NFL Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Bracket: Bengals-Broncos AFC Wild-Card Implications, Falcons Hanging Around in NFC

NFL Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Bracket: Bengals-Broncos AFC Wild-Card Implications, Falcons Hanging Around in NFC article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Courtland Sutton (left) and Joe Burrow (right).

NFL Playoff Picture

With the Chiefs taking a two-game lead in the AFC West with their win over the Chargers on Thursday night, how does the rest of the 2021 NFL playoff picture look heading into the remainder of Week 15?

Find the latest AFC and NFC brackets below, complete with scenarios to watch.

Updated AFC Playoff Bracket

AFC
1. Chiefs (10-4)
7. Bills (7-5)
2. Titans (9-4)
6. Chargers (8-6)
3. Patriots (9-5)
5. Colts (8-6)
4. Ravens (8-5)
Bubble: Browns (7-6), Broncos (7-6), Bengals (7-6), Steelers (6-6-1), Raiders (6-7), Dolphins (6-7)

The Colts moved up to the No. 5 slot with the Patriots dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 following Indianapolis’ 27-17 win on Saturday night. That was perhaps the biggest matchup on paper in the AFC in Week 15. However, the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals meet in an important clash on Sunday.

Two franchises that were outscored by more than a touchdown per game last season enter the thick of December with winning records. Both are 7-6 and third in their respective divisions.

The winner of that one can potentially leap Cleveland, which is dealing with a plethora of COVID issues.

Cincinnati in particular owns the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in football entering the weekend, with its combined opponents’ winning percentage north of 60%.

The Bengals have a 22.1% chance to nab the No. 4 seed, according to our The Action Network’s Travis Reed’s simulations.

The Chiefs jumped to the top of the AFC with a Thursday night win over the Chargers. It also gave Kansas City a firm lead in the AFC West.

Updated NFC Playoff Bracket

NFC
1. Packers (10-3)
7. WFT (6-7)
2. Buccaneers (10-3)
6. 49ers (7-6)
3. Cardinals (10-3)
5. Rams (9-4)
4. Cowboys (9-4)
Bubble: Vikings (6-7), Eagles (6-7), Falcons (6-7), Saints (6-7)

The Falcons are quietly in the hunt, and a win over the 49ers would be the biggest of the year for Atlanta. 

An upset win over San Francisco and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday Night Football would give first-year head coach Arthur Smith and the Falcons sole position of second place in the NFC South.

Our projections give the Falcons — who have the third-easiest route in the NFC from here on out — a 7.29% chance of clinching a postseason berth.

Out of the three teams tied at 10-3 for the best record in the conference, Arizona has the easiest path according to the betting market with a matchup against the Lions. Tampa Bay is a big favorite on Sunday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints. The Packers await word on the status of Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson ahead of their Sunday matchup.

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