X

NFL Playoffs 2020: Wild-Card Format, Updated Bracket and Known Schedule

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 28, 2019

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass in front of Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

Four NFL teams will make the playoffs and then get a week off before returning to the field for the divisional round.

As for the other eight teams to make the postseason—four division winners and four wild cards—they'll be right back in action next week for the Wild Card Round, which is slated to take place on Jan. 4 and 5.

But first, the playoff bracket must be finalized with a full slate of Week 17 games, all of which will be taking place Sunday. As we get closer to those matchups, here's a look at the upcoming NFL playoff schedule followed by the current brackets and scenarios for the AFC and NFC.

      

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Round: Jan. 4 and 5

Divisional Round: Jan. 11 and 12

Conference Championship Round: Jan. 19

Super Bowl LIV: Feb. 2

     

NFL Playoff Picture

AFC

1. Baltimore (13-2, clinched No. 1 seed)

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

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

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

5. Buffalo (10-5, clinched wild card)

6. Tennessee (8-7)

In the hunt: Pittsburgh (8-7), Oakland (7-8)

The Ravens are locked in as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so they'll be off next weekend before preparing to host a game in the divisional round. If they win that, then they'll also host the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history.

The only other team that is locked into a seed is No. 5 Buffalo, which will be going on the road in the Wild Card Round. It's likely that the Bills will be traveling to Houston to take on the Texans, but it's possible the Chiefs could fall to the No. 4 seed this week, meaning Buffalo would then travel to Kansas City.

The Bills haven't played the Texans or Chiefs during the regular season, so either way they'll be taking on a team for the first time.

It's likely that the Patriots will be the No. 2 seed and receive a first-round bye, as they just need to beat the Dolphins at home this week to secure that spot. They'd also clinch it with a Chiefs loss to the Chargers.

With New England's probable win, it's likely Kansas City will be the No. 3 seed, which would be the case either with a Chiefs win or a Texans loss to the Titans. However, it's unclear which team Kansas City would then host in the Wild Card Round, as Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Oakland are all alive in the battle for the second wild card and No. 6 seed.

The Chiefs own two wins this season over the Raiders, who are the least likely of those three teams to make the playoffs. They lost to the Titans 35-32 on the road in Week 10, while they didn't play the Steelers this year.

Based on those past results, Kansas City may be hoping that Tennessee isn't the team it will be facing in the Wild Card Round.

       

NFC

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)

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

6. Minnesota (10-5, clinched wild card)

In the hunt: Dallas (7-8)

There's only one team that's locked into its playoff seeding in the NFC, and that's the No. 6 Vikings. They'll be going on the road in the Wild Card Round, but they don't know where they'll be going yet.

It's possible that any of the Packers, Saints or Seahawks could be the No. 3 seed and host the Vikings in a wild-card matchup. Minnesota lost to Green Bay twice this season, and it also lost to Seattle 37-30 in Week 13. The Vikings didn't play the Saints during the regular season.

The 49ers could be the No. 1 seed and have home-field advantage through the postseason, but they have to beat the Seahawks on Sunday night to clinch that. If they lose, they'll be the No. 5 seed and will go on the road for a Wild Card Round contest.

It's likely the Packers won't be playing next weekend, as they just need a road win over the struggling Lions to secure a first-round bye. It's still possible they could be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed after that victory, depending on the result of 49ers-Seahawks, but they'd at least know they'll get a week of rest.

While the Saints could move up to the No. 2 seed if the Packers were to lose, it's more likely they'll be the No. 3 seed and will be hosting the Vikings in the Wild Card Round.

As for the No. 4 seed, the NFC East title is still up for grabs, so either the Eagles or Cowboys will be hosting a Wild Card Round contest against either the Seahawks or 49ers, depending on which team loses Sunday night.

Philadelphia will clinch the NFC East and the No. 4 seed with a win over the Giants or a Cowboys loss to the Redskins. Dallas would only get in with a win and an Eagles loss.