NFL Playoff Scenarios 2023: Reviewing Post-Week 17 AFC, NFC Picture, Bracket
One game remains in Week 17, and it's a big one. The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills will face off on Monday night with serious NFL playoff implications on the line.
Yes, we've made it through (nearly) 17 weeks of action and the playoff picture remains unsettled. Three playoff spots are still available—two in the AFC and one in the NFC—while neither No. 1 seed has been decided.
Sunday's slate was capped by another classic battle between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett engineered a remarkable comeback victory that keeps Pittsburgh's postseason hopes alive.
What's on the line on Monday night? How might the playoff field shape up after Week 18? Below, you'll find a look at the updated standings, the playoff picture and the possible scenarios for the NFL's final slate.
Pre-MNF NFL Standings
1. Kansas City Chiefs 13-3 (Z)
2. Buffalo Bills 12-3 (Z)
3. Cincinnati Bengals 11-4 (X)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-8
5. Los Angeles Chargers 10-6 (X)
6. Baltimore Ravens 10-6 (X)
7. New England Patriots 8-8
8. Miami Dolphins 8-8
9. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
10. New York Jets 7-9
11. Tennessee Titans 7-9
12. Cleveland Browns 7-9
13. Las Vegas Raiders 6-10
14. Indianapolis Colts 4-11-1
15. Denver Broncos 4-12
16. Houston Texans 2-13-1
1. Philadelphia Eagles 13-3 (X)
2. San Francisco 49ers 12-4 (Z)
3. Minnesota Vikings 12-4 (Z)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8 (Z)
5. Dallas Cowboys 12-4 (X)
6. New York Giants 9-6-1 (X)
7. Seattle Seahawks 8-8
8. Detroit Lions 8-8
9. Green Bay Packers 8-8
10. Washington Commanders 7-8-1
11. New Orleans Saints 7-9
12. Carolina Panthers 6-10
13. Atlanta Falcons 6-10
14. Los Angeles Rams 5-11
15. Arizona Cardinals 4-12
16. Chicago Bears 3-13
*(X) = clinched playoff berth, (Z) = clinched division
AFC Playoff Picture
If Season Ended Today
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Bye
7. New England Patriots at 2. Buffalo Bills
6. Baltimore Ravens at 3. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Los Angeles Chargers at 4. Jacksonville Jaguars
On the Bubble
For the moment, the Kansas City Chiefs hold the top seed in the AFC. However, Josh Allen and the Bills can reclaim it if they defeat Cincinnati on Monday. Buffalo won the head-to-head matchup against Kansas City and will earn that coveted first-round bye if it wins out.
The Bengals, though, can earn the No. 1 seed if they win out and get a loss by Kansas City. Cincinnati also won its head-to-head battle with the Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes and Co. hold a game-and-a-half lead heading into Monday night.
Cincinnati could also drop to being a wild-card team despite its record. The Ravens' loss on Sunday means Cincinnati can clinch the division on Monday. However, a loss would leave the Bengals and Baltimore vying for the division title in Week 18.
Baltimore has already clinched a playoff berth, as have the Los Angeles Chargers. The New England Patriots hold the final wild-card spot now, but they'll need to beat the Bills in Week 18 to secure a berth.
The Miami Dolphins, who have lost five straight, can still get in with a Week 18 win and a Patriots loss. Pittsburgh still has a path to the playoffs, but it needs a Week 18 win plus losses by the Dolphins and Patriots.
The lone undecided division in the AFC is the AFC South. The Jacksonville Jaguars won in Week 17, while the Tennessee Titans lost. However, neither game really mattered. Houston and Jacksonville will face off in Week 18, with the victor claiming the division crown.
NFC Playoff Picture
If Season Ended Today
1. Philadelphia Eagles - Bye
7. Seattle Seahawks at 2. San Francisco 49ers
6. New York Giants at 3. Minnesota Vikings
5. Dallas Cowboys at 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the Bubble
8. Detroit Lions
9. Green Bay Packers
The Philadelphia Eagles have been on the brink of claiming the NFC's No. 1 seed for two weeks. However, playing without star quarterback Jalen Hurts (shoulder), they've dropped two straight and still need a win to earn the bye.
If the Eagles defeat the New York Giants next week, they'll claim the top seed. They may have Hurts back for that contest.
"He was close this week," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, per ProFootballTalk's Josh Alper. "Obviously, we will take it one day at a time."
If the Eagles don't win, however, there's a chance they don't even win the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys are still alive for the division title and the top seed. The San Francisco 49ers are also alive for the No. 1 seed.
If the Eagles lose next week and the 49ers and Cowboys win, San Francisco will take over the top spot. Dallas needs to win and get losses by both Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Dallas plays the Washington Commanders, while San Francisco plays the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18.
The 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have clinched their respective divisions, and the Giants have also secured a playoff berth. One spot is still open, and it currently belongs to the Seattle Seahawks.
However, if the Green Bay Packers defeat the Detroit Lions, they'll take over the No. 7 spot regardless of how Seattle fares (due to conference record). The Seahawks need a win and a Green Bay loss, while the Lions need a win and a Seahawks loss.
Seattle finishes its schedule with the Los Angeles Rams.