NFL Playoff Picture 2020: Dissecting AFC, NFC Scenarios Before Final Games

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2019

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel runs with the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

The final day of the NFL regular season is here.

On Sunday, all 32 teams will be in action, with some of them playing their final game until the 2020 season. For others, there are meaningful contests that could decide their postseason fate.

One of those matchups will be Sunday night's showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Not only will the winner be the NFC West champion, but the result will also help decide the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Heading into Week 17, here's a look at the current playoff picture, along with key scenarios for the AFC and NFC.


AFC Playoff Picture

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)


NFC Playoff Picture

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)


Can 49ers secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC?

If San Francisco wins in Seattle on Sunday night, it will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, if it loses, it will be the No. 5 seed and will have to go on the road in the Wild Card Round next weekend.

Those are the only two scenarios for the 49ers, so it's crucial that they avenge their earlier loss to the Seahawks and notch their 13th win of the season. Either way, it will be San Francisco's first playoff appearance since the 2013 season.

The Packers, Saints and Seahawks are the other three teams that could end up as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But each of those teams need some help in order to ascend to the top of the standings.

Green Bay will be the No. 1 seed if it beats Detroit and San Francisco loses. New Orleans would earn it if it beats Carolina and Green Bay and San Francisco both lose. Seattle can only be the No. 1 seed if it wins and Green Bay and New Orleans both lose.

So heading into Sunday, there are a lot of different ways the NFC bracket could shake out.


Three teams battling for second AFC wild-card spot

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Either the Titans, Steelers or Raiders will be the second AFC wild card and go on the road as the No. 6 seed next weekend.

It's going to take a lot of things to go right for Oakland in order for it to make the playoffs. The only scenario in which the Raiders will make the playoffs is if they beat the Broncos, the Colts beat the Jaguars, the Titans lose to the Texans, the Steelers lose to the Ravens and one of the following teams win: the Bears, Lions, Chargers or Patriots.

The Titans and Steelers have easier paths to the postseason, and Tennessee is in control in the race. The Titans will secure the final AFC berth with a win over the Texans or losses by the Steelers and Colts.

Pittsburgh will get in if it wins and Tennessee loses. The Steelers would also secure the final spot if the Titans and Raiders both lose and the Colts win.

It's possible the team that gets in will have an 8-8 record. But anything can happen in the playoffs, so that team will likely just be happy to have extended its season.


Eagles look to hold off Cowboys in NFC East race

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Last week, the Eagles notched a crucial 17-9 home win over the Cowboys, taking a one-game lead in the NFC East. Philadelphia has won three straight games after it had fallen to 5-7, and it's now in control in the division race.

If the Eagles beat the Giants on the road Sunday, they'll be the NFC East champion and the No. 4 seed in the NFC. They'd also secure the division crown and playoff berth if the Cowboys lose to the Redskins at home.

The only scenario in which Dallas gets into the postseason is if it beats Washington and Philadelphia loses to New York.

That may be unlikely to happen, as the Eagles already beat the Giants in Week 14 to begin their recent surge. Quarterback Carson Wentz has been playing well, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions during Philadelphia's three-game winning streak.

The Eagles appear to be in good shape to make the playoffs for the third straight year. But the Cowboys will hope they have an opportunity to capitalize on.