What NFL Teams Are Playing For

Determining which teams have strong motivation in Week 16

This is a topic that Footballguys has covered in year's past, and it is highly useful for the final few weeks of the regular season.

This year is wacky with how the NFC conference playoffs are going, so I thought I'd get the ball rolling on this, with a focus on which teams are most incentivized to play hard this weekend.

To be clear - there is TEAM motivation (such as a team must win to stay relevant for the playoffs), then there is INDIVIDUAL motivation (such as getting to a season- or career-long milestone).

Note - Here are a few helpful links to evaluate playoff possibilities:

ESPN NFL Playoff Machine

FiveThirtyEight NFL Predictions


NFL Standings

Something to consider: Eleven (11) teams have their final home game of 2019 in Week 16: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tennessee and Washington

Here's are some observations going into Week 16 from a TEAM motivation perspective.


  • Teams that have Clinched a Playoff Berth (4): New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay
  • Teams in the Hunt (4): Minnesota, Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams
  • Teams Eliminated (8): Chicago, Washington, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Detroit, Atlanta, NY Giants


Dallas and Philadelphia - It all comes down to Sunday - well, mostly. Both the Eagles and the Cowboys secured wins in Week 15, boosting their records to a semi-respectable 7-7 as they both enter the final two weeks tied atop the NFC East. Dallas now heads to Lincoln Financial Field where a win will secure the NFC East for the Cowboys, but a loss gives the Eagles the inside track for the division crown. Philadelphia needs to win out including a trip to visit the Giants in Week 17, else a loss would leave the door open for Dallas to win over Washington and take the division from the Eagles at 8-8 due to a better NFC East record. The only scenario that involves either of these teams resting players in Week 17 lies with a Dallas win over the Eagles on Sunday. If the Cowboys win they lock up the NFC East and will host either Seattle or San Francisco in two weeks, so Dallas may view Week 17 as a week to rest key players to get them as healthy as possible for the postseason.

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