NFL Playoff Scenarios 2019: Week 17 AFC, NFC Postseason Picture

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in an NFL football game Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

While the AFC playoff picture will be finalized after the NFL's late-afternoon window of games in Week 17, the NFC won't be settled until the evening.

This level of drama is only a positive thing for the league. Two of the best teams in the NFLthe San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawkswill square off with the NFC West title at stake, as well as the potential No. 1 seed in the NFC.

By Sunday night, all football-watching eyes will be focused on the clash in Seattle and how the result affects the playoff picture.


NFL Standings Entering Week 17


1. Baltimore Ravens (13-2, clinched home-field advantage)
2. New England Patriots (12-3, clinched AFC East)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4, clinched AFC West)
4. Houston Texans (10-5, clinched AFC South)
5. Buffalo Bills (10-5)
6. Tennessee Titans (8-7)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7)
8. Oakland Raiders (7-8)


1. San Francisco 49ers (12-3, NFC West leader)
2. Green Bay Packers (12-3, clinched NFC North)
3. New Orleans Saints (12-3, clinched NFC South)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7, NFC East leader)
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-5)
In NFC East race: Dallas Cowboys (7-8)


Known Seeds

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

In the AFC, the Ravens have secured home-field advantage as the No. 1 seed. Plus, the Bills will be No. 5 because they can neither win the AFC East nor be caught by the second wild-card team, no matter whether it's the Titans, Steelers or Raiders.

Then, the NFC East champion is locked into the fourth seed. That could be either the Eagles or Cowboys. They'll host the NFC West runner-up in the 49ers or Seahawks, depending on which team loses the Sunday night showdown.

Minnesota will be the NFC's second wild-card team, the No. 6 seed. The other seeds will be determined Sunday.


What's at Stake in Week 17

The race for top-four seeds in the AFC is very clear thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers and one-game separations.

Beyond the Ravens at No. 1, New England and Kansas City are vying for No. 2 and a first-round bye. The Chiefs beat the Patriots, so New England needs to finish with a better record. Otherwise, the Patriots will dip no lower than No. 3.

But if the Patriots stick in second, Kansas City must have a better record to stay above Houston. If the Chiefs and Texans have the same record, Houston will be third with Kansas City at No. 4.

NFL Research @NFLResearch

🚨 Week 17 AFC Playoff Scenarios 🚨 https://t.co/AFoUPLf03K

The wild-card discussion is more complicated, though Tennessee has the most straightforward path to the postseason. If the Titans win, they're in. And if the Steelers lose, the Titans can afford a lossprovided the Raiders or Indianapolis Colts also lose.

In a four-way tie between the Titans, Steelers, Raiders and Colts at 8-8, Oakland would head to the postseason. That, however, is the Raiders' only path.

While the Steelers have a few complicated routes despite a loss, the easiest one is a victory and a Tennessee loss.

The NFC's list of scenarios is quite easy to follow; there are simply many possibilities still in play. The NFL's official release looks complicated, but that's mostly because the NFC East is undecided. The following chart offers better clarity.

Douglas @SeattleSports64

NFC Playoffs seeding scenarios 🏈🏈 https://t.co/m63xBShvtX

For the No. 1 seed, San Francisco has top priority. If the 49ers lose, the Packers are next up. If both the Niners and Packers fall, the Saints can take it. If all three lose, Seattle will be No. 1.

The No. 2 seed is similar. If San Francisco wins, the Packers have the first chance at a first-round bye. Should they lose, the Saints can hop up. If the Seahawks win and one of the Packers or Saints lose, Seattle would jump into the No. 2 slot.

Only the Packers, Saints and Seahawks can hold the No. 3 seed, while the NFC East winner can be fourth and only the NFC West runner-up can be positioned fifth.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.