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Here are four of the biggest playoff questions following Week 16’s Sunday games:
1) Which current No. 1 seed is more likely to fall in the standings: Packers or Chiefs?
Green Bay (12-3) and Kansas City (11-4) are in similar positions atop their respective conferences. The Packers and Chiefs can both clinch top seeds by winning out. However, a loss by either team could bring unfavorable tiebreakers to the forefront of the playoff picture.
In the NFC, Dallas (11-4) trails Green Bay by a game but holds the tiebreaker over the Packers because of a better conference record. The Bucs (11-4) and Rams (11-4) need the Packers to lose out. So forget about that immediately.
The Chiefs lead the Titans (10-5) by a game in the AFC, while Tennessee holds the tiebreaker after a head-to-head victory earlier in the season.
So it’s simple. If the Packers slip up and the Cowboys win out, Dallas earns the NFC’s top seed. Similarly, the AFC goes through Nashville if the Chiefs lose a game and the Titans win their final two.
Yet FiveThirtyEight gives the Packers an 85% chance of earning the top seed and the Chiefs a 73% chance. What’s the difference? Their schedules.
The Packers play the Vikings and Lions to close out the season. Kansas City plays Cincy and Denver. The Chiefs are more likely to lose a game than the Packers because of the Bengals matchup in Week 17.
Moreover, the Cowboys (the team chasing the Packers) are more likely to lose a game than the Titans (chasing the Chiefs). The Cowboys finish their season against the Cardinals and Eagles; the Titans have the Dolphins and Texans.
2) Who’s most likely to get the AFC’s final Wild Card spot?
This got interesting on Sunday after the Chargers’ loss to the Texans. How did that happen? Did anyone expect that?
The Colts and Patriots will grab two of the AFC’s Wild Cards, barring COVID or injury derailment. That leaves the Chargers, Raiders, Ravens, and Dolphins in a four-way battle for the seventh seed.
Baltimore currently holds the spot but would fall behind Miami should the Dolphins beat the Saints tonight. Some guy named Ian Brook will start for the Saints. Still, the Chargers should slide into the 7th seed come season-end. Here are the remaining schedules for each team:
Ravens, 8-7: Rams and Steelers
Chargers, 8-7: Broncos and Raiders
Raiders, 8-7: Colts and Chargers
Dolphins, 7-7: Saints, Titans, and Patriots.
I say the Chargers go 10-7, and the other three teams lose at least one remaining game.
3) Which team has the most injury concerns?
Mike Evans, Shaq Barrett, and Leonard Fournette are out of action right now with injuries. In addition, Chris Godwin is done for the year with an ACL tear.
Tampa will need Evans, Barrett, and Fournette back at 100% to knock off any combination of the Packers, Cowboys, and Rams in the playoffs.
Second, if Derrick Henry returns and is, well, Derrick Henry — the Titans can win the entire AFC. Henry could return in Week 18.
4) Which Wild Card team has the best shot of winning the Super Bowl?
Only seven teams in NFL history have won the Super Bowl from a Wild Card spot. The seventh, you might remember, was Tampa Bay last season.
I’ll go with the Colts. Indianapolis beat both the Bills and Patriots this season via a formula it can take to any stadium and win.
The Colts have a Super Bowl roster despite Carson Wentz at QB. And therein lies the question: is Wentz good enough to win a Super Bowl? Yes on a team with this defense, run-game, offensive line, and coaching staff.