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NFL playoff standings 2023 Week 16: Playoff picture and Miami Dolphins fan rooting guide

Week 16 of the 2023 NFL season is underway. It is time for closer look at the playoff pictures for the AFC and NFC, as well as breaking down the best results for the Miami Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Week 16 of the 2023 season has begun with the Los Angeles Rams beating the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. On Saturday, two games are on the schedule, starting with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC North showdown. The Saturday night game features the Buffalo Bills at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Sunday will feature 10 games, including the Dallas Cowboys at the Miami Dolphins in the late-afternoon timeslot. Monday will bring the week to a close with a triple header of games on the docket.

The AFC playoff picture has the Baltimore Ravens, the only team to have already clinched a playoff spot for the conference, holding the top spot in the AFC North and in the conference seeding. Just behind them, the Miami Dolphins are in the second seed as the AFC East leaders. The Kansas City Chiefs are the AFC West leaders and are in the third seed while the Jacksonville Jaguars lead the AFC South and hold the fourth position in the conference.

The Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Indianapolis Colts hold the three AFC wild card positions.

In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC West leaders, are in the top-seed position, followed by the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys. The top wild card seed is held by the Philadelphia Eagles, tied with the Cowboys record-wise as the two teams battle for the division title this season. All three teams are locked into the playoffs.

Still working on claiming their postseason berth, the Detroit Lions lead the NFC North and are currently the third season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the fourth seed as the NFC South leaders. Behind the Eagles in the wild card positions are the Rams, moving up after their Thursday win, and the Minnesota Vikings.

Taking a look at the Week 16 schedule, we provide Dolphins fans with the rooting guide for every game that impacts the team’s playoff chances.


AFC East standings (through Week 15):

Miami Dolphins (10-4)
Buffalo Bills (8-6) - 2GB
New York Jets (5-9) - Eliminated
New England Patriots (3-11) - Eliminated

Week 16 schedule:
Bills at Chargers, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Commanders at Jets, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Cowboys at Dolphins, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Patriots at Broncos, 8:15 p.m. ET Sunday


AFC playoff picture (through Week 15):

1 - Baltimore Ravens (11-3, AFC North leader)x
2 - Miami Dolphins (10-4, AFC East leader)
3 - Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, AFC West leader)
4 - Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6, AFC South leader)

5 - Cleveland Browns (9-5, Wild Card 1 position)
6 - Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, Wild Card 2 position)
7 - Indianapolis Colts (8-6, Wild Card 3 position)

Houston Texans (8-6)
Buffalo Bills (8-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
Denver Broncos (7-7)
Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)
Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)

Eliminated:
Tennessee Titans (5-9)
New York Jets (5-9)
New England Patriots (3-11)

x Playoff berth clinched

Tiebreaks:

  • Jaguars over Colts and Texans based on head-to-head results
  • Colts over Texans based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Bengals over Colts and Bills based on head-to-head results
  • Colts over Texans based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Colts over Bills based on AFC winning percentage
  • Texans over Bills based on AFC winning percentage
  • Steelers over Broncos based on AFC winning percentage
  • Chargers over Titans and Jets based on AFC winning percentage
  • Titans over Jets based on common game results

AFC Clinching Scenarios Week 16:

Ravens clinch AFC North title with:

  • Ravens win and Browns loss/tie OR
  • Ravens tie and Browns loss

Browns clinch playoff berth with:

  • Browns win and Bengals loss and Broncos loss/tie and Bills loss and Dolphins win/tie and Colts loss/tie OR
  • Browns in and Steelers loss/tie and Bills loss and Dolphins win/tie and Broncos loss/tie OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Bills loss and Dolphins win/tie and Jaguars loss and Colts win OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Broncos loss/tie and Jaguars loss and Colts win OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Broncos loss/tie and Dolphins win/tie and Colts loss OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Bills loss and Chiefs win and Colts win and Jaguars loss OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Broncos loss/tie and Dolphins win/tie and Colts loss OR
  • Browns win and Steelers loss/tie and Broncos loss/tie and Dolphins win/tie and Jaguars loss OR
  • Browns win and Bengals-Steelers tie and Bills loss and Colts win and Jaguars loss

