NFL Week 16 playoff-clinching scenarios: Cowboys earn berth, among five teams that could win division title

We’re in the stretch run of the 2021 regular season and the playoff picture is still surprisingly open at the moment. But the Week 16 opener helped one team punch a ticket to the postseason — the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to the Titans’ 20-17 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night, the Cowboys are playoff-bound for the first time since 2018. The Titans moved one step closer to winning the AFC South but as of now, no team in the AFC has punched their ticket to the postseason. The Cowboys join the Green Bay Packers, who clinched a spot after winning the NFC North last weekend. That said, things do look like they begin to get clearer this weekend as multiple teams are facing win-and-in scenarios. 

As many as five division winners could be crowded this weekend and we’ll detail how each team can get there. Below, you’ll find all the playoff-clinching scenarios for Week 16. 

Clinches AFC West division title with:

  1. KC win + LAC loss or tie OR
  2. KC tie + LAC loss

Clinches playoff berth with:

  1. KC win OR
  2. KC tie + BUF loss OR
  3. KC tie + IND loss OR
  4. KC tie + CIN-BAL does not end in a tie

Week 16 opponent: Steelers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS — steam on Paramount+)

Clinches AFC East division title with:

  1. NE win + MIA loss or tie

Clinches playoff berth with:

  1. NE win + LV loss or tie + LAC loss OR
  2. NE win + IND loss or tie + CIN loss OR
  3. NE win + IND loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
  4. NE win + IND loss or tie + LAC loss OR
  5. NE win + BAL loss + CLE loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

Week 16 opponent: Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS — steam on Paramount+)

Clinches AFC South division title with:

  1. TEN win + IND loss

Clinches playoff berth with:

  1. TEN win + MIA loss or tie + BUF loss + DEN loss or tie + CLE loss or tie + PIT loss OR
  2. TEN win + MIA loss or tie + BUF loss + DEN loss or tie + CLE loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

Note: There are other scenarios in which Tennessee can clinch a playoff berth that involve a Titans win, a Dolphins loss or tie, a Bills loss and a combination of other teams losing and various strength-of-victory clinchings.

Week 16 opponent: Defeated 49ers 20-17 on Thursday

Clinches playoff berth with:

  1. ARI win or tie OR
  2. PHI loss or tie + SF loss OR
  3. PHI loss or tie + MIN loss or tie OR
  4. PHI loss or tie + NO loss or tie OR
  5. MIN loss or tie + SF loss OR
  6. MIN loss or tie + NO loss or tie OR
  7. NO loss or tie + SF loss

Week 16 opponent: Colts (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. on NFL Network) 

Clinches NFC East division title with:

  1. DAL win or tie OR
  2. PHI loss or tie OR
  3. DAL clinches at least a tie in strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PHI

Clinched playoff berth with 49ers loss

Week 16 opponent: Washington (Sunday, 8:20 on NBC)

Clinch playoff berth with:

  1. LAR win or tie OR
  2. PHI loss or tie + NO loss or tie

Clinches NFC South division title with:

  1. TB win or tie OR
  2. NO loss or tie

Clinches playoff berth with:

  1. MIN loss or tie + PHI loss or tie OR
  2. MIN loss or tie + DAL win or tie OR
  3. MIN loss or tie + DAL clinches at least a tie in strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PHI

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