Rodgers has been place on IR. 

So what does Rodgers have to do with the Cowboys' playoff chances? 

Let's get to this week's playoff projection and find out. As always, we'll be including data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of in these projections.

One more thing: If your team has already been eliminated from playoff contention and you don't want to read about the playoffs because reading about playoffs makes you sad, here's a link to a mock draft that you can read instead. On the other hand, if you're a Bengals fan and you're more concerned about who your next coach might than with mock drafts, then you can check out this list of potential candidates.  

The Bengals were one of four teams who were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 15 along with the Jets, Packers and Cardinals. Those four now join the Buccaneers, Texans, Colts, Broncos, Redskins, Browns, 49ers, Bears and Giants, who all managed to get eliminated earlier in the season. 

Note: Remember, this is a projection based on how we think the regular season will play out. If you want to see the current playoff standings, click here to see Will Brinson's thorough breakdown of what the playoff race looks like as we head into Week 16.

AFC Playoff Projection

(Team, projected record after 16 games, strength of schedule listed if in top-five easiest or hardest)

1. Patriots (13-3), AFC East champion: With the Steelers out of the way, the Jets and the Bills are now the only things standing in-between the Patriots and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. As you can see from our projection, we have zero faith in either team stopping the Patriots from getting the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. 

Remaining schedule: Buffalo (8-6), at N.Y. Jets (5-9)

2. Steelers (13-3), AFC North champion: The Steelers loss to New England might have cost them any chance at the Super Bowl. With the Patriots likely getting home-field advantage in the playoffs now, that's bad news for the Steelers because they've NEVER beaten Tom Brady in Foxborough (0-5, including the postseason). 

Remaining schedule: At Houston (4-10), Cleveland (0-14) -- Easiest remaining schedule

3. Jaguars (12-4), AFC South champion: Besides the Steelers, the biggest loser after Sunday's controversial "catch rule" game in Pittsburgh was definitely the Jaguars. Due to the Patriots win, the Jaguars now have almost no chance of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. Their best chance is to have the Steelers slip-up in one of their final two games, but the Jags should probably stop fantasizing about that because Pittsburgh plays Cleveland and Houston over the final two weeks. The good news for the Jags is that with just one more win, they'll guarantee that they finish the season with at least a three-seed in the AFC. 

Remaining schedule: At San Francisco (4-10), at Tennessee (6-8)

4. Chiefs (10-6) AFC West champion: With one more win this season, the Chiefs will officially clinch the AFC West and then they can officially start pretending that 1-6 midseason meltdown never happened. With only the Dolphins and Broncos left on their schedule, we really like their chances of getting that one more win. The only way for the Chiefs NOT to win the division would be if they lost out and the Chargers won out. The computer doesn't think that's going to happen. According to SportsLine, the Chargers have just a 2.2 percent chance of winning the AFC West. 

Remaining schedule: Miami (6-8), at Denver (5-9)

5. Ravens (10-6), wild card: The rest of the AFC should be rooting against the Ravens over the next two weeks because the one guy who could throw a wrench into the playoffs is "January Joe." Although regular season Joe Flacco hasn't been elite for two or three years now, January Joe is always elite. Flacco has been to the playoffs a total of six times in his career and he's won at least one game in each of those six trips. 

Remaining schedule: Indianapolis (3-11), Cincinnati (5-9) -- Third easiest remaining schedule

6. Chargers (9-7), AFC wild card: If the Chargers don't have DirecTV's Sunday Ticket, they might want to get it for the final two weeks of the season because they're going to want to pay attention to what's going on in Tennessee. If the Titans win either one of the their final two games -- against Jacksonville and the Rams -- then that will almost certainly knock the Chargers out of this spot. 

Remaining schedule: At N.Y. Jets (5-9), Oakland (6-8) 

Tiebreakers: In our projection, the Patriots win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed based on a head-to-head win over the Steelers and the Chargers get the final wild-card spot based on their head-to-head win over the Bills. 

Just missed

Bills (9-7): Remember when Bills coach Sean McDermott inexplicably decided to bench Tyrod Taylor and start rookie Nathan Peterman back in Week 11? Based on our projection, that might go down as the worst quarterback decision of all-time because it could end up costing the Bills a playoff spot. Although we have the Bills tying the Chargers for the AFC's final wild-card spot, the playoff berth will be going to L.A. because they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo and yup, that win came when Peterman started. The Chargers victory came back in Week 11 when Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 Buffalo loss. 

Note: If the Chargers, Ravens and Bills all finished in 9-7, the Bills would be in and the Chargers would be the odd team out. 

Remaining schedule: At New England (11-3), at Miami (6-8)

Titans (8-8): Although we've completely given up on the Titans chances of getting to the playoffs, the computer is still Tennessee's No. 1 fan. According to Sportsline, the Titans are currently the statistical favorite to land the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The computer says that Tennessee has a 69.6 percent of making the postseason, which is way higher than the Bills (40.5 percent) and Chargers (14.3 percent) combined.  

Remaining schedule: L.A. Rams (10-4), Jacksonville (10-4) -- Tied for most difficult schedule

NFC Playoff Projection

(Team, projected record after 16 games)

1. Eagles (13-3), NFC East champion: The final week of the season could basically turn into a bye for the Eagles if they can beat the Raiders on Sunday. A win over Oakland would clinch home-field advantage for Philly, which means coach Doug Pederson could rest his starters in Week 17. The Cowboys would probably appreciate that a lot because they could be playing for a playoff berth at that point.   

