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NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: Latest AFC, NFC Wild-Card Scenarios and Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 08: Running back Kerrith Whyte #40 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rushes the football against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 23-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For some NFL teams, the season will be over in three weeks. However, 12 teams will have their seasons extend into January, when the playoffs start and the road to Super Bowl LIV begins.

Only three teams have clinched a spot in the postseason after winning their respective divisions—the Baltimore Ravens (AFC North), Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West) and New Orleans Saints (NFC North). But more teams could join the list of playoff teams Sunday.

Heading into Week 15, here's a look at the NFL playoff picture, along with wild-card scenarios and predictions.

    

NFL Playoff Picture

AFC

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (12-2)

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 (6-7)

     

Wild-Card Scenarios

AFC

The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills can both clinch playoff berths on Sunday.

New England would secure its spot in the postseason with either a win or tie against Cincinnati. Buffalo would clinch its berth with a victory over Pittsburgh. Both teams will be on the road looking to ensure their places in the playoffs.

However, either the Patriots or Bills won't be a wild-card team, as one of those two teams will win the AFC East. New England owns a one-game lead over Buffalo for the division lead.

      

NFC

The Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks can clinch playoff berths on Sunday.

Green Bay would secure its postseason spot with a win over Chicago and an L.A. Rams loss or tie. The Packers would also clinch with a tie and a Rams loss to the Cowboys in Dallas.

San Francisco would clinch its playoff berth with a win or tie against Atlanta. It would also secure its spot with a Rams loss or tie, or if the Minnesota Vikings and Packers both lose.

Seattle would clinch its playoff spot with a win and one of the following: a Rams loss or tie, a Vikings loss or a Packers loss and Vikings tie. The Seahawks would also clinch with a tie and a Rams loss.

The Packers are in the lead in the NFC North, and it's likely they'll go on to win the division. Meanwhile, either the 49ers or Seahawks are likely to win the NFC West, with the other being a wild-card team.

     

Wild-Card Predictions

AFC: Pittsburgh, Buffalo

The Steelers will have home-field advantage against the Bills on Sunday night. After winning seven of its last eight games, Pittsburgh has momentum on its side to make a charge for the top wild-card spot.

They play the Jets in Week 16 and then face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. However, Baltimore will have likely already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC at that point and may rest its starters with nothing to play for.

Even though the Bills have tough matchups the next two weeks against the Steelers and Patriots, a win over the New York Jets in Week 17 will be enough for them to get into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed at 10-6.

       

NFC: Seattle, Minnesota

Things in the NFC are going to stay exactly the way they are, with the Seahawks and Vikings securing the wild-card spots.

Seattle won't overtake San Francisco in the NFC West, but with 10 wins already, it will have no trouble securing the No. 5 seed for the playoffs. The Seahawks will likely finish 12-4, as they play the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals over the next two weeks before wrapping up the regular season with a tough matchup against the 49ers.

The Vikings have a one-game lead over the Rams for the second wild card and should secure the final NFL wild card courtesy of an easier schedule.

After playing the Chargers this week, the Vikings will conclude the regular season with a pair of games against NFC North opponents in the Packers and Chicago Bears. They should win two out of three to get into the postseason over the Rams, who play the Cowboys, 49ers and Cardinals in the next three weeks.