NFL Playoff Scenarios 2019-20: AFC, NFC Week 16 Picture, Postseason Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2019

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas in the second half an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

The Indianapolis Colts' hopes of reaching the NFL playoffs are dwindling.

If the Colts don't beat the New Orleans Saints on the road on Monday night, then they'll be eliminated from playoff contention. That's a tough task, and even with a win, Indianapolis would still be one game behind both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans for the second AFC wild-card spot.

The Colts play the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in Weeks 16 and 17. So, if they beat the Saints, they might be in decent position to win out. But even then, it's going to take some help for them to get into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Saints have already clinched the NFC South and will be in the postseason, but they're still in a tight battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Before Monday Night Football, here's a look at the NFL playoff picture, as well as three predictions for how the postseason field will shake out.


NFL Playoff Picture


Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (12-2)

2. New England (11-3)

3. Kansas City (10-4)

4. Houston (9-5)


Wild Cards

5. Buffalo (10-4)

6. Pittsburgh (8-6)


In the Hunt

7. Tennessee (8-6)

8. Indianapolis (6-7)

9. Cleveland (6-8)

10. Oakland (6-8)



Division Leaders

1. Seattle (11-3)

2. Green Bay (11-3)

3. New Orleans (10-3)

4. Dallas (7-7)


Wild Cards

5. San Francisco (11-3)

6. Minnesota (10-4)


In the Hunt

7. L.A. Rams (8-6)

8. Philadelphia (7-7)


NFL Playoff Predictions

49ers bounce back to win NFC West

Josie Lepe/Associated Press

When Sunday began, the Seahawks were the projected No. 5 seed in the NFC. By the time the day was over, they had risen to the No. 1 spot. That's because they beat the Panthers and the 49ers suffered a surprising home loss to the Falcons.

That loss won't prevent San Francisco from winning the NFC West, or even potentially landing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But the 49ers will need to bounce back and win the next two weeks against the Rams and Seahawks.

The Week 17 game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle will likely be for the NFC West title. San Francisco should beat Los Angeles this week, while Seattle will defeat Arizona.

Although the 49ers had a setback on Sunday, their No. 2-ranked defense will help them rebound in a big way by helping them secure their first NFC West title since 2012.


Eagles beat Cowboys in Week 16, take NFC East title

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

On Sunday, the Cowboys and Eagles both secured wins to improve to 7-7. Now, they'll face off in Philadelphia this week with first place in the NFC East on the line.

It's a crucial contest, and it will also likely determine the division title. The Cowboys play the Redskins in Week 17, and the Eagles face the Giants, so both teams should end the regular season with victories.

Led by quarterback Carson Wentz, Philadelphia is finally playing well. The Eagles beat the Giants and Redskins the past two weeks, while Wentz has thrown eight touchdowns and only one interception over their last three games.

Wentz and the Eagles will keep this momentum going, using home-field advantage to avenge their Week 7 loss at Dallas and beat the Cowboys to secure the NFC East and a trip to the postseason.


Steelers hold off Titans for second AFC wild card

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Joe Haden #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after tackling Frank Gore #20 of the Buffalo Bills in the third quarter during the game at Heinz Field on December 15, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Ge
Justin Berl/Getty Images

Although the Steelers and Titans both lost on Sunday, they remain the only two teams that could likely earn the second AFC wild-card spot.

Pittsburgh lost to Buffalo and Tennessee fell to Houston, dropping both teams to 8-6. However, if Indianapolis loses on Monday night, then no other team still in the hunt behind them would have more than six wins with two weeks to go in the regular season.

That means it should be down to Pittsburgh and Tennessee. The Steelers play road games against the Jets and Ravens the next two weeks, while the Titans host the Saints and travel to play the Texans for the second time in three weeks.

Tennessee could easily lose both of its final two games. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh should beat New York, and Baltimore may have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC before that Week 17 matchup. So, the Steelers are set up well to win at least one of those games and hold off the Titans for the final AFC playoff spot.