As the NFL gets closer to the playoffs, a new feature appearing in these Games of the Week posts will be ‘clinching’ or ‘elimination’ scenarios.
With the playoffs coming closer and closer, it’s important to know where these teams stand.
The Giants travel to Minnesota after greatly improving their chances last week against Washington.
Despite pre-season predictions of a tough fight in the AFC West, the Chiefs are still on top
Meanwhile, that same Commanders team is stuck in survival mode against a powerful 49ers team.
After throwing away their best chance at a playoff boosting win, the Patriots now need to beat the Bengals.
Kansas City looks to coast to a win against a Seattle team on the outside looking in. It leads to the Game of the Week featuring the top two teams in the NFC East.
Welcome to Week 16 of the NFL season. Here are the Dailymail.com picks for games to keep an eye on…
Game 1: New York Giants (8-5-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (11-3)
- Saturday at 1:00pm ET (CBS) / U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
After tying the Washington Commanders a few weeks ago, the New York Giants made sure they took control of their own destiny by beating them last Sunday.
It had been five games since the Giants had last won a game – beating the Texans way back in mid-November. A loss would have dropped their odds of making the playoffs down to 27 percent. Instead, that victory gives the Giants a 92 percent chance to jump into the Wild Card race, according to The New York Times.
The victory was not a pretty one, but ugly wins still count as wins – especially now. New York has three games left on their schedule: at the Vikings, home against the Colts, and at the Eagles. With three games left – and a crowd of teams behind them facing similarly tough games – their position right now is a good one to be in.
The Giants win will let them sleep easier as they get set to play Minnesota this weekend
As for the Vikings, they don’t have to worry about their position. They’ve already locked up their first NFC North division title since 2017. After these Giants they play the struggling Packers and an already eliminated Bears team to close out the regular season.
Even in times where they’ve looked flat footed, their offense has sparkled. On non-primetime games Kirk Cousins has looked phenomenal. WR Justin Jefferson is by far the best wide receiver in the league, leading in total yards and average yards per game.
What’s left for them is the fight for the top spot in the NFC – earning them home field advantage throughout the playoffs as well as a bye.
That’s possible – considering the news surrounding the Eagles quarterback (more on that later) – even though it seems very unlikely. But if Kirk Cousins and Co. can grab a victory here at home, they can put up as good of a fight as any in their conference.
Vikings receiver Jefferson is lapping the league’s pass catchers in yards this season
Game 2: Seattle Seahawks (7-7) @ Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
- Saturday @ 1:00pm ET (FOX) / Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
After scrolling through Twitter on Sunday, a post read something to the effect of ‘The Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders spent all that money on talent just so the Chiefs could clinch the AFC West by Christmas instead of Thanksgiving’.
It’s truly remarkable how quickly that division went from being viewed as what could be ‘the closest in the NFL’ to being the biggest letdown in the league.
Kansas City’s defense has shown some serious weaknesses, but their offense has proved that they can survive any shootouts they come across – unless they play the Bills, Bengals, or the Colts (somehow).
Even in the midst of a remarkable comeback season, Geno Smith (L) could miss the playoffs
They’ve easily wrapped up the division title and could end up moving up to top of the AFC if the Bills slip up.
The same could not be said for the Chiefs’ opponents this weekend as Seattle sit on the outside looking into the last Wild Card spot in the NFC. The Seahawks have slumped – losing four of their last five, including losses to struggling teams like the Panthers and Raiders.
A lot of that blame falls on their defense, which remains battered. Twelve members of the defense are on the injury list in some capacity – with seven of those players on injured reserve. In all of their losses, the defense has given up at least 325 yards – including giving up 576 yards to the Raiders.
However, in each of those losses, Seahawks QB Geno Smith has been the better signal caller by yards – having tossed eight touchdowns across those four games.
While the Seattle defense will probably let the offense down, if they can find some way to get things together, Smith and the Seahawks offense will likely do well enough to put points on the board.
While the defense is letting him down, Smith has been putting up career high numbers
NFC clinching / elimination scenarios
PHI wins NFC East with: win
NYG make the playoffs with: win AND KC and CAR win
ATL eliminated with: loss AND any two NFC South teams win
NO eliminated with: loss AND TB wins AND CAR or ATL wins
GB eliminated with: loss AND WSH win
(per NYT Upshot interactive tool)
Game 3: Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) @ New England Patriots (7-7)
- Saturday @ 1:00 pm ET (CBS) / Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
One of these teams put up a massive comeback to win their game against the greatest to ever do it. Another blew their chance to go to overtime with a miraculous blunder.
The Patriots were one play away from sending things to overtime in Las Vegas against the Raiders. A win would’ve helped them keep their spot in seventh place in the AFC Playoff hunt.
Instead, a run from Rhamondre Stevenson saw the running back pitch it to receiver Jakobi Meyers. Meyers then took that lateral, ran backwards an inexplicably chose to toss it over to Mac Jones – who was 20 yards behind him.
It was a poor choice that led to Raiders DE Chandler Jones picking up the ball and running to the end zone to win the game. Instead of taking a knee and playing for overtime, the Patriots dropped to 7-7, allowing the Chargers to jump them into a current spot in the playoffs.
