NFL Playoff Scenarios 2019-20: Wildcard Picture, Postseason Bracket Post-Week 16

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Despite the Tennessee Titans loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Piitsburgh Steelers fumbled away the clearest path to a playoff berth.

While neither team could've clinched a postseason spot, both Pittsburgh and Tennessee entered the weekend at 8-6. Since the Steelers lost to an AFC opponent in the New York Jets while the Titans fell to New Orleans, the tiebreaker actually shifted into Tennessee's favor.

That flip in the standings is the biggest wild-card takeaway from Sunday's results in Week 16, though a couple of wild-card hopefuls waved goodbye to their minimal playoff hopes.


AFC Standings and Wild-Card Picture

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)


Here's how the AFC shakes down as of tonight 🔽 https://t.co/QE6qiCm7tU

Thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens secured home-field advantage for the AFC in the postseason. But in beating the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens also eliminated their AFC North rival.

Cleveland entered Week 16 with exceptionally unlikely playoff potential but remained mathematically in the race. That is no longer the case following the 31-15 loss to Baltimore.

The other unlikely team is still alive, though.

Entering the weekend at 6-8, the Oakland Raiders needed both Pittsburgh and Tennessee lose and then defeat the Los Angeles Chargers. The first two happened in the early afternoon slate, and Oakland took care of business with a 24-14 triumph.

Oakland's path to a wild card is most complicated because it needs a Week 17 win, plus an Indianapolis Colts victory as well as losses by the Steelers and Titans again.

Tennessee, on the other hand, owns the coveted win-and-in scenario but could also advance if Pittsburgh loses and either the Colts and Raiders fall too. The Steelers need a victory plus a Tennessee loss to snatch the second wild-card spot.

No matter which team emerges, it will be the AFC's No. 6 seed. The Bills have already locked up the No. 5 position.


NFC Standings and Wild-Card Picture

Robbie Gould's winning kick eliminated the Rams from wild-card contention.
Robbie Gould's winning kick eliminated the Rams from wild-card contention.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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

The wild-card picture in the NFC became much simpler when the San Francisco 49ers edged the Los Angeles Rams.

Los Angeles is out, and the Minnesota Vikings are officially in.

But which NFC franchises will finish at Nos. 5 and 6? Because of a surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks switched spots with the 49ers. But the Seahawks could change it right back with a victory over San Francisco next week.

Minnesota will remain in fifth or sixth position heading into Week 17 regardless of Monday's result against Green Bay. Should the Vikings lose, though, they cannot win the NFC North.

The Packers would only drop into a wild-card berth if three specific results occur. First, the Packers would fall to Minnesota. Then in Week 17, they'd lose on the road to the Detroit Lions while the Vikings topple the Chicago Bears.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.