NFL Playoff Scenarios: Matchup Projections Going into Week 15

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IDecember 10, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 09:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after Alfred Morris #46 scored a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField on December 9, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The completion of Week 14 of the NFL season provided another step towards the start of the 2012-13 playoffs. 

Four teams are currently locked into playoff spots, leaving 19 still eligible teams to fight over eight open playoff spots. Those numbers make the playoff picture sound cloudy, but it's starting to take shape as the postseason nears. 

Below, we provide the current standings and then project each matchup for the NFL playoffs as we enter Week 15 of the season. 


National Football Conference (NFC)

Current standings

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)

3. Green Bay Packers (9-4)

4. New York Giants (8-5)

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

6. Chicago Bears (8-5)

Still in the hunt: Washington Redskins (7-6), Minnesota Vikings (7-6), Dallas Cowboys (7-6), St. Louis Rams (6-6-1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)


NFC Matchup Projections 

First-round Byes: Atlanta Falcons (12-4), Green Bay Packers (12-4)

Despite an ugly loss in Carolina, the Falcons would still need a big collapse to lose their hold over a first-round bye. Atlanta finishes with New York, Detroit and Tampa Bay. The Packers, despite some ugly wins recently, might have the easiest road towards the second first-round bye. Green Bay closes out the season with Chicago, Tennessee and Minnesota.


Wild Card, No. 4 vs. No. 5: Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at New York Giants (10-6)

The Seahawks are playing as well as any NFC team right now, and the schedule includes games against Buffalo and St. Louis. The Giants have a tough final stretch but should hold off the surging Redskins in the NFC East.


Wild Card, No. 3 vs. No. 6: Washington Redskins (9-7) at San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

The Redskins need wins over Philadelphia and Dallas (both conference wins) to put themselves in a sturdy playoff position. In this scenario, fading Chicago dips out. Games at New England and Seattle will test the 49ers over the final three games, but a 2-1 finish isn't crazy.



American Football Conference (AFC)

Current standings

1. Houston Texans (11-1)*

2. Denver Broncos (10-3)

3. New England Patriots (9-3)*

4. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)

 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)

Still in the hunt: Cincinnati Bengals (7-6), New York Jets (6-7), Cleveland Browns (5-8), San Diego Chargers (5-8), Buffalo Bills (5-8), Miami Dolphins (5-8) 

* Plays Monday night 


AFC Projections 

First-round Byes: Houston Texans (13-3), New England Patriots (12-4)

The Texans and Patriots face off Monday night, but they'll still both be staying home on the postseason's first weekend. That said, the remaining schedules aren't easy. The Patriots welcome San Francisco next Sunday, while Houston finishes with three games (Indianapolis twice, Minnesota) against teams in the playoff hunt. 


Wild Card, No. 4 vs. No. 5: Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

The Colts only need one more win to lock into a playoff spot. They'll get it at Kansas City. Baltimore is close to locking in the AFC North, but the last three games (Denver, New York, Cincinnati) couldn't get much harder.


Wild Card, No. 3 vs. No. 6: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) at Denver Broncos (12-4)

If Denver can get past a road game to Baltimore in Week 15, a first-round bye might become a lock. The Broncos finish with Cleveland and Kansas City. The Steelers lost an ugly game at home to a dying Chargers team, but there's too much experience on this roster to think they'll be sitting at home in January. Ben Roethlisberger will find a way.