NFL 2021 playoff picture, standings: Bengals jump back into first in AFC North, Ravens fall out of playoffs – CBS Sports

Week 15 is already provided some fireworks in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs having a thrilling victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on “Thursday Night Football” and the Indianapolis Colts holding off the New England Patriots on Saturday night. The league has seen 29 games decided by a game-winning score on the final play this season, an incredible amount of dramatic finishes. 

The Cincinnati Bengals lead the AFC North over the Baltimore Ravens thank to their thrilling victory over the Denver Broncos and Baltimore’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay was the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff spot.

There are 12 teams that are .500 or better in a wild AFC playoff race, as the No. 2 to No. 12 seeds are separated by two games in the standings. A dramatic finish in the AFC is on the horizon as Christmas approaches. 

This playoff race is getting more unpredictable by the week. Below, you can find a division-by-division breakdown of the current standings and what each contender is facing on their schedule the rest of the way. 

AFC East

New England Patriots

What to know: The Patriots’ loss to the Colts on Saturday night drops them out of the top spot in the AFC with Kansas City winning on Thursday. New England currently sits at No. 2 in the conference, holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins 

Buffalo Bills

What to know: A huge win over the Panthers keeps the Bills holding on to the final playoff spot in the AFC. Why are the Bills the No. 7 seed, even with the same record as the Colts, Chargers and Ravens? The Colts and Chargers have a better win percentage in conference games than the Bills, as Buffalo has a better win percentage in common games than the Ravens. 

Remaining schedule: at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets 

Miami Dolphins

What to know: Here come the Dolphins, becoming the first team since 1974 to start 1-7 and win six straight to go to 7-7. Miami is 11th in the AFC, holding a conference record tiebreaker over Denver. The Dolphins are one game out of the final playoff spot in the conference. 

Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots

New York Jets

What to know: The Jets’ win over the Texans earlier in the year puts them 14th in the conference, even though both New York and Houston have the same record. New York is slated for the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL Draft

Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, vs. Buccaneers, at Bills

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

What to know: The Bengals are back to first place in the AFC North with their win over the Broncos and the Ravens’ loss — holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore. Cincinnati is No. 4 in the AFC and hosts Baltimore next week. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns 

Baltimore Ravens

What to know: The Ravens’ loss to the Packers knocks them out of the AFC North lead — and the playoffs altogether. Baltimore is tied with Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Buffalo for the final playoff spot in the AFC — but are No. 8 in the conference. The Ravens lose the tiebreaker over the Colts and Chargers based on win percentage in conference games and lose the tiebreaker to the Bills based on Buffalo having a better record in common games. 

Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers 

Cleveland Browns 

What to know: The Browns will look to join the 8-6 teams battling for a playoff spot — and a share of the AFC North lead — with a win over the Raiders on Monday night. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Raiders, at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals 

Pittsburgh Steelers

What to know: The Steelers are a half-game out of the final playoff spot, yet are last in the AFC North and 10th in the conference. Sunday’s win over the Titans keeps the Steelers alive in the playoff hunt — even as Pittsburgh faces three over-.500 teams to close the year. 

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens 

AFC South

Tennessee Titans 

What to know: The Titans’ loss to the Steelers, brings their AFC North lead over the Colts down to one. Tennessee still swept Indianapolis, so the Titans own that tiebreaker. The Titans are No. 3 in the AFC, losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Patriots. 

Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Texans 

Indianapolis Colts

What to know: The Colts’ win over the Patriots has them as the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Indianapolis has the tiebreaker over Los Angeles, Buffalo, and Baltimore — having the best win percentage in conference games. 

Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

Houston Texans

What to know: The Texans remain 15th in the conference after beating the Jaguars for the second time this season. Sweeping Jacksonville essentially eliminates Houston’s chances of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft (Texans are currently No. 3). 

Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers, at 49ers, vs. Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars

What to know: With the loss to the Texans and the Lions upsetting the Cardinals, the Jaguars are in line for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Jacksonville has the worst record in football at 2-12. 

Remaining schedule: at Jets, at Patriots, vs. Colts

AFC West

Chiefs

10

4

.714

+89

Chargers

8

6

.571

+9

Broncos

7

7

.500

+42

Raiders

6

7

.462

-77

Kansas City Chiefs

What to know: The Chiefs remain in first place in the AFC West with their overtime win over the Chargers — and now own the No. 1 seed in the conference. Kansas City is a game up on New England and Tennessee for the top spot in the conference.  

Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

Los Angeles Chargers

What to know: The Chargers are two games out of first place in the AFC West after their overtime loss to the Chiefs. Los Angeles is the No. 6 seed in the AFC, losing the conference record tiebreaker to Indianapolis, but has a better conference record than Buffalo and Baltimore — hence the No. 6 seed. 

Remaining schedule: at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders 

Denver Broncos

What to know: A loss to Cincinnati has put a huge hit on Denver’s playoff chances. The Broncos are 12th in the conference standings despite being a game out, as the Dolphins have leapfrogged them with the conference record tiebreaker. 

Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs 

Las Vegas Raiders

What to know: The Raiders will face the Browns on Monday, needing a win to stay alive in the playoff race. Las Vegas is 13th in the AFC standings. 

Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

What to know: The Cowboys are in prime position to lock up the NFC East with their win over the Giants — and jumped up to No. 3 in the NFC with their win and the Cardinals’ loss. Dallas will essentially clinch the NFC East if the Eagles beat Washington on Tuesday night (Cowboys own strength of victory tiebreaker over Eagles). 

Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Cardinals, at Eagles 

Washington Football Team 

What to know: Washington plays Philadelphia for the No. 7 seed in the NFC on Tuesday night — holding onto the final playoff spot with a win. 

Remaining schedule: at Eagles, at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

What to know: The Eagles need a win vs. Washington to stay alive for the final playoff spot in the conference. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Washington, vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys

New York Giants 

What to know: The Giants clinch their fifth consecutive 10-loss season after falling to the Cowboys. New York is 15th in the conference and holds the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. 

Remaining schedule: at Eagles, at Bears, vs. Washington

NFC North

x-Packers

11

3

.786

+57

Vikings

6

7

.462

+11

Bears

4

9

.308

-101

Lions

2

11

1

.179

-123

x-clinched division title

Green Bay Packers

What to know: The Packers are NFC North division champions and are the No. 1 seed in the conference after Week 15. Green Bay is the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff spot. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Browns, vs. Vikings, at Lions

Minnesota Vikings

What to know: The Vikings travel to Chicago to face the Bears on Monday night, needing a win to remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the conference. 

Remaining schedule: at Bears, vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears

Chicago Bears

What to know: The Bears will look to play spoiler against the Vikings. Chicago is currently 14th in the NFC standings, but traded its first-round pick to the New York Giants in the offseason (Giants have the No. 6 pick). 

Remaining schedule: vs. Vikings, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, at Vikings 

Detroit Lions

What to know: The Lions do not have the worst record in football anymore after upsetting the Cardinals, losing the rights to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Detroit is No. 2 as Jacksonville possesses the No. 1 overall pick after Week 15. 

Remaining schedule: at Falcons, at Seahawks, vs. Packers

NFC South

Buccaneers

10

3

.769

+113

Saints

6

7

.462

+19

Falcons

6

8

.429

-126

Panthers

5

9

.357

-42

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What to know: The Buccaneers clinch the NFC South with a win over the Saints on Sunday night. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Saints, at Panthers, at Jets, vs. Panthers

Atlanta Falcons

What to know: The Falcons will be at least one game out of the final playoff spot after their loss to the 49ers (pending the Washington-Philadelphia result). Atlanta has a tiebreaker over New Orleans, but lost one to Philadelphia. The Falcons are currently the 11th seed in the NFC standings. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints

New Orleans Saints

What to know: The Saints need a win over the Buccaneers to stay alive in the race for the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoffs. 

Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

Carolina Panthers

What to know: The Panthers are 13th in the NFC after their loss to the Bills and will be two games out of the final playoff spot in the conference since Washington and Philadelphia are 6-7. Carolina’s playoff chances are all but extinct. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Buccaneers, at Saints, at Buccaneers

NFC West

Cardinals

10

4

.714

+94

Rams

9

4

.692

+73

49ers

8

6

.571

+46

Seahawks

5

8

.385

+10

Arizona Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals fall to No. 4 in the NFC after their shocking loss to the Lions, putting a huge dent in their quest for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs (the Packers are the top seed and the Cardinals are a game behind them with Green Bay holding the head-to-head tiebreaker). The road doesn’t get any easier with the Colts and Cowboys next on the schedule. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

Los Angeles Rams

What to know: The Rams will look to tie the Cardinals for the NFC West lead with a win over the Seahawks on Tuesday night. Los Angeles is currently the No. 5 seed in the NFC standings. 

Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

What to know: The 49ers remain the No. 6 seed in the NFC, but are in excellent shape to grab one of the playoff spots in the conference. San Francisco is just two games behind Arizona for first place in the NFC West and will be one game up on the final playoff spot in the conference after Week 15. They’re in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. 

Remaining schedule: at Titans, vs. Texans, at Rams

Seattle Seahawks

What to know: The Seahawks travel to Los Angeles Tuesday to face the Rams, still one game out of the final playoff spot in the conference. Seattle needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive — and currently sits 12th in the conference standings. 

Remaining schedule: at Rams, vs. Bears, vs. Lions, at Cardinals