2023 NFL playoffs: Ten of the most important remaining games that will shape the postseason

With Week 16 underway, the 2023 NFL Playoffs are fast approaching. Half a dozen different teams can earn playoff spots or division titles this weekend. But which specific games are most important to the postseason race in the coming weeks?

Here, we’ve identified 10 of the most critical contests with playoff implications:

Note: Playoff percentages are provided by SportsLine simulations unless otherwise noted.

week: 16 | Date: Saturday, December 23 | Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

Dreaming of a Jake Browning Cinderella run? It basically comes down to this. A win against the reeling Steelers lifts Cincy from a 43% chance of making the dance to nearly 66%, while a loss sends the Bengals all the way to 18%.

week: 16 | Date: Sunday, December 24 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Even after upsetting the Eagles in Week 15, Seattle isn’t a lock to make it into the wild card. But a win over Tennessee, the Dolphins’ recent upset, catapults their postseason chances to 70 percent, while a loss drops them to 35 percent.

week: 16 | Date: Sunday, December 24 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

The Joe Flacco Browns are on an incredible playoff run. But Houston is potentially on its last legs amid the injury to guard C.J. Stroud. An upset of Cleveland gives them an 80% chance to make it, but a loss drops them to 30%.

week: 16 | Date: Sunday, December 24 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Atlanta is struggling while changing QBs again, but Indianapolis has a chance to gain even more ground in the crowded AFC wild card race with a win that would raise their playoff chances from 58.7% to 77%. A loss drops them to 38%.

week: 16 | Date: Sunday, December 24 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Detroit can clinch the NFC North (and thus a playoff spot) with a win. Meanwhile, the Vikings need it even more; a win raises their chances to 77% (up from 25%), while a loss makes them a sure bet to miss the tournament altogether (37%).

week: 16 | Date: Sunday, December 24 | Time: 4:05 p.m. ET

After reaching 98%, the Jaguars fell apart with three straight losses, now boasting a 71.9% chance to make the playoffs. That drops all the way to 55% if they fail to beat Baker Mayfield, though a win shoots it back up to 89%.

Saints at Buccaneers

week: 17 | Date: Sunday, December 31 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Even if New Orleans falls to the Rams to start Week 16, a win in Tampa Bay puts them up to 52%, according to The Upshot’s simulator, and the Falcons will loom in Week 18. Winning just those two games gives the Saints 78% chance to enter.

week: 17 | Date: Sunday, December 31 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

If the Packers beat the Panthers in Week 16, they can still boost their playoff chances to 61 percent with a win here over Minnesota, according to The Upshot, with the Bears looming in Week 18. A loss, meanwhile, would almost eliminated them, reducing them to 3%.

week: 18 | Date: TBD | Time: TBD

Even if the Rams lose to the Saints in Week 16, they can beat the Giants in Week 17 and potentially earn a 73 percent chance of a postseason bid by upsetting San Francisco, who may or may not be resting or without a starter to close the year.

Every Eagles and Cowboys game through Week 18

Okay, so this is cheating a little bit on the rules, but seriously, the NFC East title depends on it. Dallas technically has a leg up in the division standings right now, with the two teams tied at 10-4. But if Philly wins against the Giants (twice) and Cardinals, the Eagles will secure a strength-of-victory tiebreaker. Both clubs are already locked in the playoffs, but where they are seeded — and who potentially gains home-field advantage — could go a long way in determining the NFC race.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *