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NFL Playoff Scenarios 2019-20: AFC, NFC Week 15 Picture, Postseason Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 9, 2019

El pateador de los 49ers de San Francisco Robbie Gould celebra tras anotar el gol de campo que le dio el triunfo a su equipo sobre los Saints de Nueva Orleans el domingo ocho de diciembre del 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

Sunday was one of the most exciting days of the NFL season so far. And that was mostly because of two games in particular.

First, the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints put on a show in New Orleans. The two teams combined for 94 points in a thrilling game between top contenders in the NFC that came down to the wire. But at the end, the 49ers secured a 48-46 win, with Robbie Gould kicking a game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired.

The Kansas City Chiefs then beat the New England Patriots in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs made a late defensive stand to secure a 23-16 victory, as the Patriots lost for the second straight week and suffered their first home defeat since Week 4 of the 2017 season.

Those games also had an impact on the NFL playoff picture. Here's a look at the current standings for both the AFC and NFC, followed by predictions for how the hunt for the postseason will shake out.

              

NFL Standings

AFC

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (11-2)

2. New England (10-3)

3. Kansas City (9-4)

4. Houston (8-5)

            

Wild Cards

5. Buffalo (9-4)

6. Pittsburgh (8-5)

              

In the Hunt

7. Tennessee (8-5)

8. Cleveland (6-7)

9. Oakland (6-7)

10. Indianapolis (6-7)

11. Denver (5-8)

              

NFC

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (11-2)

2. Green Bay (10-3)

3. New Orleans (10-3)

4. Dallas (6-7)

             

Wild Cards

5. Seattle (10-3)

6. Minnesota (9-4)

            

In the Hunt

7. L.A. Rams (8-5)

8. Chicago (7-6)

9. Philadelphia (5-7)

              

Postseason Predictions

Steelers' defense leads them to second AFC wild card

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Although the Steelers may have some weaknesses, especially on offense, their strong defensive play is pushing them closer to a playoff berth. And with winnable games the next few weeks, Pittsburgh is going to get back to the postseason after missing out last year.

This week, the Steelers have a Sunday night home matchup against the Bills. While Buffalo is 9-4, its only victory against a team with a winning record came in Week 5 at Tennessee.

The Steelers also have a matchup against the Jets, who are eliminated from playoff contention, in Week 16 before ending the season with a road matchup against the Ravens.

One thing to consider is that Baltimore may have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC by that point, so it may be resting its starters for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Tennessee, which currently has the same record as Pittsburgh, has two games against Houston and one against New Orleans remaining.

The Steelers will win at least two of their final three games to hold off the Titans and the rest of the teams in the AFC wild-card picture.

              

49ers hold off Seahawks in close NFC West race

Brett Duke/Associated Press

This time last week, the 49ers had fallen to a wild-card spot as they had the same record as the Seahawks, who won the first meeting between the two teams in Week 10. Now, San Francisco has taken back the NFC West lead after beating the Saints on Sunday while Seattle lost to the Rams.

Not only did the 49ers win this week, but it was also their most impressive victory of the season. They notched a signature win for the year by rallying for a 48-46 victory in a shootout in New Orleans.

That win will give San Francisco momentum heading into the final three weeks of the season, when it plays the Falcons, Rams and Seahawks. The 49ers and Seahawks may be playing for the NFC West title in that Week 17 matchup in Seattle.

But after playing the Packers, Ravens and Saints the past three weeks, the 49ers are well-prepared for another big game. They'll win out to not just secure the NFC West title, but also the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

             

Eagles come back to overtake Cowboys, win NFC East

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Both the Cowboys and Eagles have struggled this season, but one of these teams will get into the playoffs as the NFC East champion. It should be a close race, like the NFC West, but unlike that battle, these teams are not viewed as top contenders in the NFC.

Although the Eagles have lost three straight games, they're better set up to win the NFC East. They have a home game against the Giants on Monday night, then end the season by playing each of their division rivals for a second time.

That means Philadelphia should notch two wins over New York and a victory against Washington. That alone could be enough to get the Eagles into the playoffs at 8-8. But they also have a home game against the Cowboys in Week 16, so they could really solidify their position with a win in that contest.

Either way, the Eagles will end up on top of the NFC East and reach the playoffs for the third straight year.