Cincinnati is in pole position in the AFC North while the Patriots struggle in the AFC East
A lot can change between now and then, and maybe the Patriots can take their weak offense and do something with it against a Bengals team that forced four turnovers against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Even though Cincinnati’s defense allowed 397 yards on the day, their ability to takeaway the ball via interceptions and fumbles allowed their offense the chance to score 34 unanswered points through the third and fourth quarters. QB Joe Burrow looks as confident as ever in the pocket, throwing four touchdowns on the day – with three of those coming directly off turnovers.
For New England to win, they’ll need everything to go right on defense to slow Burrow down – and statistics say that is possible. The Patriots are third in the league in sacks, sixth in total defense, and ninth in pass defense.
However, they’ll really need their offense to find some production. Stevenson has shown he’s capable, but poor play calling has led to paltry passing game numbers and has caused many in New England to wonder how much longer the Mac Jones experiment or the Matt Patricia experiment (or both) can last.
Meyers’ poor decision making saw Chandler Jones pummel Mac Jones through the dirt
Beyond that, their hopes for making the playoffs look more grim than ever. That loss to the Raiders dropped New England’s chances of making a postseason appearance dropped from 42 percent to 27 percent, according to The New York Times.
A loss to the Bengals in a vacuum (a.k.a. without any other results factoring in) drops their chances to roughly 14 percent facing tough games at home against Miami, then away against Buffalo. Victory is not guaranteed in either of those games – yet if New England wins both of those in a vacuum, they have a 65 percent chance of making the Wild Card.
In short, the Patriots can win two of their last three games and likely make the playoffs. They can’t lose all three. Seeing as this is comparatively one of the two easier ones, it demands that New England get their act together.
AFC clinching / elimination scenarios
BUF to win AFC East: win OR MIA loss
CIN to make playoffs: win
BAL to make playoffs: win AND two of NE, NYJ, and MIA lose
LAC to make playoffs: win AND NE, NYJ, LV, and MIA lose
IND eliminated with: loss OR win AND TEN win
PIT eliminated with: loss OR win AND LAC, CIN, and MIA win
CLE eliminated with: loss OR win AND BAL and LAC win AND either NE, MIA or NYJ win
(per NYT Upshot interactive tool)
Game 4: Washington Commanders (7-6-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
- Saturday @ 4:25pm ET (NBC) / Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Washington’s odds of getting into the playoffs are currently at a coin flip. With Monday night’s win for the Green Bay Packers, the Commanders have a 48 percent chance of getting in through the Wild Card.
They can’t be eliminated, but their odds drop to 30 percent if they lose to San Francisco. Their odds can drop as low as 14 percent if certain teams win.
All this is to say: a win away to San Francisco is imperative if the Commanders want to keep their hopes of making the playoffs alive. But that’s not an easy ask – even with the 49ers running with a third string QB.
Washington needs to find a way to win out – if they want the best chance at making the playoffs
Washington’s offense looked hopeless in primetime on Sunday – despite putting up almost 100 more yards than the Giants. But over the course of 10 drives, they burned nearly 30 minutes of game time just to punt four times and fumble twice.
Things won’t get easier for them this week when they travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers and the league’s best defense.
Add to that fact Washington’s defense is still banged up themselves – facing a resurgent Christian McCaffrey – and you don’t like the chances for the Commanders.
And yet, they still need this win – and the need for wins often brings out the best in teams. Seeing as Washington needs two wins in a vacuum and they play Dallas to close out the season, they’ll need this win to stay on the right track.
The 49ers defense is the strongest in the league – making the Commanders job much harder
Game of the Week: Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
- Saturday @ 4:25pm ET (FOX) / AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Considering all of the teams above fighting for their survival, you may wonder why is this the Game of the Week when both teams are locked into playoff spots. Simply put, these two teams hate each other – but more importantly, they’re both showing some signs of weakness.
The Eagles come into this game as the top team in the league – with only a single loss to their name. Last week, they dominated the ground game against the Chicago Bears – with QB Jalen Hurts taking big hits but scoring three touchdowns and grabbing 376 total yards.
But then, the exact toll of those hits was revealed when it was announced Hurts had a shoulder sprain. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and his status for Saturday’s game is officially questionable.
If Hurts can’t run, former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew is second on the depth chart, with second-year Notre Dame product Ian Book behind him.
With Jalen Hurts (L) possibly out and the Cowboys defense reeling from a collapse, this game is closer than what previously predicted as the two top teams in the NFC East face off
Normally, the prospect of staring down the Cowboys defense isn’t one that fills you with hope. However, one look at the way Dallas played Jacksonville may calm the nerves of Eagles fans.
After Brett Maher’s field goal put the Cowboys up 27-10 with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter, the Jaguars outscored Dallas 24-7 for the rest of the game to force overtime.
There, after Jacksonville punted on their first possession, they were able to win the game thanks to a pick-six off Dak Prescott thanks to safety Rayshawn Jenkins. It was a major error for Prescott, who has been shaky the last four games having thrown a combined seven interceptions.
With that lack of consistency, a win for the Eagles – even with a backup quarterback – isn’t out of the question. If they win, they’ll clinch the division and have a clear path to the No. 1 overall seed. If Dallas can find a way to get things together, this upset will help this team push forward and secure a home game in the Wild Card round.
Rayshawn Jenkins (2) put the cap on a stunning comeback victory over Dak Prescott & Dallas