NFL Week 15 Playoff Picture: Playoff & division title implications for all 16 games

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws the ball under pressure from New York Giants line backer Quincy Roche (95) in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NFL season has just four full weeks left, and with that comes increasing attention to the postseason.

The shape of the 2021 playoff bracket hinges heavily on what we see during the Week 15 slate, so we at PFF want to go through the different scenarios and how they affect your favorite team.

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Playoff leverage of week 15 games for each NFL team

Thursday Night Football

Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5)

Current playoff odds: KC 97%, LAC 76%
With KC win: KC 99%, LAC 66%
With LAC win: KC 91%, LAC 94%

Current division odds: KC 75%, LAC 22%
With KC win: KC 96%, LAC 4%
With LAC win: KC 35%, LAC 59%

The skinny: The Chiefs, who lost to Justin Herbert & Co. in Week 3, have not lost a road game to the Chargers since and are favorites to win Thursday night on the road.

With a Chiefs loss, the Chargers would have a commanding lead on the division, having swept the Chiefs and pulled even with them in the standings.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Saturday Night Football

Las Vegas Raiders @ Cleveland Browns (-3)

Current playoff odds: LV 13%, CLE 46%
With LV win: LV 26%, CLE 23%
With CLE win: LV 5%, CLE 59%

Current division odds: CLE 31%
With LV win: CLE 16%
With CLE win: CLE 40%

The skinny: Some COVID is going around in Cleveland, which has significantly altered the point spread. The Browns kept their playoff and division hopes alive with a two-point win against the Ravens on Sunday but need to continue to win, especially against AFC opponents, to keep pace.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts (-2)

Current playoff odds: NE 98%, IND 60%
With NE win: NE > 99%, IND 41%
With IND win: NE 96%, IND 80%

Current division odds: NE 78%, IND 2%
With NE win: NE 89%, IND < 1%
With IND win: NE 66%, IND 4%

The skinny: New England is on a seven-game winning streak and is currently the top seed in the AFC. With matchups against the Colts and the Bills coming up, they can basically clinch the conference’s one seed with two wins over the next two games.

The Colts probably wish they didn’t blow two-score leads to the Ravens, Titans and Bucs during their recent stretch of impressive games. As such, the AFC South is all but assured of going to the Titans, with the Colts looking to get their second straight wild-card berth.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Sunday 1 PM Slate

Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5)

Current playoff odds: WAS 30%, PHI 32%
With WAS win: WAS 54%, PHI 9%
With PHI win: WAS 13%, PHI 48%

The skinny: When it comes to making the wild card in the NFC, this game has about as much leverage as it gets. A week after trying to keep pace with the Cowboys with a backup quarterback, the Football Team may have to do the same in Week 15, and the point spread is reflecting that. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins (-8.5)

Current playoff odds: MIA 8%
With NYJ win: MIA < 1%
With MIA win: MIA 10%

The skinny: The odds are long for the Dolphins, who have won five consecutive games and are coming off a bye week. However, a win against the Jets, against whom they are heavily favored at home, would increase their odds to over 10%. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

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Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills (-10)

Current playoff odds: CAR <1%, BUF 66%
With CAR win: CAR 1%, BUF 39%
With BUF win: CAR < 1%, BUF 75%

Current division odds: BUF 22%
With CAR win: BUF 8%
With BUF win: BUF 27%

The skinny: It was just a few short months ago that the Panthers were 3-0 and trading for veteran players in moves that signaled that they were “all in.” Three quarterbacks and two offensive coordinators in, and they are basically out of it, facing the league’s toughest schedule from here on out. Buffalo, on the other hand, has the second-easiest schedule moving forward. They need a win here to hold serve and give themselves a chance against the Patriots next week in Foxboro for the division title.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions (+13.5)

Current division odds: ARZ 88%
With ARZ win: ARZ 92%
With DET win: ARZ 71%

The skinny: The Cardinals are all but a lock to make the playoffs, but the division title is now in the balance after a loss to the Rams on Monday Night Football. After being the favorite to earn the one seed for a few weeks now, they are now underdogs to do so at 12%.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants (+10.5)

Current division odds: DAL 96%
With DAL win: DAL 99%
With NYG win: DAL 89%

The skinny: The Cowboys are all but assured of making the playoffs, and while their win in Washington last week made their first division title since 2018 very likely, a loss to the Giants this week would loosen the stranglehold on the division a bit. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)

