NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: Latest AFC, NFC Wild-Card Scenarios and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 15, 2018

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 10:  Running back Mike Davis #27 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on December 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

With three weeks left in the NFL regular season, three wild-card berths remain up for grabs. 

The Los Angeles Chargers secured the No. 5 seed in the AFC with their win over the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night, and depending on the results in Weeks 16 and 17, the AFC West rivals could swap positions.

Over in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks aren't in the postseason yet, but they cleared a path for themselves by beating the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. 

Figuring out the No. 6 seeds in each conference is much more complicated, as you could make a legitimate case for at least 10 teams to pave a way into the postseason. 

Week 15 should give us some clarity in terms of potential playoff matchups, as Seattle could lock into the No. 5 seed in the NFC, but below it, chaos is expected to occur. 


Wild-Card Standings


5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) 

6. Baltimore (7-6)

7. Indianapolis (7-6)

8. Miami (7-6)

9. Tennessee (7-6)

10. Denver (6-7) 

11. Cleveland (5-7-1) 



5. Seattle (8-5) 

6. Minnesota (6-6-1)

7. Carolina (6-7) 

8. Philadelphia (6-7) 

9. Washington (6-7) 

10. Green Bay (5-7-1)

11. Tampa Bay (5-8) 

12. New York Giants (5-8) 

13. Detroit (5-8) 


Wild-Card Scenarios


After the Chargers clinched a playoff berth Thursday, no AFC teams can secure postseason berths in the wild-card race Sunday.

Sunday's AFC clinching scenarios feature the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, who could both win their respective divisions after falling in Week 14. 



Seattle lands a spot in the postseason with a victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Seahawks can also get into the playoffs with a tie combined with a Minnesota loss and a Carolina loss or tie. 

A Seattle tie combined with a Minnesota loss, Philadelphia loss or tie and Washington loss or tie gets the Seahawks in, as well as a tie combined with a loss or tie out of Carolina, Philadelphia and Washington. 


Wild-Card Predictions


Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis

Although they're already guaranteed of a spot in the postseason, the Chargers are still going to play a role in the wild-card race.

In Week 16, the Chargers play host to the Baltimore Ravens, who possess the No. 6 seed as the 7-6 franchise with the most tiebreakers in hand. 

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - DECEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass for a touchdown as defensive back Orlando Scandrick #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs defends during the 4th quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stad
David Eulitt/Getty Images

Baltimore won't slip up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15, but a defeat at the hands of the Chargers, who are still in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, will set the Ravens back. 

Indianapolis is second in line in the wild-card race, and if it is able to knock off Dallas at home in Week 15, it should cruise to the finish and end up 10-6. 

Although the Cowboys have played well of late, the Colts won their last four home games at Lucas Oil Stadium and took six of their last seven contests. 

After getting past the Cowboys, the Colts have the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans left on the docket, and they should be able to overpower both defenses. 

If Miami gets past Minnesota on the road in Week 15, it will stay alive, but it won't qualify because the Colts hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins. 

The Titans could be in the mix in Week 17, but even if they beat the Colts on the final day of the regular season, they aren't guaranteed of a playoff berth because they hold the worst conference record of the four 7-6 teams. 



Seattle, Minnesota 

All the Seahawks have to do is win one game against either San Francisco, Kansas City or Arizona to qualify for the postseason.

Seattle will end up as the No. 5 seed, and it will most likely square off against the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card round. 

Deciphering the race for the No. 6 seed in the NFC is not as easy, as no one's proved they're capable of taking hold of a playoff position. 

Minnesota is still in the best position to capture the No. 6 seed, as long as it has the same number of wins as the other contenders. 

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 10:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks downfield to pass against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Attempting to bounce back from the loss in Seattle will be tough with Miami coming into U.S. Bank Stadium, but the Vikings will get the job done. 

Beating Detroit on the road appears to be a simple task, but the Vikings are going to face a precarious situation in Week 17. 

Minnesota has to beat Chicago, who should have the NFC North clinched by Week 17, in order to secure the No. 6 seed and earn a likely wild-card round matchup with the Bears. 

The other contenders for the No. 6 seed don't inspire a lick of confidence, starting with Carolina, who is on a five-game losing streak and has to play New Orleans twice. 

Philadelphia displayed some promise in November, but beating the Los Angeles Rams, Houston and Washington to make the playoffs doesn't seem like a feat it can achieve. 

Washington might be in the best situation of the 6-7 teams, but it still has to navigate its quarterback situation for road games against Jacksonville and Tennessee before taking on the Eagles in Week 17.

Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Detroit and the New York Giants are still in the mix with five wins, but they're going to need some of the teams with six wins to lose in Week 15 before their respective paths get clearer. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90