With only two games left in the regular season, the NFL’s top teams are still jockeying for position. Six teams have clinched playoff berths while eight teams are mathematically eliminated, leaving 18 teams to duke it out for the eight remaining playoff spots. Winning one extra game can mean the difference between hosting postseason games or having to win playoff games on the road.
To determine how each NFL team will finish the 2021 season, 24/7 Tempo reviews each week FiveThirtyEight’s 2021 NFL Predictions, which are based on 50,000 simulated games and are updated after every game. The predictions are as of Dec. 27, 2021, and teams are ranked by their Elo rating, which measures quality based on results and the quality of opponents. Supplemental data came from Pro Football Reference.
As of Week 16, the Packers, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Cowboys have all clinched their division. The Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals will both make the playoffs, but just one will win the NFC West, while the other will be a Wild Card. The Cardinals led the division for most of the season but lost their last three games to slip to 10-5, a game behind the Rams, at 11-4.
Elsewhere in the division, the San Francisco 49ers received a double blow on Thursday night. They lost 20-17 to the Tennessee Titans, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo reportedly suffered a fracture and torn ligament in his thumb. The 49ers are still leading contenders for a Wild Card spot, but this injury could make the NFC playoff picture that much cloudier if San Francisco struggles in Jimmy G’s absence. With that win, the Titans maintained their one game lead over the Indianapolis Colts, who beat Arizona.
It appears that the AFC East will go down to the wire as well. The Buffalo Bills picked up a big 33-21 win over the New England Patriots, sending both teams to 9-6. The Miami Dolphins picked up their seventh win in a row Monday night to move to 8-7 and stay in the race for the division.
The Cincinnati Bengals moved to the top of the AFC North by demolishing their rivals the Baltimore Ravens 41-21. The Ravens, down to their third-string QB, fell to 8-7 and joined a logjam of teams, including the Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders, fighting for the last AFC Wild Card spot .
The Cleveland Browns lost on Christmas to the Green Bay Packers, dropping them to 7-8. They would need a miracle to make the playoffs — a disappointing result for a team that has a higher-paid roster than any other NFL team. These are the NFL teams paying their teams the most and the least.