Current playoff odds: TEN 99%, PIT 11%
With TEN win: TEN >99%, PIT 3%
With PIT win: TEN 98%, PIT 21%

Current division odds: TEN 98%, PIT 5%
With TEN win: TEN > 99%, PIT 1%
With PIT win: TEN 95%, PIT 9%

The skinny: The Titans are basically a complete meltdown (and some help) away from not winning the AFC South, let alone missing the playoffs, while the Steelers keep being kept alive by the incompetence of the AFC North. With losses by the Ravens and the Bengals last week and the COVID situation in Cleveland, the Steelers are still alive and can double their playoff odds with a home win against the Titans Sunday.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

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Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+3)

The skinny: There are no playoff implications in this game. Just vibes. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

4 PM Slate

Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers (-8)

Current playoff odds: ATL 17%, SF 73%
With ATL win: ATL 46%, SF 35%
With SF win: ATL 4%, SF 91%

The skinny: A few weeks ago, this was just another random game on the slate. Now, it’s the game with the most leverage in the NFC playoff race. Additionally, the Falcons, who are -108 in point differential despite being 6-7 (they were -18 last year in being 4-12), could hit their season win total of seven with a win Sunday, while the 49ers could all but wrap up a spot as an NFC wild card. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos (-1.5)

Current playoff odds: CIN 39%, DEN 21%
With CIN win: CIN 57%, DEN 7%
With DEN win: CIN 21%, DEN 36%

Current division title odds: CIN 24%, DEN 3%
With CIN win: CIN 34%, DEN < 1%
With DEN win: CIN 14%, DEN 5%

The skinny: This is a very big game in the AFC, with both teams still alive for both wild cards and their division. The Bengals have been very good at beating and covering against bad teams this year but have struggled against other contenders. The Bengals can’t get out of their own way, going from a potential favorite to take home the AFC North with a win last week to now holding the third-best odds in the division behind Baltimore and Cleveland. 

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens (+4.5)

Current playoff odds: GB > 99%, BAL 67%
With GB win: GB > 99%, BAL 55%
With BAL win: GB > 99%, BAL 86%

Current division title odds: GB > 99%, BAL 40%
With GB win: GB > 99%, BAL 29%
With BAL win: GB > 99%, BAL 60%

The skinny: Green Bay is basically a lock to win the NFC North, and with a 39% chance to earn the one seed, the second favorite to have home-field advantage in the NFC for the second-straight year. The Ravens are actually not a lock to make the playoffs in any way, shape or form. And for the sake of argument, we’ve left quarterback Lamar Jackson in the simulation just to give the best-case scenario for them, which is basically a coin flip to make the dance with a loss as an underdog against Green Bay.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)

Current playoff odds: SEA 3%, LA 98%
With SEA win: SEA 8%, LA 94%
With LAR win: SEA < 1%, LA > 99%

Current division title odds: LA 11%
With SEA win: LA < 3%
With LAR win: LA 16%

The skinny: The Seahawks are going to wish that they won some of those prior games (e.g., Minnesota, Washington), as their playoff hopes — even with two straight wins — are very, very slim. Still very slim are the Rams' hopes to win the division title for the first time since 2018, even with a win Monday against the Cardinals, largely because of losing every tiebreaker with the Birds.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Sunday Night Football

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11.5)

Current playoff odds: TB > 99%, NO 20%
With NO win: TB >99%, NO 43%
With TB win: TB 100%, NO 13%

Current division title odds: TB > 99%, NO < 1%
With NO win: TB > 99%, NO < 1%
With TB win: TB 100%, NO 0%

The skinny: The Bucs clinch their first division title since 2008 with a win, while the Saints are very much in the thick of it with another sweep of the Bucs (an interesting nugget: the Saints have swept Tampa in both of the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning seasons). The Bucs currently carry a 42% chance of earning the one seed in the NFC, which is tops in the conference, and a 19% chance to win the Super Bowl, tops in the league.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 

Monday Night Football

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears (+3.5)

Current playoff odds: MIN 25%, CHI < 1%
With MIN win: MIN 39%, CHI 0%
With CHI win: MIN 8%, CHI 1%

The skinny: This is largely an elimination game in the NFC, with the Vikings searching for just their fifth win in Soldier Field since 2001. The Vikings' remaining schedule includes the Bears twice, the Rams and a rematch with the Packers. They likely need to go 3-1 to have a chance to make the playoffs, which is almost impossible with a loss here.

Click here for our best bets on the game. 


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