Patriots vs Bills : For much of Saturday’s opening game of Week 16, it looked as if the Titans would come up short in their bid to beat the Redskins and take the next step toward the playoffs. After Marcus Mariota went down just before halftime, it made a Titans win all the more improbable.
But Blaine Gabbert was able to rally the team to a lead with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the Titans put it away with a pick-six on the final play, earning a 25-16 win that put them briefly into the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.
But the Titans’ stint at the No. 6 seed was shortlived, as the Ravens shocked the Chargers in L.A. 22-10 to put themselves in great position to make the playoffs. They’re the sixth seed as of now, but if the Steelers fall to the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday, the Ravens will move to the No. 4 seed and the Steelers will fall out of the playoff picture altogether.
With the loss, the Chargers are behind the 8-ball to win the AFC West crown and earn the No. 1 seed. They’d need the Chiefs to lose their final two games and then win in Week 17. Failing that, they’ll be locked into the five seed and traveling to face the worst of the division winners, likely whoever comes out on top in the AFC North. That means we could be in for a good ol’ fashioned rematch on Wild Card Weekend, with the Chargers heading to Baltimore to try and solve the Ravens defense with everything on the line.
Washington will now have to hope for plenty of help to remain alive and have a chance to make the playoffs with a win over the Eagles in Week 17. Though they’ve fared better than most expected since turning to their fourth quarterback of the season, it seems like the magic ran out Saturday.
The other team whose magic ran out? The Cleveland Browns, who are officially eliminated from the playoff hunt thanks to the Titans win. That comes one week after the Browns pulled off a major win in Denver on Saturday night themselves. Saturday games giveth, Saturday games taketh away.
Now our eyes turn to Sunday, where the Chiefs and Saints will try to lock up the No. 1 seed in each conference with a win, while the Texans and Rams will hope to win and stay in position for a first-round bye. The Steelers have a critical game ahead of them in New Orleans, while the Vikings and Seahawks will try to maintain their wild-card positioning with wins.
Here’s how the rest of the NFL playoff picture looks, as well as a snapshot of some games that could impact what it looks like after Week 16 and beyond.
AFC: Who’s in
1. (x) Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
The Chiefs play at Seattle on Sunday night with a chance to lock up the No. 1 seed after the Chargers lost to the Ravens on Saturday night.
2. Houston Texans (10-4)
The Texans go to Philadelphia to face the defending champs needing a win to guarantee they hold the first-round bye for another week.
3. New England Patriots (9-5)
The Patriots are massive favorites at home against the Bills on Sunday, hoping to get a win and some help from the Eagles.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)
The Steelers have a tough test ahead on Sunday in New Orleans, and now a loss will mean falling out of the playoff picture altogether after the Ravens upset the Chargers in L.A. on Saturday.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)
The Chargers couldn’t figure out how to solve the Ravens defense on Saturday night in L.A., falling 22-10 against the Ravens one week after beating the Chiefs and throwing the AFC West race into doubt. Now the Chargers will need to win in Week 17 and hope the Chiefs lose their final two games; otherwise, they’ll be the five seed and hitting the road on Wild Card Weekend.
6. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
What a win by the Ravens, who were able to continue leaning on the rushing attack thanks to their defense completely shutting down the Chargers’ dangerous offense. Not only are the Ravens in position for a playoff spot heading into the final week, they could be leading the division come Monday if the Steelers fall to the Saints.
AFC: Who’s out
7. Tennessee Titans (9-6): The Titans rallied against the Redskins on Saturday despite losing starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, taking the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before a pick-six secured a 25-16 win. If the Steelers lose in New Orleans and fall to 8-6-1, the Titans will get the chance to make the playoffs with a win over the Colts in Week 17.
8. Indianapolis Colts (8-6): The Colts headed into Week 16 needing some help to make the playoffs, and if the Steelers lose to the Saints, a win against the Giants on Sunday will give Indy a chance to control their destiny with a trip to Tennessee in the cards in Week 17 against a Titans team with injury questions at quarterback.
9. Miami Dolphins (7-7): The Dolphins remain on the fringe of the AFC playoff race but need to win out and get a lot of help to make it in. They’ll do their part if they can beat the Jaguars in Miami on Sunday.