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NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: AFC and NFC Standings, Updated Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 9, 2019

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) carries the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

Tight division races and battles for first-round byes will highlight the final three weeks of the NFL regular season.

Only three teams have clinched their division—the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints—and there are multiple clubs in contention for a No. 1 seed.

Here's a look at the current playoff picture, along with predictions for how it might unfold.

         

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)

           

AFC

The Ravens have a one-game lead over the Patriots for the No. 1 seed, and they won the head-to-head matchup. They'll move even closer to the top spot if they beat the Jets as expected Thursday night.

Although the Patriots have lost two in a row, they should rebound to claim the No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, who have already clinched the AFC West, should take the No. 3 seed. And the Texans, who had a surprising loss to the Broncos on Sunday, should bounce back to earn the AFC South title and the No. 4 seed.

Things get tighter in the wild card.

The Bills have the top spot, but they have a tough road matchup against the Steelers this week followed by another difficult away game versus the Patriots. They could easily fall to the No. 6 seed. Meanwhile, the battle for the second wild card is turning into a two-team race between the Steelers and Titans, and both teams are 8-5 after securing victories Sunday.

Although the Titans have won six of their last seven, they'll play the Texans twice and the Saints once to finish the season. Meanwhile, the Steelers have games against the Bills and Jets before ending the season with a road matchup versus the Ravens, who should clinch the No. 1 seed before then and could be resting their starters.

With the way the schedules are set up, the Steelers should win at least two of their final three games to secure a wild-card berth.

           

NFC

There will be an exciting race over the next three weeks to see which of the top two NFC teams earn first-round byes. Plus, four of those in the running are still in tight division battles as well.

The 49ers are on their way to securing the No. 1 seed, and we're predicting they avenge their earlier loss to the Seahawks by beating them in Seattle in Week 17. San Francisco has shown it is capable of winning big games (see New Orleans and Green Bay).

The Seahawks and Vikings should stay in the wild-card spots and hold off the Rams and Bears. And in the NFC East, no team has a winning record, but expect Philadelphia to back its way in.

The Eagles play the Giants on Monday night and would have the same record as the Cowboys with a win. Then, Philadelphia has another game against New York and matchups against Dallas and Washington. By winning at least three of four, the Eagles should secure their second NFC East title in three seasons.