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NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: Full AFC, NFC Outlook and Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 13, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against the defense of the New York Jets during the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens stayed in the driver's seat to earn the AFC's No. 1 seed with a 42-21 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday.

Baltimore moved to an NFL-best 12-2 after its 10th straight victory, which also clinched the AFC North title. The Ravens will earn their conference's No. 1 seed with a win in either of their last two games.

The rest of the NFL playoff picture isn't as simple. The New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs have already clinched their divisions, but only three of 12 playoff teams have been decided heading into the rest of Week 15 action.

Here's a look at the current AFC and NFC playoff pictures as well as predictions on where everyone will stand after Week 15, with a focus on playoff-relevant matchups. Analysis on a few games can also be found below.

           

Current AFC Playoff Picture

1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-2 (AFC North champion) *

2. New England Patriots: 10-3 (AFC East leader)

3. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-4 (AFC West champion) *

4. Houston Texans: 8-5 (AFC South leader)

5. Buffalo Bills: 9-4 (AFC wild card)

6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-5 (AFC wild card)

In the Hunt: Tennessee Titans (8-5), Cleveland Browns (6-7), Oakland Raiders (6-7), Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

    

Current NFC Playoff Picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 11-2 (NFC West leader)

2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (NFC North leader)

3. New Orleans Saints: 10-3 (NFC South champion) *

4. Dallas Cowboys: 6-7 (NFC East leader)

5. Seattle Seahawks: 10-3 (NFC wild card)

6. Minnesota Vikings: 9-4 (NFC wild card)

In the Hunt: Los Angeles Rams (8-5), Chicago Bears (7-6), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

* Clinched playoff spot

    

Week 15 Picks (Playoff-Relevant Matchups)

Seattle Seahawks 27, Carolina Panthers 20

Philadelphia Eagles 17, Washington Redskins 16

New England Patriots 24, Cincinnati Bengals 7

Kansas City Chiefs 24, Denver Broncos 10

Tennessee Titans 24, Houston Texans 20

Green Bay Packers 20, Chicago Bears 13

Cleveland Browns 20, Arizona Cardinals 10

Minnesota Vikings 27, Los Angeles Chargers 20

Oakland Raiders 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 10

San Francisco 49ers 31, Atlanta Falcons 28

Dallas Cowboys 38, Los Angeles Rams 20

Pittsburgh Steelers 17, Buffalo Bills 14

New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17

         

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders

This game marks the last home contest for the Oakland Raiders in the stadium now known as Ring Central Coliseum. The Raiders will call Las Vegas home beginning in 2020.

The Silver and Black fans should be raucous as they try to will their team to a win in its final Oakland game. That's despite the Raiders' playoff hopes ranging somewhere in the middle of slim to none after losing three straight to drop to 6-7.

However, the Jacksonville Jaguars have lost their last five games by a combined 117 points and might be the worst team in football at the moment.

The Raiders have struggled themselves with defeats to the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans by a combined score of 116-33, but they're at home playing an inferior team. Look for a blowout win.

Pick: Raiders 34, Jaguars 10

      

Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints' defense is a cause for concern after losing defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins for the year to season-ending foot and ankle injuries, respectively, but the Drew Brees-led offense is firing on all cylinders after posting 46 points versus the San Francisco 49ers.

In particular, no team has an answer for No. 1 wideout Michael Thomas, who's caught 121 passes for 1,424 yards and seven touchdowns with three more games remaining.

Look for Thomas to post another massive stat line against the Indianapolis Colts, who have lost five of six.

Pick: Saints 31, Colts 17

     

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

This game could be far closer than expected despite logic saying that the 11-2 San Francisco 49ers should crush the 4-9 Atlanta Falcons.

But Atlanta wideout Julio Jones is in position to have his classic eruption spot against a San Francisco secondary that could be missing cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K'Waun Williams, safety Jaquiski Tartt and edge-rusher Dee Ford.

The 49ers' defense is also coming off a long, emotional road game in which they beat the New Orleans Saints but still allowed 46 points.

Atlanta is not in New Orleans' stratosphere as far as offenses are concerned, but the trio of Jones, quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Austin Hooper can do some damage in the air against a shorthanded defense.

Still, it's hard betting against the 49ers, who are ranked top three in scoring offense and defense. Also, new featured running back Raheem Mostert seemingly turns every touch into an explosive play. That's not actually the case, but he does rush for 6.0 yards per carry.

Mostert will lead the 49ers to a win, but the Ryan-led aerial attack will keep this close.

Pick: 49ers 31, Falcons 28

            

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys

It's bewildering that the Dallas Cowboys' offense has been inconsistent given its talent.

Perhaps it's unwise to back the Cowboys now, but expect Dallas to break out of its three-game losing streak with an explosive performance against the visiting Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium, where the offense tends to shine.

Of note, wide receiver Amari Cooper has some pronounced home-road splits, catching 47 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns in Dallas versus 23/296/3 on the road.

Dallas will need Cooper if the Rams bottle up the run, much like they did in the 2018 NFC divisional-round game between these two teams, when Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had just 47 yards on 20 carries.

Los Angeles just held the talented 10-3 Seattle Seahawks to 12 points, but the Rams have been susceptible to opposing passing attacks.

That was the case in a 55-40 Week 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 385 yards and four scores.

Look for quarterback Dak Prescott to have a productive day at the office throwing to Cooper and No. 2 wideout Michael Gallup.

Pick: Cowboys 38, Rams 23

       

Predicted AFC Playoff Picture Post-Week 15

1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-2 (AFC North champion) *

2. New England Patriots: 11-3 (AFC East leader) *

3. Kansas City Chiefs: 10-4 (AFC West champion) *

4. Tennessee Titans: 9-5 (AFC South leader)

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-5 (AFC wild card)

6. Buffalo Bills: 9-5 (AFC wild card)

In the Hunt: Houston Texans (8-6), Cleveland Browns (7-7), Oakland Raiders (7-7)

        

Predicted NFC Playoff Picture Post-Week 15

1. San Francisco 49ers: 12-2 (NFC West leader) *

2. Green Bay Packers: 11-3 (NFC North leader) *

3. New Orleans Saints: 11-3 (NFC South champion) *

4. Dallas Cowboys: 7-7 (NFC East leader)

5. Seattle Seahawks: 11-3 (NFC wild card) *

6. Minnesota Vikings: 10-4 (NFC wild card)

In the Hunt: Los Angeles Rams (8-6), Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

* Projected clinched playoff spots post-Week 15