NFL Playoffs 2020: Predictions for AFC, NFC Bracket and Seeds

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 27, 2019

Philadelphia Eagles' Dallas Goedert celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Michael Perez/Associated Press

By Sunday night, the battle for NFL playoff spots will be over. It all comes down to one final day of regular-season games.

Week 17 will feature several key matchups that will determine the final two playoff teams, two division titles, the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the rest of the seedings in both conferences. It should be an exciting day, as all 32 teams will be in action.

Here are predictions for how the NFL playoff bracket will look after Week 17.


AFC Bracket Predictions

1. Baltimore

2. New England

3. Kansas City

4. Houston

5. Buffalo

6. Pittsburgh

The most uncertain thing about the AFC playoffs heading into Week 17 is which team will snag the second wild-card berth and be the No. 6 seed in the conference.

The Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders are all alive heading into the final weekend, but expect Pittsburgh to edge the other two teams.

The Steelers are going on the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens, which would have been a tough matchup earlier in the season. But they will be facing a lot of Baltimore's backups, as the Ravens have already secured the No. 1 seed and will be resting some of their key players, including star quarterback Lamar Jackson.

However, it will still be a challenging game for Pittsburgh. The Steelers offense continues to struggle, and with Mason Rudolph out with a season-ending shoulder injury, third-stringer Devlin Hodges will be back under center Sunday.

There's a chance the Steelers win and get into the playoffs with a Titans loss to the Houston Texans. But they could also get into the postseason even if they lose, as long as the Titans and Raiders also lose and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While that's a lot of variables in that latter scenario, it's quite possible that's how things will unfold. The Titans have a tough road matchup against the AFC South champion Texans, while the Raiders are also on the road against the Denver Broncos, who have won three of their past four games and are playing better with Drew Lock at quarterback.

The Colts should have no trouble beating the struggling Jaguars, so expect the Steelers to find a way to get into the playoffs, where they will then have to go on the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.

Everything else should go as expected in the AFC. The New England Patriots will beat the Miami Dolphins to secure the No. 2 seed, and the Chiefs will beat the Los Angeles Chargers to stay at No. 3. That leaves the Texans at No. 4, while the Buffalo Bills are already locked in at No. 5.


NFC Bracket Predictions

1. San Francisco

2. Green Bay

3. New Orleans

4. Philadelphia

5. Seattle

6. Minnesota

If this looks familiar, that's because this is the way the teams are ordered heading into Week 17.

The most uncertain part of the NFC standings is the No. 1 seed, as the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks are all alive in the race for that top spot. But the pivotal game is Sunday night's San Francisco-Seattle matchup with the NFC West title on the line.

With a win, the 49ers will secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and that's exactly what they will do. They have already won a big road game this season, as they went to New Orleans and won a shootout in Week 14. Plus, they will be motivated to avenge their Week 10 overtime loss to the Seahawks.

When San Francisco wins, the other NFC seeds will fall into place. The Packers will have beaten the Detroit Lions earlier in the day, and the Saints will have already defeated the Carolina Panthers. Green Bay owns the tiebreaker over New Orleans, so the Packers will get the No. 2 seed and receive a first-round bye.

The Seahawks will be the No. 5 seed after their loss to the 49ers, with the Vikings already locked in at No. 6 behind them. As for the No. 4 seed, that will go to the Philadelphia Eagles, who will secure the NFC East title with a road win over the New York Giants.

Heading into Week 17, Philadelphia and the Dallas Cowboys are both alive in the NFC East race. But the Eagles are in control, with a one-game lead after their Week 16 home win over the Cowboys. All they need to do is win or have the Cowboys lose to the Washington Redskins.

It's not likely that Dallas loses to Washington, but it won't matter because Philadelphia will win and secure the NFC's final playoff spot.