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What Week 16 means for the 2020 NFL playoff picture

We’re into the penultimate week of the 2019 NFL season, and the playoff race is front and center. We break down the implications of the Week 16 schedule.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson shakes hands with Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after the game at Lincoln Financial Field. James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: We’ve got the fully updated playoff picture. The Eagles beat the Cowboys to move into first place in the NFC East. The Ravens secured home field advantage in the playoffs. The Titans lost, but Pittsburgh losing means Tennessee wins a wild card berth with a Week 17 win or Steelers loss.

Welcome to Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season! We had a busy Saturday, with all three games of the triple-header impacting the playoff picture. The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South with their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East with their win over the Buffalo Bills. The San Francisco 49ers eliminated the Los Angeles Rams from playoff contention, and set up a huge Week 17 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.

We’re reached the penultimate on the regular season calendar, and so much could be decided this weekend. Ten teams have clinched a playoff berth, leaving two spots. Positioning could go into the final week, but most of the 12-team field will be settled by the end of Week 16.

Games of the Week

Cowboys vs. Eagles: The NFC East is a disaster of a division, but this is win or go home. The loser is either eliminated (Eagles) or all but eliminated (Cowboys). It should be a fun one for these long-time rivals.

Packers vs. Vikings: The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win, the Vikings can clinch a playoff berth with a win and also give themselves a crack at the NFC North title. This is a great way to wrap up Week 16.

Saints vs. Titans: This is an intriguing inter-conference matchup. Neither team can clinch anything with a win, but a loss makes life more difficult for both teams. The division champion Saints would likely be just about eliminated from claiming a first round bye. The Titans likely need to win out to have a shot at winning the second wild card berth in the AFC.

“Elimination” games

15 teams have been eliminated from the playoff picture, and we’ll likely get one or two more in Week 16. Even though some teams will remain mathematically alive with a loss in Week 16, they will be all but eliminated at this point. The game that most exemplifies this is Cowboys vs Eagles. If the Eagles lose, they are eliminated from playoff contention. If the Cowboys lose, they still have a shot at the NFC East, but would be in bad shape. The Raiders and Browns both needs wins as well, but this is the one Sunday game where both teams badly need the win.

Below is a rundown of the NFL playoff picture and who the top six seeds in each of the conferences face. It’s followed by some of the notable matchups between playoff contenders.

AFC playoff picture

1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-2 — @ Browns
2. New England Patriots: 12-3 — Win over Bills 24-17
3. Kansas City Chiefs: 10-4 — @ Bears
4. Houston Texans: 10-5 — Win over Bucs 23-20
5. Buffalo Bills: 10-5 — Loss to Patriots 24-17
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-6 — @ Jets

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (8-6), Oakland Raiders (6-8), Indianapolis Colts (6-8), Cleveland Browns (6-8)

Notable games

Ravens (12-2) @ Browns (6-8)
Saints (11-3) @ Titans (8-6)
Chiefs (10-4) @ Bears (7-7)

NFC playoff picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 12-3 — Win over Rams 34-31
2. Green Bay Packers: 11-3 — @ Vikings
3. New Orleans Saints: 11-3 — @ Titans
4. Dallas Cowboys: 7-7 — @ Eagles
5. Seattle Seahawks: 11-3 — vs. Cardinals
6. Minnesota Vikings: 10-4 — vs. Packers

In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Notable games

Saints (11-3) @ Titans (8-6)
Cowboys (7-7) @ Eagles (7-7)
Cardinals (4-9-1) @ Seahawks (11-3)
Packers (11-3) @ Vikings (10-4)