It’s crunch time when it comes to the NFL playoff picture. Week 16 isn’t quite the final minute in the fourth quarter, but the league is making its turn into the home stretch, for sure.

There’s nothing assured about seeding entering the week, except for knowing that the NFC East champion will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Beyond that, plenty is still up for grabs. Sporting News makes game picks every week, and we’re using them this week to determine how things might shake out in the final AFC and NFC standings. 

Our safe projection for Week 16 came through, as the Chiefs locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win over the Falcons. The top seed in each conference is more important than ever this year, since with an expanded playoff field, that’s the only spot that gets a first-round bye. 

There’s also as much intrigue as ever at the bottom of the playoff picture, where there’s now a seventh postseason berth to compete for in each conference. For the teams on the outside looking in, it ain’t over ’till it’s over. 

MORE: NFL playoff clinching scenarios for Week 16

NFL playoff picture: AFC projections

(Getty Images)

    No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs

    Games remaining: vs. Chargers

    Kansas City locked up the No. 1 seed and the only first-round bye in the AFC with a Week 16 win against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. With that seed clinched in Week 16, expect some stars to rest in Week 17 for Kansas City. It could be a heavy dose of backup quarterback Chad Henne against the Chargers.

      No. 2 seed: Buffalo Bills

      Games remaining: vs. Dolphins

      Buffalo fell temporarily to the No. 3 seed after Pittsburgh won Sunday, but the Bills moved back up with a Monday night win over the Patriots. The Bills will be favored in their last divisional matchup to close out the regular season, although the Dolphins’ strong defense will be a firm test in Week 17. Buffalo’s only loss since the start of November was on the “Hail Murray” play, so it’s very possible Josh Allen’s squad just keeps streaking. 

        No. 3 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers

        Games remaining: at Browns

        Losers of three-straight games, the Steelers had fallen from contention for the bye, but they bounced back with a Week 16 comeback win against the Colts. That clinched the AFC North for Pittsburgh, which temporarily moved ahead of Buffalo for the No. 2 seed. 

          No. 4 seed: Tennessee Titans

          Games remaining: at Texans


          Green Bay handled the Titans in Week 16, leaving Tennessee needing a Colts loss or Titans win in Week 17 to claim the AFC South. 

            No. 5 seed: Miami Dolphins

            Games remaining: at Bills

            The Dolphins can lock up a playoff spot with a Week 17 win over Buffalo. That’s thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s magic in Week 16 to comeback and beat the Raiders, a game in which a loss would’ve been devestating for Miami.

              No. 6 seed: Baltimore Ravens

              Games remaining: at Bengals

              The Ravens ascended from outside the playoff spots to the No. 6 seed thanks to losses by the Colts and Browns. The Bengals had a surprising win in Week 16 over the Texans, but Baltimore will be favored to make the postseason now for sure. 

                No. 7 seed: Cleveland Browns

                Games remaining: vs. Steelers


                ow that Pittsburgh has locked up the AFC North, this game will be all about the Browns hanging on to their first playoff berth since 2002. Closing with two losses to miss the postseason would be very Browns.

                NFL playoff picture: NFC projections

                (Getty Images)

                  No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers

                  Games remaining: at Bears

                  The Packers beat the Titans in Week 16, but they didn’t get the help needed to clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed and will still have that to play for against the Bears in Week 17.

                    No. 2 seed: New Orleans Saints

                    Games remaining: at Panthers

                    A win on Christmas behind six touchdowns from Alvin Kamara was enough to keep the Saints in the No. 2 seed, although there’s still some movement that could happen in the NFC. There’s not a huge difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seed, though, so maybe New Orleans takes it a bit easy in Week 17.

                      No. 3 seed: Seattle Seahawks

                      Games remaining: at 49ers

                      Seattle clinched the NFC West by beating the Rams. The Seahawks could move up to the No. 2 seed with a win in Week 17 coupled with a Saints loss, but since the 2-seed doesn’t come with a bye in this expanded field, Seattle could choose to rest players in Week 17 since the worst it can be is its current No. 3 seed.

                        No. 4 seed: Washington Football Team

                        Games remaining: at Eagles

                        Washington was handled by Carolina in Week 16, and now the only way Washington makes the playoffs is with a Week 17 win against Jalen Hurts and the eliminated Eagles. If Washington loses, the winner of Cowboys-Giants will make the playoffs. 

                          No. 5 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

                          Games remaining: vs. Falcons

                          It’s easy for the Buccaneers, who secured a postseason berth with a win in Week 16. Tampa Bay just beat the Falcons in Week 15, so it should be a straightforward Week 17 after sitting out starters for much of the second half on Saturday in Week 16.

                            No. 6 seed: Los Angeles Rams

                            Games remaining: vs. Cardinals

                            The Rams can no longer win the NFC West. The Cardinals are still competing for a postseason spot, too. So this will be a must-win game for the Rams in Week 17 against Kyler Murray and company.

                              No. 7 seed: Chicago Bears

                              Games remaining: vs. Packers

                              The Bears control their own destiny in Week 17 after a Cardinals loss to the 49ers and a Chicago win over the Jaguars. If Mitchell Trubisky can lead an upset of the Packers, he’ll also get a chance to quarterback the Bears in the playoffs. . 

                              Current NFL playoff picture

                              Here’s how the standings in both conferences break down entering Sunday Night Football in Week 16, along with the other teams that have yet to be mathematically eliminated. 

                                AFCSeedTeamRecordClinched1.Kansas City Chiefs14-1No. 1 seed2.Buffalo Bills12-3AFC East3.Pittsburgh Steelers12-3AFC North4.Tennessee Titans10-5N/a5.Miami Dolphins10-5N/a6.Baltimore Ravens10-5N/a7.Cleveland Browns10-5N/a

                                In the hunt: Colts (10-5)

                                  NFCSeedTeamRecordClinched1.Green Bay Packers12-3NFC North2.New Orleans Saints11-4NFC South3.Seattle Seahawks11-4NFC West4.Washington Football Team6-9N/a5.Tampa Bay Buccaneers10-5Playoff berth6.Los Angeles Rams9-6N/a7.Chicago Bears8-7N/a

                                  In the hunt: Cardinals (8-7), Giants (5-10), Cowboys (6-9),