Chiefs clinch AFC West title and playoff berth with:

  • Chiefs win OR
  • Chiefs tie and Broncos loss

Dolphins clinch AFC East title with:

  • Dolphins win and Bills loss/tie OR
  • Dolphins tie and Bills loss

Dolphins clinch playoff berth with:

  • Dolphins win OR
  • Dolphins tie and Jaguars loss OR
  • Dolphins tie and Colts loss and Texans loss OR
  • Dolphins tie and Colts loss/tie and Browns loss OR
  • Dolphins tie and Texans loss/tie and Bengals loss/tie OR
  • Dolphins wite and Bengals loss/tie and Colts loss/tie

AFC Elimination Scenarios Week 16

Raiders eliminated from playoffs with:

  • Raiders loss OR
  • Raiders tie and Bengals win and Bills win OR
  • Raiders tie and Bengals win and Jaguars win and Colts win/tie OR
  • Raiders tie and Bengals win and Jaguars win and Texans win/tie OR
  • Raiders tie and Bengals win and Colts win and Texans win OR
  • Raiders tie and Bills win and Jaguars win and Colts win/tie OR
  • Raiders tie and Bills win and Jagaurs win and Texans win/tie OR
  • Raiders tie and Bills win and Colts win and Texans win OR
  • Raiders tie and Jaguars win and Colts win and Texans win

Chargers eliminated from playoffs with:

  • Chargers loss/tie OR
  • Jaguars win/tie OR
  • 48 scenarios involving a combination of wins or ties by the Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Raiders, Texans, and Browns

Bills eliminated from AFC East title with:

  • Bills loss and Dolphins win/tie OR
  • Bills tie and Dolphins win

Browns eliminated from NFC North title with:

  • Browns loss and Ravens win/tie OR
  • Browns tie and Ravens win

Broncos eliminated from AFC West title with:

  • Broncos loss and Chiefs tie OR
  • Chiefs win

NFC Playoff Picture (through Week 16 TNF)

1 - San Francisco 49ers (11-3, NFC West leader)y
2 - Dallas Cowboys (10-4, NFC East leader)x
3 - Detroit Lions (10-4, NFC North leader)
4 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7, NFC South leader)

5 - Philadelphia Eagles (10-4 , Wild Card 1 position)x
6 - Los Angeles Rams (8-7, Wild Card 2 position)*
7 - Minnesota Vikings (7-7, Wild Card 3 position)

Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
New Orleans Saints (7-8)*
Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
Green Bay Packers (6-8)
New York Giants (5-9)
Chicago Bears (5-9)

Eliminated:
Washington Commanders (4-10)*
Arizona Cardinals (3-11)*
Carolina Panthers (2-12)*
x Playoff berth clinched
y Division title clinched
*Thursday Night Football

Tiebreaks:

  • Cowboys over Eagles based on NFC winning percentage (divisional tiebreak); Cowboys over Lions based on NFC winning percentage
  • Vikings over Seahawks based on NFC winning percentage
  • Falcons over Packers based on head-to-head results
  • Giants over Bears based on common games winning percentage

NFC Clinching Scenarios Week 16

Lions clinch NFC North title with:

  • Lions win/tie

Lions clinch playoff berth with:

  • Rams loss/tie OR
  • Seahawks loss/tie

49ers clinch NFC top seed (homefield advantage and first-round bye) with:

  • 49ers win and Eagles loss and Cowboys loss and Lions loss

NFC Elimination Scenarios Week 16

Bears eliminated from playoffs with:

  • Bears loss OR
  • Bears tie and Vikings win OR
  • Bears tie and Vikings tie and Packers tie OR
  • Bears tie and Packers win OR
  • Bears tie and Seahawks win

Giants eliminated from playoffs with:

  • Giants loss OR
  • Giants tie and Seahawks win OR
  • Giants tie and Vikings win OR
  • Giants tie and Packers win OR
  • Giants tie and Packers tie and Buccaneers win and Falcons win and Bears win

Vikings eliminated from NFC North title with:

  • Vikings loss/tie

Miami Dolphins Week 16 rooting guide:

Bengals at Steelers, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Bengals are 8-6 and in the sixth seed while the Steelers are 7-7 and are 10th in the conference standings, three places out of the playoff picture. The easy answer is to see the Bengals lose, giving both the Steelers and the Bengals 8-7 records, but is that just inviting more confusion and potentially a better team back into the playoff picture, given the Bengals are now without Joe Burrow? If the Bengals win, they move to 9-7 and are closing in on a wild card spot, potentially eating a playoff position from the Bills down the road. Keeping Buffalo out of the playoffs is a worthy goal in these rooting guides. We will lean toward Cincinnati here, but either result really does work for Miami. Root for: Bengals.

Bills at Chargers, 8 p.m. ET Saturday

Can the Chargers pull off the upset win in a primetime game? The Dolphins could really use a Los Angeles win - or more precisely, they could use a Bills loss. Buffalo is trying to make the Week 18 matchup between the Bills and the Dolphins into a showdown for the AFC East title. A loss to the Chargers would just about eliminate Buffalo from the division title unless everything else falls apart for Miami. Root for: Chargers.

Colts at Falcons, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

An AFC at NFC matchup makes this an easy choice. The Colts are in the wild card fight which, if everything falls apart and the Bills find their way to a division title, the Dolphins are going to want to land as the top wild card team. Clearing that landing spot makes sense. Root for: Falcons.

Browns at Texans, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

This one really is a toss up. The Browns are closing in on a playoff berth, while the Texans are just outside looking in right now. Do you want the Browns to lose for the same reason the Colts should lose, clearing the top wild card landing position if the Dolphins need it or do you want the Texans to lose to clear the wild card spots overall? Both arguments work. The deciding factor here is, the Texans are ahead of the Bills among the teams outside the playoff picture, and it would be better for them to stay ahead of Buffalo, providing some insurance that maybe the Bills will completely miss the playoffs. Root for: Texans

Jaguars at Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday

The Jaguars are two games behind the Dolphins in the chase for the number one seed in the conference and with three games to play, Miami has some breathing room. But, this is an AFC at NFC matchup involving a playoff team for the AFC. Why not hope they drop back to three-games back with two games to play? Root for: Buccaneers.

Patriots vs. Broncos, 8:15 p.m. ET Sunday

This game is almost to the “games with no impact on Dolphins” category, but the Broncos are just alive enough to consider it. Miami has the head-to-head tiebreak on Denver, but we will root for getting them out of the playoffs altogether. (Although...a case could be made for hoping they improve their record to tie with the Bills and have the head-to-head advantage on Buffalo, but that may be just trying to find a reason to not root for New England.) Root for: Patriots.

Raiders vs. Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET Monday

In the AFC playoff picture, the Chiefs are lurking behind the Dolphins and holding the head-to-head tiebreak over Miami for seeding. A loss by the Chiefs would just about eliminate them from consideration for the conference’s top spot. Root for: Raiders.

Ravens vs. 49ers, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday

Baltimore is holding on to the top seed in the AFC playoff picture, a spot Miami would really like to claim by the end of the season. The Dolphins face the Ravens next week, and would land the top spot if they can win all three remaining games this year, but a loss by Baltimore here would give the Dolphins a little easier path to the top seed. Root for: 49ers.

Games with no impact on Dolphins:
Packers at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Lions at Vikings, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Commanders at Jets, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Seahawks at Titans, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Cardinals at Bears, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Giants at Eagles, 4:30 p.m. ET Monday


If the week ended with all of these results, Miami would be tied with the Ravens for the best record in the AFC, sitting behind them based on tiebreaks but with a head-to-head matchup looming next week. The Chiefs and the new AFC South-leading Texans would be two games behind Miami for seeding. The Browns and Bengals would have the top two wild card positions, both at 9-6, while the Jaguars would be in the final AFC playoff spot with an 8-7 record.

Miami would have clinched the AFC East, sitting three games ahead of the Bills with two games to play, making the Week 18 game against Buffalo one simply for seeding for Miami, while the Bills might be trying to play for their playoff lives. Buffalo, based on this rooting guide, would be 8-7, behind the Jaguars and the Colts and likely fighting for one playoff spot among the three teams.