NFL Playoff and Elimination Scenarios for Week 15

The Philadelphia Eagles are in the playoffs.

Now, who can join them?

The Eagles clinched their ticket to the playoffs with Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants. With the win, the Eagles are assured of at least a playoff berth, but their hopes of clinching the NFC East may have to wait a few more weeks. Their Christmas Eve encounter with the Dallas Cowboys looms large.

The Kansas City Chiefs came close to securing a berth, but the Los Angeles Chargers’ win on Sunday night over the Miami Dolphins means they won’t be able to clinch AFC West until this weekend.

Here are the playoff scenarios for Week 15.

Playoff scenarios


Kansas City Chiefs

As noted, the Chiefs entered Week 14 with a chance to clinch AFC West for the seventh consecutive season. While Kansas City got the win over the Denver Broncos they needed, the Chargers’ win over the Dolphins at least kept Los Angeles’ slim division title hopes alive.

Still, that victory over Denver brought the Chiefs one step closer to the division title. They can lock down the AFC West with a victory Sunday over the Houston Texans, who gave the Cowboys a hard time last weekend but enter Week 15 with a 1-11-1 record on the year. Kansas City can also land AFC West if they lose, provided the Chargers also lose to the Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs can also clinch the division with a tie against Houston, if the Chargers also tie Tennessee.

Beyond simply winning the division, the Chiefs can clinch a ticket to the playoffs through a few different combinations. First, if they tie the Texans, a loss to the New York Jets and New England Patriots would guarantee the Chiefs a playoff spot. The Jets host the Detroit Lions on Sunday, while the Patriots take on the Las Vegas Raiders.

Second, the Chiefs can clinch a playoff berth with a tie against the Texans, coupled with a loss to the Jets, a tie to the Patriots, and a loss to the Dolphins. Miami takes on the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night.

Finally, Kansas City secures a playoff berth with a tie, a Jets tie, a Patriots loss and a Dolphins loss.

Buffalo Tickets

The other AFC team that can clinch a playoff berth is the Bills. Buffalo hosts Miami on Saturday night, and they secure a playoff berth with a win over the Dolphins. They can also clinch a playoff berth with a tie and either: A Chargers loss; a Jets loss coupled with a Patriots loss; or, a Chargers tie, a Patriots tie and a Jets loss.


Three teams enter Week 15 with a chance of securing playoff berths.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings had a chance to lock down NFC North with a win last week, but their loss to the Lions put those plans on hold.

Still, with their four-game lead in the division, they remain on course to clinch the division. Here’s how they can do just that this weekend. First, with a win or a tie, they win the division. Even if they lose to the Indianapolis Colts 4-8-1 on Saturday afternoon, then if the Lions tie the Jets on Sunday or lose to them, then the Vikings clinch the division.

Looking ahead, the Vikings have a path to reach the playoffs even if they lose to finish 10-7. Using the Playoff Predictions model, even with four straight losses to end the season, the Vikings finish with a 99% chance of reaching the playoffs.

san francisco 49ers

Thanks to last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which made rookie quarterback Brock Purdy even more historic — San Francisco is on the cusp of the playoffs. How can they pick up? By beating Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night football.

Do that, and the 49ers clinch the division.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys can clinch a playoff berth this week, thanks to six different combinations of results.

The easiest? A victory against Jacksonville on Sunday. With a win, the Cowboys are in the playoffs. Their hopes for a division title hinge largely on their Christmas Eve encounter with the Eagles.

If the Cowboys can’t tie the Jaguars until Sunday, they can still clinch a playoff spot. How? With either a New York Giants loss or a Washington Commanders loss.

These teams compete against each other.

Dallas can also clinch a playoff berth with a tie against Jacksonville and a Seahawks loss or tie with San Francisco.

Even with a loss to Jacksonville, two different combinations of results could see Dallas secure a spot. If the Seahawks and Commanders lose, then Dallas is in play. If the Seahawks lose and the Lions lose or tie, Dallas is in play.

Elimination scenarios

And now, bad news.

Seven NFL teams are on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs.


Four AFC teams — the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns — can be eliminated this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts can be eliminated this weekend in two different ways. In the first scenario, a loss to the Vikings coupled with both a Titans win or tie and a Jets win eliminates the Colts.

In the second scenario, a loss to the Vikings coupled with both a Titans tie or tie and a Patriots win eliminates the Colts.

Pittsburgh Steelers

There are three ways to eliminate the Steelers this weekend.

First, a loss to the Carolina Panthers and a Patriots win over the Raiders eliminates Pittsburgh.

Second, a loss to the Panthers coupled with both a Jets win and a Chargers win or tie, and Pittsburgh is out.

Third, a loss to the Panthers with both a Chargers win and a Raiders-Patriots tie, and the Steelers are home to the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns can be knocked out of the playoffs through three different scenarios.

First, a Browns loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, coupled with a Chargers victory, eliminates Cleveland.

Second, a loss at Cleveland and a Jets win eliminates the Browns.

Third, a loss at Cleveland and a win for the Patriots eliminates the Browns.

Las Vegas Raiders

Their recent success — Las Vegas has won three of their last four games — likely came too late in the season to save their playoff aspirations. Here’s how the Las Vegas Raiders can be eliminated this weekend. First, a loss to the Patriots coupled with a Dolphins win or tie on Saturday night, and the Raiders are out. Second, a loss to the Patriots coupled with a Jets win or tie on Sunday, and Las Vegas is out.


Now on to the NFC side, where three teams could start planning vacations next week: the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans Saints

The only viable path for the Saints to qualify for the playoffs is to win the NFC South. Since, well, someone has to win this split, they’re technically alive. But a loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, coupled with a win or tie by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who face the Cincinnati Bengals) would eliminate New Orleans.

Additionally, a loss to the Falcons coupled with a Panthers win or tie against the Steelers would eliminate the Saints.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals received bad news Monday night when starting quarterback Kyler Murray was lost to a knee injury. Although they still have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, they have no margin for error. A loss to the Denver Broncos would knock them out of the playoffs.

Additionally, a tie with Denver could still see the Cardinals eliminated in two ways. First, a tie plus a loss or a Seahawks tie would eliminate Arizona. Second, a tie plus a tie between the Giants and Commanders would eliminate Arizona.

Even if the Cardinals win Sunday against Denver, they are not clear. A Seahawks victory on Thursday night, coupled with a victory for the Commanders or Giants on Sunday night, eliminates the Cardinals.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams received a boost of energy last week with the arrival of Baker Mayfield, but their slim playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

A loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night and the Rams are out.

If the Rams tie the Packers on Monday night, they could still be eliminated. A tie coupled with a Seahawks win or tie, and the Rams are out. A tie coupled with a Giants win or tie, and Los Angeles is home to the playoffs.

Even if Los Angeles wins Monday night, they could still be knocked out before they even step onto the court. A Seahawks win on Thursday night, coupled with a win by the Giants or Commanders on Sunday night, eliminates the Rams heading into their Monday night game.


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