NFL Playoff Standings 2018: Top Bracket Seeds, Wild-Card Matchups and Scenarios

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2018

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls for a first down during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Several playoff spots were up for grabs entering Week 17 of the 2017 NFL regular season, but the brackets are now set in stone with the top six teams in each conference qualifying.

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers both solidified byes in the AFC, while the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings will move straight to the divisional round in the NFC.

The wild-card picture was unsettled in both conferences prior to Sunday's game, but it is now known that the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills made the field in the AFC in addition to the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons clinching in the NFC.

For Buffalo, Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins coupled with the Baltimore Ravens' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals ensured its first playoff berth since 1999, ending the longest drought in the NFL.

Ahead of next week's Wild Card Weekend, here is a look at the playoff brackets in both conferences, a rundown of the wild-card schedule and a further breakdown of the top seeds.

          

AFC Playoff Standings

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

5. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

6. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

         

AFC Wild-Card Matchups

No. 6 Bills at No. 3 Jaguars: Sunday, Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

No. 5 Titans at No. 4 Chiefs: Saturday, Jan. 6 at 4:35 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)

        

AFC Top Seed: New England Patriots

As has so often been the case over the past 17 seasons, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England.

The Patriots clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC on Sunday with a 26-6 win over the New York Jets, leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers to settle for the No. 2 seed and the second bye in the conference.

New England had a few hiccups along the way in 2017, including a season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and a shocking Week 14 loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, but quarterback Tom Brady and Co. are clearly the team to beat in the AFC.

The Pats have reached at least the AFC Championship Game in every season since 2011, and they are looking to make and win the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.

With Brady at the helm and home-field advantage in their back pocket, the Patriots are favored to do precisely that.

The Steelers played New England tough this season, the Chiefs beat them, and it can be argued that the Jacksonville Jaguars have a defense capable of holding the Patriots in check.

New England is brimming with playoff experience, though, and until one of those teams proves it can beat the Pats on the big stage, it is difficult to pick against them.

Despite showing signs of weakness at times this season and not always being as dominant as fans have grown accustomed to seeing them, the Patriots went 13-3 during the regular season and have momentum on their side entering the playoffs.

      

NFC Playoff Standings

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

2. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

3. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

4. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

5. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

NFC Wild-Card Matchups

No. 6 Falcons at No. 3 Rams: Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

No. 5 Panthers at No. 4 Saints: Sunday, Jan. 7 at 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)

NFC Top Seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Although it was far less expected, the Philadelphia Eagles were much like the Patriots this season in that they were atop their conference for the vast majority of the campaign.

Philadelphia came out of the gates red hot by winning 10 of its first 11 games en route to a 13-3 season.

Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz was very much in the MVP hunt, but he suffered a torn ACL in Week 14, which knocked him out for the remainder of the season.

Replacement Nick Foles has been solid since taking over as the starter, but it is fair to question if he can provide consistent enough play during the playoffs to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2003 season.

Foles holding up is a concern, but the Eagles do have a strong running game to lean on with Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement all bringing different skill sets to the table.

Philly also has a talented defense that can get after the quarterback with Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Chris Long leading the way in that regard.

It can be argued that the Eagles have the most complete team in the NFC, but without a sure thing at quarterback, making a Super Bowl run may not be in the cards.

Teams like the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have quarterbacks who have gone all the way before, and the experience gap at the most important position in football may be the one thing holding the Eagles back.

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