NFL Playoff Picture 2020: Week 17 Scenarios, Standings and Predictions

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 27, 2019

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, center, during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

Over the past few weeks, NFL teams have been clinching divisions, securing playoff spots and building momentum toward the upcoming postseason.

Entering the final week of the regular season, 10 of the 12 playoff teams have already been decided and six of the eight division winners have been crowned. Now, the rest will be decided on Sunday, when all 32 teams will in action including several in key matchups.

Here's a look at the NFL playoff picture, including standings, clinching scenarios and predictions for how Week 17 will unfold and shape the postseason field.


NFL Playoff Picture

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 Ravens are locked in as the No. 1 seed, and either the Patriots or Chiefs will be the other team to receive a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed. New England is in control, as it will secure that spot with either a win over Miami or a Kansas City loss to the L.A. Chargers.

The only way the Chiefs can be the No. 2 seed is if they win and the Patriots lose. But don't expect that to happen. The Pats should have no trouble taking down the lowly Dolphins to secure the No. 2 seed.

However, the Chiefs should beat the Chargers, and that victory will mean something, as they'll stay at the No. 3 seed rather than fall to No. 4. When that happens, Houston will get locked in as the No. 4 seed.

The Bills are locked in as the No. 5 seed, so they'll likely be traveling to Houston for the Wild Card Round, unless the Chiefs fall. But as stated, that's not likely to happen, so expect a Texans-Bills matchup next week.

So, who will the Chiefs host in the Wild Card Round? The Titans, Steelers and Raiders are all alive in the battle for the second wild-card berth heading into Week 17, but Oakland would need a lot to happen to get into the playoffs.

The only scenario in which the Raiders are the second wild card is if they beat the Broncos, the Colts beat the Jaguars, the Steelers lose to the Ravens, the Titans lose to the Texans and one of the following teams wins: the Bears, Lions, Chargers or Patriots.

That requires a lot to go right for Oakland to get in. Plus, Denver has won three of its last four games and is playing better with Drew Lock at quarterback, so there's a strong chance the Raiders will lose their regular-season finale anyway.

The Titans can get in the playoffs with a win or losses by the Steelers and Colts. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh needs to win and have Tennessee lose to get the No. 6 seed. Or it can get in by the most likely scenario: the Steelers, Titans and Raiders all losing and the Colts winning.

Based on the matchups, that scenario is the most likely one to unfold, which will result in the Steelers making the playoffs despite losing to fall to 8-8.


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, Predictions

There are four teams still alive in the race for the No. 1 seed.

The 49ers can secure the top seed with a win over the Seahawks on Sunday night. That game will also decide the NFC West champion, and whichever team loses will be the No. 5 seed as the first wild card.

The Packers can be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Lions and the 49ers lose.

The Saints can be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Panthers and both the 49ers and Packers lose.

The Seahawks can be the No. 1 seed if they win and the Packers and Saints both lose.

That leaves a lot of possibilities based on Sunday's results for those four teams. But the only team that can secure the No. 1 seed with just a win is the 49ers, and that's what they'll do. Expect them to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, avenging their Week 10 overtime loss at home, to continue their impressive season and secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

Green Bay and New Orleans should also be victorious this week. So, that will give the Packers the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, while the Saints will slot in at No. 3.

With the Seahawks' loss, that will solidify the two wild-card teams, as they'll be the No. 5 seed and the Vikings at No. 6.

The Eagles are in control in the NFC East race, as they need to either beat the Giants or have the Cowboys lose to the Redskins in order to win the division and secure the No. 4 seed. The only way Dallas can get in is with a win and a Philadelphia loss.

But the Eagles have won three straight games, beating each of their divisional rivals, and they will use that recent momentum to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs.