NFL Playoff Schedule 2019: Bracket Dates and Updated AFC, NFC Scenarios

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2019

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 11: Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by the defense of the San Francisco 49ers in the game at Levi's Stadium on November 11, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For some, Week 17 is a time to rest the starters and gear up for a final playoff run. For others, it's do or die time. Heading into the final week of the NFL season there's still a lot to be sorted out with 2019 playoffs. 

The Green Bay Packers clarified some of the NFC picture with their big win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. It wasn't always pretty, but Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones' strong second half helped Green Bay clinch the NFC North and give them a shot at a first round bye. 

Several of the divisions have already been clinched, but the NFC East, NFC West, and home-field advantage still have to be decided in one conference while the AFC still has the final wild-card spot up for grabs and some seeding to be figured out. 

With Week 16 now complete, here's a look at where things stand and what the scenarios look like in each conference. 

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card: Saturday, January 4, and Sunday, January 5

Divisional Round: Saturday, January 11, and Sunday, January 12

AFC Championship Game: Sunday, January 19, at 3:05 p.m. ET

NFC Championship Game: Sunday, January 19, at 6:40 p.m. ET

Super Bowl LIV: Sunday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET

Playoff Picture


Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (13-2; clinched AFC North and home-field advantage) 

2. New England (12-3; clinched AFC East) 

3. Kansas City (11-4; clinched AFC West)

4. Houston (10-5; clinched AFC South) 

Wild-Card Race

5. Buffalo (10-5; clinched playoff berth)

6. Tennessee (8-7) 

7. Pittsburgh (8-7) 

8. Oakland (7-8) 


The playoff field is just about set in the AFC with the top five teams in the conference have already punched a ticket. Now it's just down to that last spot to see who can add a playoff appearance to their franchise's history. 

The Titans, Steelers and Raiders all enter the week with a shot at getting in. 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The race for the 6 seed in the AFC comes down the final weekend. Only the Titans control their own destiny. Both the Steelers and Raiders need help to get in. https://t.co/tTHxT6heB3

The Titans have the most simple road. If Ryan Tannehill and company can beat the Houston Texans on the road they'll be in. That's a tall order, though. The Titans dropped a 24-21 loss to the AFC South champions just two weeks ago. 

The Texans still have an outside chance of moving up to the three-seed. If they win, Pittsburgh beats Baltimore and Kansas City loses to the Los Angeles Chargers and they would be playing Pittsburgh in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup. 

That means that the Titans will be seeing a full strength Texans team looking to potentially win even better playoff positioning. 

The Steelers, on the other hand, are expected to have a bit easier road. They will play a Baltimore Ravens team that has already clinched the division and home-field. The team has already announced they plan to sit Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas among others against the Steelers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter

Then there's the Raiders. They are technically still in, but need a whole laundry list of things to happen:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Week 17 playoff scenarios: https://t.co/URz6vg454V

If it all goes down and the Raiders get in, bet the house on them to win the whole thing. They're a team of destiny. 

Note: Don't bet on the Raiders.

As for Kansas City and New England, it all comes down to the Patriots game against the Dolphins. Miami really has nothing to play for and if the Patriots can finish off their AFC East rival the order is set and the 2-seed is clinched. 

If not, the Chiefs will have the opportunity to overtake the Pats with a win over the Chargers. 


Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (12-3; clinched playoff berth)

2. Green Bay (12-3; clinched NFC North)

3. New Orleans (12-3; clinched NFC South)

4. Philadelphia (8-7) 

Wild-Card Race

5. Seattle (11-4; clinched playoff berth)

6. Minnesota (10-5; clinched playoff berth) 

The only thing we know for sure about the NFC is that the Minnesota Vikings will be the No. 6 seed. That was locked in after Monday's loss to the Packers. 

NFL Research @NFLResearch

🚨 Week 17 NFC Playoff Scenarios 🚨 https://t.co/maQVZXiGJq

The NFC's East and West divisions still need to be settled so the bracket could undergo some wild changes from this point to the end of the season. In the beleaguered East the Eagles need to beat the Giants to secure their spot in the playoff field. 

However, Jason Garrett's Cowboys are waiting in the wings. A win over the Redskins and an Eagles loss to the Giants would put them in the playoffs as the division champion. Considering all the turmoil surrounding Garrett's coaching job this season that would be quite the development. 

While the NFC East has been a battle of ineptitude the highly competitive NFC West will see a champion crowned in Week 17 and there's a lot on the line. 

The 49ers and Seahawks will play each other in the marquee matchup of the week on Sunday Night Football. Winner takes the division. The Seahawks could get a first-round bye if they pair their win with a loss for the Packers or Saints. The Niners would also lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Loser will have to play the NFC East champion on the road as the five-seed. 

The Packers will be rooting for Seattle to win the big matchup. A Seahawks win paired with their own win over the Detroit Lions would get them all the way up to the No. 1 seed. 

Then there's the Saints. New Orleans plays the Carolina Panthers in Week 17 with an opportunity to earn a first-round bye still in the cards. If they can manage to beat what's left of the Panthers they'll be left waiting to see if the Lions can upset the Packers or if the Seahawks can beat Niners.

If either of those happen they could slide up to the two seed and steal a first round bye. 

With so many good teams in the NFC a bye is a precious commodity. It's going to be a fun final week to see who can set themselves up for the best path to the Super Bowl.