NFL Playoffs 2023: Predictions for AFC, NFC Bracket and Seeds

Jake RillJanuary 6, 2023

NFL Playoffs 2023: Predictions for AFC, NFC Bracket and Seeds

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 01: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on January 01, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Kayla Wolf/Getty Images)
    Kayla Wolf/Getty Images

    Five teams are battling for two playoff berths in the AFC. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are competing for the AFC South title, and the Jags are among the four sides that could end up in the final wild-card spot, along with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins or Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Three teams are chasing the last NFC wild-card berth. One out of the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers will be heading to the postseason as the No. 7 seed.

    Those competitions will come to a conclusion this weekend, when the NFL regular season wraps up with Week 18 action across Saturday and Sunday. After that, the 14-team field for the postseason bracket will be set.

    Here's a look at the full NFL playoff picture, followed by predictions for how things will unfold over the weekend.

NFL Playoff Picture

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 04: Wilson brand footballs are pictured with the NFL logo before the game between the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field on December 04, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
    Nic Antaya/Getty Images

    AFC

    Bye: No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (13-3, clinched AFC West)

    No. 2 Buffalo Bills (12-3, clinched AFC East) vs. No. 7 New England Patriots (8-8)

    No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (11-4, clinched AFC North) vs. No. 6 Baltimore Ravens (10-6, clinched playoff berth)

    No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-6, clinched playoff berth)

    In the hunt: Miami Dolphins (8-8), Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8), Tennessee Titans (7-9)


    NFC

    Bye: No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3, clinched playoff berth)

    No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (12-4, clinched NFC West) vs. No. 7 Seattle Seahawks (8-8)

    No. 3 Minnesota Vikings (12-4, clinched NFC North) vs. No. 6 New York Giants (9-6-1, clinched playoff berth)

    No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8, clinched NFC South) vs. No. 5 Dallas Cowboys (12-4, clinched playoff berth)

    In the hunt: Detroit Lions (8-8), Green Bay Packers (8-8)

AFC Seeding Predictions

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 01: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars carries the ball against the Houston Texans during the first quarter of the game at NRG Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    1. Kansas City Chiefs

    2. Buffalo Bills

    3. Cincinnati Bengals

    4. Jacksonville Jaguars

    5. Los Angeles Chargers

    6. Baltimore Ravens

    7. Miami Dolphins


    The Jaguars have won only one division title since the AFC South was formed in 2002, and that came in 2017 when they last reached the playoffs. But they should add another division crown on Saturday night.

    The winner of the Tennessee-Jacksonville game will clinch the division title, and these two teams have been trending in opposite directions for some time. The Titans have lost six straight games and are starting Joshua Dobbs at quarterback after Ryan Tannehill underwent ankle surgery and rookie Malik Willis struggled when given an opportunity.

    Meanwhile, the Jags have won four consecutive games and six of their past eight. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is doing a tremendous job leading the offense, while the defense has allowed only six total points over the past two weeks.

    So, Saturday's game shouldn't be too competitive. Expect Jacksonville to win handily, securing the AFC South title and the No. 4 seed in the conference while ending Tennessee's season.

    That will leave the Patriots, Dolphins and Steelers as the trio of teams that could end up as the No. 7 seed. New England is in control, as a road win over Buffalo on Sunday would clinch a playoff berth. That's no easy task, though, and the Patriots are likely to lose.

    If that happens, the Dolphins would claim the No. 7 seed with a home win over the Jets on Sunday. Even though Miami has lost five straight games (and will be starting either Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson at QB in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa), it should bounce back against New York, which was eliminated from postseason contention last week.

    The Dolphins' defense should make things tough on the Jets' offense, and Miami has enough talented playmakers that it should still put up enough points to win no matter who is under center.

    The Dolphins will capitalize on the Patriots' loss and reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.

    Although the Steelers should beat the Browns at home on Sunday, they need both the Patriots and Dolphins to lose to get into the postseason. So, with Miami's win, Pittsburgh's season will be over.

NFC Seeding Predictions

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Wide receiver DeVonta Smith #6 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    1. Philadelphia Eagles

    2. San Francisco 49ers

    3. Minnesota Vikings

    4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    5. Dallas Cowboys

    6. New York Giants

    7. Green Bay Packers


    After losing to the Cowboys and Saints the past two weeks, the Eagles will have a third opportunity to clinch the NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the conference with a win on Sunday. This time, they should get the job done.

    Philadelphia could be getting back quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has missed the past two games due to a right shoulder strain. But even if Gardner Minshew starts, the Eagles should beat the Giants, which are locked into the No. 6 seed and can't move up with a victory.

    The 49ers will beat the Cardinals at home on Sunday to lock in the No. 2 seed, and that will keep the Vikings at No. 3. The Cowboys will remain at No. 5, as their only chance of moving up to the No. 1 or No. 2 seed would be if the Eagles lose.

    Entering Week 18, the Seahawks are in the No. 7 spot, but they don't control their own destiny. Instead, the Packers are in that position, as they can clinch the final wild-card berth with a win over the Lions on Sunday night.

    That's what will happen, too. Green Bay has been rolling, having won four consecutive games, and it will be looking to avenge its Week 9 loss in Detroit. It'll be a hostile environment at Lambeau Field for the Lions, and veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers should power the Packers to victory.

    Because Green Bay will win, it won't matter if Seattle notches a victory over the Rams earlier in the day. The Packers will jump ahead of the Seahawks and Lions and head to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year.

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