Remaining schedule: Oakland (6-8), Dallas (8-6)

2. Vikings (13-3), NFC North champion: The Packers gave the Vikings an early Christmas present this week by shutting Aaron Rodgers down for the season. Now, instead of getting a quarterback who probably would've been out for revenge, the Vikings are going to face a quarterback (Brett Hundley) who will likely be eaten alive by Minnesota's defense. With Rodgers out, the Vikings should coast to 13-3. Of course, the Vikings could also fall all the way to the fourth seed if they were to lose out, but we don't see that happening.  

Remaining schedule: At Green Bay (7-7), Chicago (4-10) 

3. Rams (12-4), wild card: Two big droughts could be coming to an end if the Rams can beat the Titans this week. A win over Tennessee would clinch the Rams' first playoff berth since 2004 and their first division title since 2003. According to the computer, it's probably OK to go ahead and pop the champagne corks now, Rams fans. SportsLine says the Seahawks only have a 3.2 percent chance of winning the division, which means we're almost at the point where it would be mathematically impossible for the Rams to blow it. Don't give champagne to the computer though because computers don't like champagne. 

Remaining schedule: At Tennessee (8-6), San Francisco (4-10)

4. Saints (12-4), NFC South champion: Although we don't always see eye-to-eye with the computer, we do agree with it on how the NFC South is going to shake out this year. According to SportsLine, the Saints (64.1 percent) have the best chance of winning the division, followed by the Panthers (25.4 percent) and Falcons (10.5 percent). The Saints can actually wrap up the NFC South as soon as Sunday if they beat the Falcons. 

Remaining schedule: Atlanta (9-5), at Tampa Bay (4-10)

5. Panthers (11-5), wild card: To clinch a playoff spot this week, all the Panthers have to do is beat a Buccaneers team that will be playing on the road on a short week, so we're going to go ahead and write them into the postseason with a sharpie marker. Of course, there is one huge downside to potentially getting the fifth seed in the NFC, if that happens, there's a good chance the Panthers will have to open the postseason against a Saints team that swept them this year. 

Remaining schedule: Tampa Bay (4-10), at Atlanta (9-5)

6. Falcons (10-6), wild card: The good news for the Falcons is that they control their own playoff fate: To earn a spot in the postseason, all they have to do is win one of their final two games. Of course, there's also some bad news here and that news it that they have the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL, so winning just one of their final two games won't be easy. We're projecting the Falcons here because there's a good chance the Panthers won't have anything to play for in Week 17, which means Carolina could decide to rest some of its starters. 

Remaining schedule: At New Orleans (10-4), Carolina (10-4) -- Tied for most difficult schedule

Tiebreakers: In our projection, the Eagles get the top seed over the Vikings based on best winning percentage in common games. The Rams get the three-seed over the Saints based on a head-to-head win and the Falcons get the final wild card spot over Dallas and Detroit because they beat both teams during the regular season. 

Just missed

Cowboys (10-6): The Packers decision to shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season doesn't just affect the Packers, it could also affect the Cowboys. For the Cowboys to get into the postseason, three big things have to happen: 

  1. Cowboys win out
  2. Falcons lose out (at New Orleans, vs. Carolina)
  3. Lions go 1-1 (at Cincinnati, vs. Green Bay)

With the Panthers (10-4) and Saints (10-4) still on their schedule, it wouldn't be completely crazy to see the Falcons lose their final two games. At that point, a potential 10-6 Cowboys team would need the Lions to lose one of their final two games, which seemed completely plausible as recently as Monday because the Lions close their season against the Packers. If Rodgers was playing, well, let's just say no one's picking the Lions in that game. With Rodgers out though, the Lions will almost certainly be the favorite to win that game on Dec. 31. 

If the Lions go 2-0 to end the season and end up in a 10-6 tie with the Cowboys -- but not the Falcons, who would finish 9-7 in this scenario -- Detroit would get the NFC's final playoff spot due to winning the "best winning percentage in common games" tiebreaker.

Although the scenario listed is the most plausible one for the Cowboys to get to the playoffs, there are three other possible ways Dallas can get in, which you can check out by clicking here

Remaining schedule: Seahawks (8-6), Eagles (12-2) -- Tied for most difficult schedule

Lions (10-6): If the Lions miss the playoffs, they're probably going to want to put a lump of coal in the stocking of NFL replay official Alberto Riveron. Back in Week 3 against the Falcons, Golden Tate appeared to score a touchdown with just eight seconds left that would've won the game. 

However, the Lions didn't win because the touchdown was overturned after a review by Riveron. Including that 30-26 loss to Atlanta, three of the Lions six losses through 15 weeks have been by five or fewer points. If the Lions would've won just one of those games, we'd likely be projecting them into the playoffs. Even the computer has written Detroit off: According to SportsLine, the Lions have just a 7.5 percent chance of making the postseason. 

Remaining schedule: At Cincinnati (5-9), Green Bay (7-7)

Wild-card round 

(Based on this week's projections)


(5) Baltimore at (4) Kansas City

(6) L.A. Chargers at (3) Jacksonville

Byes: New England, Pittsburgh


(5) Carolina at (4) New Orleans

(6) Atlanta at (3) L.A. Rams

Byes: Philadelphia, Minnesota