NFL Playoff Schedule 2018: AFC, NFC Bracket Details and Latest Picks

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 28, 2017

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 10:  Adam Thielen #19 celebrates with Jerick McKinnon #21 of the Minnesota Vikings after scoring a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Although Week 17 of the NFL season has yet to be played, it's not too early to project how the postseason could play out. 

Here's a look at what we know of the NFL playoff schedule thus far, via Sports Media Watch, alongside game-by-game playoff predictions.

Note that all of the matchups below are projections, as the wild-card schedule will not be set until the regular season concludes on Sunday.

          

Wild-Card Round

Dates: January 6/7

Time: Times will be announced. If the NFL follows its most recent postseason schedule format, which has been the case since the 2013 season, games will take place at 4:35 p.m. ET and 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 6, and 1:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 7.

TV: One game each on ESPN/ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS.

           

Divisional Round

Dates: January 13/14

Time: Times will be announced. Once again, if the 2013-2016 format applies for this year, we will see 4:35 p.m. ET and 8:15 p.m. ET games on Saturday, January 13, and 1:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m. ET games on Sunday, January 14.

TV: One game each on ESPN/ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS.

             

Conference Championship

Dates: January 20/21

Time: 3 p.m. ET (AFC Championship) and 6:30 p.m. ET (NFC Championship)

TV: CBS (AFC Championship) and FOX (NFC Championship)

            

Super Bowl

Date: February 4

Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

             

AFC Wild Card

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

These two teams met in November, with the Jacksonville Jaguars escaping with a 20-17 overtime win. This contest could play out in a similar low-scoring fashion. Both teams have excellent pass defenses that should prevent this one from becoming a shootout.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Ultimately, this is a toss-up that may not be decided until the last drive. In the end, give the slightest of edges to the home team to move on.

         

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs defense has struggled on the road all season, but somehow those issues seem to evade them when they play at home, where they've only given up 16.9 points per game.

Their home mark is impressive after superstar safety Eric Berry suffered a ruptured Achilles in Week 1 and was lost for the year. Expect this trend to continue against the Baltimore Ravens in a low-scoring win.

           

NFC Wild Card

Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams

The Carolina Panthers have done much better than expected this season after a disappointing 2016 campaign, but traveling cross-country to face a high-powered offense and one of the best defensive players in football (tackle Aaron Donald) is a tough task.

Los Angeles Rams receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp could have big games against a Panthers pass defense that has allowed 100-yard performances to four wide receivers in the past five weeks.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

           

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints have lost just one game at home this year, and that was in Week 2 against the 12-3 New England Patriots.

The Saints scuffled a bit to start the season, but now they are dominating teams, winning 11 of their last 13. They'll continue their torrid stretch against Atlanta, who the Saints beat 23-13 last Sunday.

               

AFC Divisional Round

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

Don't expect this game to play out like the regular-season contest between these two teams, when the Jacksonville Jaguars won 30-9 thanks to two pick-sixes.

The Steelers should give the ball to running back Le'Veon Bell 30-plus times to lead them to victory over a Jags team that ranks 29th in run-defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), per Football Outsiders.

       

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

The Kansas City Chiefs will face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in a rematch of their season-opening game, which the Chiefs won 42-27 thanks largely to a breakout three-touchdown night from rookie running back Kareem Hunt.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

As noted before, the Chiefs defense is dominant at home, but it has struggled on the road, allowing 27 or more points five times. New England will come away with the victory after a dominant offensive performance.

       

NFC Divisional Round

Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles nearly lost to the six-win Oakland Raiders at home and the two-win New York Giants on the road in their past two games without quarterback Carson Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 and is out for the year.

The Eagles just aren't the same team without him. The Rams will get revenge on a 43-35 loss to Philadelphia earlier this year and advance to the NFC Championship.

       

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

These two teams played in Week 1, but the circumstances are much different this time around. The Saints' running game has emerged as a dominant force, and Case Keenum is now calling signals for the Vikings.

This might be the game of the year and features excellent matchups on both sides. However, the biggest mismatch might be in favor of the Vikings, as wideout Adam Thielen could have a big game without slot cornerback Kenny Vaccaro playing (he is out for the season with groin and wrist injuries).

Thielen will lead the Vikings to a close win.

        

AFC Championship

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

It's a rematch of last year's AFC Championship and one of this year's best regular-season games.

The key here is Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is dominating the league right now and has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in just 13 contests.

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Look for him to surpass the century mark for this game (as he did when he posted 168 yards versus Pittsburgh this year) en route to leading the Pats to the Super Bowl.

            

NFC Championship

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings

These two teams faced off earlier this season, with the Minnesota Vikings coming away with a 24-7 victory thanks to an incredible defensive performance alongside 123 receiving yards and a touchdown from Thielen.

Don't expect the Rams to score in the single digits again, but the pick here is Minnesota. The Vikings have won 10 of their last 11 games. They have only lost once at home and haven't allowed more than 17 points there all season. Look for them to move on to the Super Bowl.

          

Super Bowl LII

New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings

The key here is that the Minnesota Vikings will be playing at home in U.S. Bank Stadium, the host of Super Bowl LII. On a neutral field, give the slight edge to the Patriots, but one has to imagine plenty of Vikings fans will fill the stadium in hopes of seeing their team win their first Super Bowl.

Given that home-field advantage, the pick here is for Minnesota to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after a classic Super Bowl with the Pats.

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