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

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 08: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans looks to pass against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game at RingCentral Coliseum on December 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Six division titles and nine playoff berths are up for grabs in the final three weeks of the NFL season. 

Entering Week 15, the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints are the only division winners locked into the playoff field.

The Baltimore Ravens clinched a postseason berth and are on the verge of joining the first two division champions. 

The AFC East, NFC North and NFC West leaders all own one-game advantages, while the AFC South and NFC East boast two franchises tied for first place. 

A handful of sides could clinch playoff positions in Week 15, but only the Ravens can lock up a divisional crown.


NFL Standings


Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (11-2)

2. New England (10-3)

3. Kansas City (9-4)

4. Houston (8-5) 

Wild Card

5. Buffalo (9-4)

6. Pittsburgh (8-5)

7. Tennessee (8-5) 

8. Cleveland (6-7) 

9. Oakland (6-7) 

10. Indianapolis (6-7) 

Baltimore can lock up the AFC North title Thursday night with a victory over the already-eliminated New York Jets. 

If John Harbaugh's team slips up at home, it can also secure first place by way of a Pittsburgh loss to Buffalo. 

The Ravens can also secure a first-round bye through a win combined with a New England loss, or a victory partnered with a Kansas City defeat. 

If New England downs Cincinnati Sunday afternoon, it claims the third AFC playoff position, but it will have to wait until Week 16 to finish off the divisional title. 

Buffalo can make the December 21 clash at Gillette Stadium a meeting of two postseason sides if it goes into Heinz Field and beats the Steelers. 

The AFC South lead could also change hands if Tennessee beats Houston. If that occurs, the Texans would drop into the wild-card hunt alongside the Bills and Steelers. 



Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (11-2)

2. Green Bay (10-3) 

3. New Orleans (10-3) 

4. Dallas (6-7) 

Wild Card

5. Seattle (10-3)

6. Minnesota (9-4) 

7. Los Angeles Rams (8-5) 

8. Chicago (7-6) 

9. Philadelphia (6-7) 

10. Tampa Bay (6-7) 

San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle can all officially join New Orleans in the NFC playoff field in Week 15. 

If the 49ers knock off Atlanta on home soil, they are in, but they have to wait until Week 17's visit to Seattle to secure the division, a first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. 

The Seahawks are in through a victory over Carolina combined with a Minnesota loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, or a defeat by the Los Angeles Rams versus Dallas. 

Green Bay also clinches by way of a win over Chicago and a Rams loss at AT&T Stadium. 

If the Rams beat the Cowboys, they would stay alive in the wild-card hunt while possibly knocking Jason Garrett's team out of first place in the NFC East. 

A Dallas loss paired with an Eagles victory over Washington would put the Eagles in first ahead of the Week 16 meeting at Lincoln Financial Field with the Cowboys. 



Tennessee Stays Hot, Earns Postseason Spot

The Titans come into Week 15 with the second-longest winning streak in the NFL behind Baltimore. 

With Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry leading the way, Tennessee has dashed the playoff hopes of Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Oakland in the last three weeks. 

In addition to tying the Texans after they unexpectedly lost to Denver, the Titans have moved level with Pittsburgh for the No. 6 seed. 

A home triumph over Bill O'Brien's team would put the seventh-place squad in the AFC in solid position to qualify for the postseason. 

The path is not easy since New Orleans comes to Nissan Stadium in Week 16 and a visit to Houston is set for the final day of the regular season.

However, Mike Vrabel's team has continuously proved it can get the job done.

During the winning streak, the Titans have at least 150 rushing yards in every game and racked up 552 total yards in Sunday's win at Oakland. 

Defensively, they held three foes under 100 rushing yards and forced six turnovers. The 356 total yards earned by the Raiders was the lowest total from one of Tennessee's foes in the previous four contests. 

In the last two seasons, the Titans earned a season split with the Texans through home victories, and some members of the roster carry playoff experience from two years ago. 

If they replicate that trend Sunday, a Week 17 victory in Houston would secure the AFC South. 

Houston has not lost back-to-back contests in 2019, but it is 2-3 in true road games and is coming off a three-turnover performance. 

With the Titans trending in the right direction, Week 15 could be the perfect spot for them to take hold of the AFC South and not let go. 


Seattle Claims NFC Home-Field Advantage

The Seahawks take on Carolina and Arizona in the next two weeks to prepare for San Francisco at home in Week 17, a game that should be in contention for the flex to Sunday night. 

With two fairly easy tests in front of it, Pete Carroll's team should go into December 29 at 12-3 with a chance to snag home-field advantage. 

Seattle already owns a victory over the 49ers, who could suffer a loss to the in-form Rams in Week 16. 

Since the triumph at Levi's Stadium, Russell Wilson and Co. gritted out wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota to put it at the No. 5 seed at minimum.

A year ago, the Seahawks won their final three home contests to finish 10-6. In 2019, they are 4-2 at CenturyLink Field with losses suffered to New Orleans and Baltimore. 

The defeat to the Saints could hinder their shot at the No. 1 seed, but the NFC South champion still has to visit Tennessee in Week 16. 

If New Orleans beats Indianapolis and Carolina, but stumbles at Nissan Stadium, it would have one more loss than Seattle, if it wins out. 

That could leave Seattle and Green Bay at 13-3 to finish the campaign, but the Packers may also be susceptible to slipping up with Chicago and Minnesota left on the docket. 

If it comes down to a tie between the Seahawks and Packers, they would both obtain a 10-2 NFC record. 

In that case, Seattle would take the No. 1 seed off the third tiebreaker criteria, record against common opponents. 

The Eagles, Panthers, 49ers and Vikings are the common foes between both sides. Seattle is 3-0 against that group and could go to 4-0 with a win over Carolina, while the Packers lost to Philadelphia and San Francisco.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference