NFL Playoff Scenarios 2022-23: AFC, NFC Week 16 Picture, Postseason Predictions

Joe TanseyDecember 19, 2022

NFL Playoff Scenarios 2022-23: AFC, NFC Week 16 Picture, Postseason Predictions

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 18: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws a pass against the Houston Texans during the first half of the game at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    The top of the AFC and NFC playoff standings have been organized for a few weeks.

    The Buffalo Bills need to win out to secure the top seed in the AFC. The Kansas City Chiefs are waiting for the Bills to slip up to gain home-field advantage.

    Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles will have a few chances to secure the No. 1 overall spot because of their buffer over the Minnesota Vikings.

    The confusing parts of the playoff pictures come at the bottom of the wild-card standings.

    Eight teams are separated by two games in the AFC. Some clarity should come in Week 16 with two games between four of those teams.

    The NFC may become even more competitive after Week 16 because the three main wild-card contenders face tough road games. That could open the door for the Detroit Lions to be a playoff team.

AFC Standings

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 17: Dawson Knox #88 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates after a play during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
    Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    Division Leaders

    1. Buffalo - 11-3

    2. Kansas City - 11-3

    3. Cincinnati - 10-4

    4. Tennessee 7-7

    Wild-Card Race

    5. Baltimore - 9-5

    6. Los Angeles Chargers - 8-6

    7. Miami - 8-6

    8. New England - 7-7

    9. New York Jets - 7-7

    10. Jacksonville - 6-8

    11. Las Vegas - 6-8

    12. Cleveland - 6-8

    13. Pittsburgh - 6-8

    The top of the AFC standings is easy to figure out.

    The Buffalo Bills need to match the same record as the Kansas City Chiefs over the next three weeks to finish in front of them.

    Buffalo can knock the Cincinnati Bengals out of contention for the No. 1 seed in Week 17, when the two sides meet in Ohio.

    Josh Allen and Co. face the Chicago Bears in Week 16 and host the New England Patriots in Week 18.

    A 2-1 record in that stretch is the bare minimum requirement for the Bills. A loss to the Bengals might drop the Bills to as low as third as the Chiefs have a better record and Cincinnati owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.

    Kansas City needs to win out against the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders to have a shot at home-field advantage.

    Cincinnati has the toughest finish of the three top seeds in the AFC. The Bengals play the Patriots in Week 16 and Baltimore Ravens in Week 18.

    The Tennessee Titans are holding on to a one-game lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South. The two sides meet in Week 18 in what could be a divisional title showdown. Jacksonville won the first meeting in Week 14.

    Jacksonville is the only team on the outside of the wild-card race that could vault into the division lead.

    The Jaguars play the New York Jets on Thursday in one of two elimination games in the wild-card race in Week 16. The other one is on Saturday night between the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The winners of those two games are not guaranteed to get into the postseason since Baltimore, Miami and the Los Angeles Chargers have a grip on the wild-card spots.

    A loss to Cincinnati on Saturday could doom New England's playoff chances. A Jacksonville win over New York would put both teams on eight losses.

    Baltimore resides in a decent spot above the chaos. The Ravens should reach the 10-win mark in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons. That should be enough to put the Ravens in the playoff field.

    The Los Angeles Chargers have a clear path to a playoff berth as well, as they finish with the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos.

    Miami needs to beat the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day to be at least one game ahead of the Patriots and Jets ahead of its two divisional clashes in Weeks 17 and 18.

    The Dolphins would love to go into Week 18's clash against the Jets with nothing to play for. They need two wins and one Jets loss in the next two weeks for that to happen.

    Losses by the Ravens, Chargers and Dolphins in Week 16 would throw more chaos into the wild-card race. The field of contenders could be trimmed quickly if all three win next week.

NFC Standings

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - DECEMBER 17: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Minnesota Vikings rushes for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
    Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Division Leaders

    1. Philadelphia - 13-1

    2. Minnesota - 11-3

    3. San Francisco - 10-4

    4. Tampa Bay - 6-8

    Wild-Card Race

    5. Dallas - 10-4

    6. New York Giants - 8-5-1

    7. Washington - 7-6-1

    8. Seattle - 7-7

    9. Detroit - 7-7

    Philadelphia can clinch the top seed and the NFC East with a win over Dallas on Christmas Eve.

    The Eagles are two games ahead of the Minnesota Vikings with a head-to-head tiebreaker already in hand.

    Minnesota and San Francisco are in a fight for the No. 2 seed after each team locked up their respective divisions in Week 15.

    Minnesota hosts the New York Giants on Saturday, while the 49ers welcome the Commanders to Levi's Stadium.

    Those two games are vital in the NFC wild-card race as well.

    The Seattle Seahawks also face a tough test against Kansas City.

    Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions visit the Carolina Panthers on Christmas Eve.

    A Detroit win combined with losses by Seattle and Washington would vault the Lions into the last wild-card spot.

    Detroit needs to shake Seattle because the Seahawks have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.

    Detroit needs to be wary of a potential threat posed by the Panthers because Carolina is still alive in the NFC South race.

    Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans are all 5-9 and one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tampa Bay visits Arizona on Christmas Day, while the three challengers play teams in playoff contention.

    The Bucs need to beat the Cardinals in Week 16 and they could finish off the division with a victory over the Panthers in Week 17.

    Tampa Bay's likely playoff opponent is Dallas, who is 1.5 games ahead of its closest competition.


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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 18: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball for a touchdown during the second quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
    Quinn Harris/Getty Images


    1. Buffalo

    2. Kansas City

    3. Cincinnati

    4. Tennessee

    5. Baltimore

    6. LA Chargers

    7. Miami


    1. Philadelphia

    2. Minnesota

    3. San Francisco

    4. Tampa Bay

    5. Dallas

    6. New York Giants

    7. Detroit