NFL Playoffs 2019: Wild-Card Format, Updated Bracket and Known Schedule

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2018

Tennessee Titans' Dion Lewis (33) is talked by Indianapolis Colts' George Odum (30) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

For a number of teams with playoff aspirations, the stakes couldn't be much higher heading into the final week of the 2018 NFL regular season.

That's particularly true in the respective wild-card races. Plenty of questions remain ahead of the wild-card round, which kicks off Jan. 5. Here's a look at the schedule for each round, with the full playoff picture available on NFL.com.

      

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild-Card Round: Jan. 5 and 6

Divisional Round: Jan. 12 and 13

Conference Championship Round: Jan. 20

Super Bowl LIII: Feb. 3

      

Only one team is locked into a wild-card spot for the postseason: the Seattle Seahawks. The Los Angeles Rams already clinched an NFC West title, but the Seahawks assured themselves of a playoff berth with their 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16.

Likewise, the Dallas Cowboys can climb no higher than fourth in the NFC. The NFC East champions trail the Chicago Bears by two games, so beating the New York Giants on Sunday will do nothing to help their playoff seeding.

While that presents an opportunity for the Cowboys to rest their starters this weekend, team owner Jerry Jones has already said on his 105.3 The Fan radio show that the team plans on treating Week 17 like business as usual (h/t the Dallas News).

The Cowboys and Seahawks are the only two teams guaranteed to play during wild-card weekend.

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The Los Angeles Chargers, meanwhile, would win the AFC West by defeating the Denver Broncos and then getting a loss or tie from the Kansas City Chiefs. With 11 wins, the Chargers at least have the comfort of knowing they're safely in the postseason if things don't break in their favor Sunday.

The Houston Texans are in a similar boat. They can clinch the AFC South by winning in Week 17. Should they lose, the Texans would likely slip down to the wild card, which would be less than ideal but better than falling out of the top six.

Others have almost no margin for error in their quest for a Super Bowl title.

The Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings need to win Sunday or risk missing out on the playoffs entirely. A victory on its own won't be enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, who also require the right results elsewhere to continue playing through to next week.

The Texans, Ravens and Steelers may all have their eyes on Sunday night's matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. No single game has bigger consequences, which is why NBC flexed it into the Sunday Night Football slot.

The winner will advance to the playoffs, while the loser is heading home. The Texans will determine whether the Titans and Colts are playing for the wild card or a division title.

With a defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston would fall to 10-6 overall and, more importantly, 3-3 within the AFC South. The Texans split their head-to-head meetings with the Titans and Colts, so division record would be the tiebreaker to determine a champion.

Either the Titans or Colts would improve to 4-2 in the AFC South by beating the other Sunday. As a result, they would leapfrog a 10-6 Texans team.

Although only three of the 12 NFL playoff spots are still up for grabs, plenty of drama remains before the postseason bracket is complete.

                

Where to Watch: NFL playoff games, studio shows and more are available through Fubo.TV/welcome.

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