NFL Playoff Picture 2019: AFC, NFC Scenarios, Standings and Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) reacts in the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

There are 12 spots in the NFL playoffs, and 10 teams have clinched berths.

Five teams are battling for the other two spots, which will be decided Sunday, when the NFL regular season comes to a close with a full slate of Week 17 matchups. All 32 teams will be in action, culminating with a matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title, which will also help to decide the NFC's No. 1 seed.

The Philadelphia Eagles hold a one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, but either team could come away with the title and the final NFC playoff spot. In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders are all alive in the battle for the second wild-card berth.


AFC Standings

Division Leaders

1. Baltimore (13-2)

2. New England (12-3)

3. Kansas City (11-4)

4. Houston (10-5)


Wild Cards

5. Buffalo (10-5)

6. Tennessee (8-7)


In the Hunt

7. Pittsburgh (8-7)

8. Oakland (7-8)


AFC Scenarios and Predictions

The Baltimore Ravens are locked into the No. 1 seed, but the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are still battling to be the other team that earns a first-round bye.

New England will secure the No. 2 seed with either a win against the Miami Dolphins or a Kansas City loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs can only move up to that spot if they win and the Pats lose. That seems unlikely, as the Patriots should have no troubles beating the Dolphins at home.

While the top five teams in the AFC have secured playoff spots, there are still three teams that could nab the second wild-card berth. The Tennessee Titans are in control in that race, as they would clinch the spot with a win over the Houston Texans. Even if they lose, they would still get into the playoffs if the Pittsburgh Steelers fall to the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Steelers would get into the playoffs if they win and the Titans lose. However, even if they are defeated at Baltimore, they could still get into the postseason if Tennessee loses, Indianapolis wins and the Denver Broncos beats the Oakland Raiders.

Speaking of the Raiders, they are the third team still alive in this wild-card race. But they need a lot of help in order to get into the playoffs. They need to win and have the Colts be successful, have the Steelers and Titans both lose and have one of the following teams be victorious: the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers or New England Patriots.

So how will this all unfold?

The Raiders are going to lose to the Broncos in a tough road matchup because Denver has been playing better in recent weeks. That will be the end of Oakland's chances.

Meanwhile, the Titans and Steelers are also both going to lose. Tennessee has a tough road matchup against the AFC South champion Texans. And while Baltimore may be resting some key starters, Pittsburgh's offense still won't play well enough to lead it to victory with third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges back under center.

However, even though the Steelers will lose, they will be the final AFC playoff team at 8-8 thanks to the Titans and Raiders both losing.


NFC Standings

Division Leaders

1. San Francisco (12-3)

2. Green Bay (12-3)

3. New Orleans (12-3)

4. Philadelphia (8-7)


Wild Cards

5. Seattle (11-4)

6. Minnesota (10-5)


In the Hunt

7. Dallas (7-8)


NFC Scenarios and Predictions

The top of the NFC standings all depends on how the San Francisco 49ers fare Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. If they win, they will capture the NFC West title and secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC no matter what.

If San Francisco loses, it will be the top wild card as the No. 5 seed. Meanwhile, Seattle would win the NFC West title with a win and could be the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed. The Seahawks would be No. 1 with a win, a Green Bay Packers loss to the Detroit Lions and a New Orleans Saints defeat to the Panthers.

Green Bay would be the No. 1 seed with a win and a San Francisco loss. All it would take for the Packers to at least earn a first-round bye is either a win or a Saints loss. New Orleans would be the No. 1 seed with a win and Green Bay and San Francisco losses. It would be the No. 2 seed with a win and a Green Bay or San Francisco defeat.

Expect the 49ers and Packers to take care of business, securing victories to capture the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. San Francisco will avenge its earlier loss to Seattle, while Green Bay will have no trouble facing a struggling Detroit team.

The No. 4 seed will belong to either the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys depending on which team wins the NFC East title. The other will be left out of the playoffs.

Both of these teams should win Sunday, as the Eagles are facing the New York Giants and the Cowboys are taking on the Washington Redskins. All Philadelphia needs is a win or a Dallas loss to seal the division, and it will get into the playoffs with a victory.

The Cowboys' only path to the playoffs is a win and an Eagles loss, but they will be left out at 8-8 after they lost a pivotal game to the Eagles in Week 16.