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NFL Playoff Scenarios 2019-20: AFC, NFC Week 14 Picture, Postseason Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens takes a snap against the San Francisco 49ers defense at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The complexion of both NFL playoff races changed after New England and San Francisco suffered Week 13 defeats. 

By falling to Houston, the Patriots moved down to AFC's No. 2 seed since Baltimore owns a head-to-head tiebreaker. 

In the NFC, New Orleans and San Francisco are level at 10-2, and Seattle could join them with a Monday night home triumph over Minnesota. 

If the Seahawks win, a new wrinkle will be thrown into the NFC playoff picture, as they would move ahead of the 49ers through their head-to-head tiebreaker. 

Entering Week 14, the Saints are the only franchise to clinch a postseason berth. They won the NFC South with a Thanksgiving victory over Atlanta. 

A majority of the division leaders can move closer to a title in Week 14, but none of them can clinch due to the proximity of the second-place sides. 

                  

NFL Standings

AFC 

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (10-2) 

2. New England (10-2) 

3. Houston (8-4) 

4. Kansas City (8-4) 

          

Wild-Card Race

5. Buffalo (9-3)

6. Pittsburgh (7-5) 

7. Tennessee (7-5) 

8. Oakland (6-6) 

9. Indianapolis (6-6) 

10. Cleveland (5-7) 

11. Jacksonville (4-8) 

12. Denver (4-8)

13. Los Angeles Chargers (4-8) 

14. New York Jets (4-8) 

                  

NFC

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (10-2) 

2. New Orleans (10-2) 

3. Green Bay (9-3)

4. Dallas (6-6) 

       

Wild-Card Race

5. Seattle (9-2)

6. Minnesota (8-3) 

7. Los Angeles Rams (7-5)

8. Chicago (6-6) 

9. Tampa Bay (5-7) 

10. Philadelphia (5-7) 

11. Carolina (5-7) 

             

Postseason Predictions

Seattle and New Orleans Fight For NFC's No. 1 Seed 

John Amis/Associated Press

The Seahawks and Saints could take advantage of two of the best home-field advantages in the NFL to open up gaps in the NFC standings. 

If Seattle beats Minnesota, it slides into the No. 2 seed behind New Orleans due to the Saints' Week 3 head-to-head win at CenturyLink Field. 

Both franchises have home contests with the 49ers remaining on their schedules, which means they could doom Kyle Shanahan's team to the No. 5 seed and a wild-card round road trip to the NFC East winner. 

New Orleans is 5-1 at the Superdome, with its only defeat coming in a fluky divisional matchup with the Falcons in Week 10 in which it put up nine points. 

Sean Payton's team knocked off Houston and Dallas in September and took care of business versus Carolina, Tampa Bay and Arizona. 

The Saints average 411.8 yards per game at home and produced more than 400 yards on four occasions.

San Francisco comes into Week 14 with a 5-1 road mark, but all of the victories occurred versus teams currently under .500. 

On Sunday, the 49ers fell to the Ravens despite earning more total yards and George Kittle catching two passes. 

The Saints rushing defense, which has allowed two 100-yard totals since Week 4, could be the difference-maker Sunday by slowing down Tevin Coleman and Co. 

If that occurs, the Saints may cruise to the No. 1 seed with Indianapolis, Tennessee and Carolina left on the docket. 

Seattle visits the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina in Weeks 14 and 15 before closing out the regular season at home versus Arizona and San Francisco. 

The Seahawks already have a win over the 49ers from Week 10 and they are 3-0 in the NFC West. 

If Pete Carroll's team downs the Vikings and finishes its divisional slate at either 5-1 or 6-0, it should finish in the top two of the NFC. 

Their rushing defense has also been strong of late, as it held three of the last four foes beneath triple digits. 

Seattle's offense enters Monday on a streak of 10 straight 300-yard outings, and if that continues, it could wreak havoc on any defense. 

If Seattle and New Orleans finish in the top two, it would force Green Bay, the NFC East winner, San Francisco or Minnesota to win inside two of the loudest NFL stadiums, which may lead to a Saints-Seahawks NFC Championship Game. 

                         

Baltimore Earns Home-Field Advantage in AFC 

Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

The least shocking prediction to make involves Baltimore earning the top spot in the AFC. 

In wins over New England, Houston and San Francisco, the Ravens have proved they are the top NFL team at the moment. 

Before earning 283 total yards Sunday, the Lamar Jackson-led offense produced six straight games with over 300 total yards. 

Mark Ingram has turned into one of the top free-agent signings, as he is a perfect complement to Jackson in the rushing attack. 

The duo combined for 1,814 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, and if they keep producing at their current rate, both will eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground. 

Baltimore's defense has held its last seven opponents to 20 points or fewer, including back-to-back performances in which it limited Houston and the Los Angeles Rams to single digits. 

The Ravens face yet another challenge in Week 14, as they visit a Buffalo team that could win out and earn the No. 1 seed by knocking off Baltimore and New England. 

The Bills defense is on a similar run, as they let up 20 or fewer points in the last five games. 

While Buffalo deserves credit for its great season, Baltimore has been able to pass every test thrown at it, and until John Harbaugh's team fails one, it is hard not to put trust in it to win. 

If the AFC North leader conquers Buffalo, it could finish with three more wins against the New York Jets, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Of the three, the Steelers are the only one in playoff contention. 

If the Ravens can't clinch the top spot before Week 17, they could do so while beating Pittsburgh and possibly knocking it out of the playoff race.

                     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference