X

NFL Playoff Picture 2020: Examining Latest Scenarios and Top Bracket-Busters

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2019

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. In making his NFL playoff debut against the Texans this weekend, second-year Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets an opportunity to show how far he's come since his last trip to Houston 14 months ago. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)
David Dermer/Associated Press

We're on the cusp of 2020, and for much of the NFL world, it's already time to move on to next season. For the 12 teams involved in the playoffs, however, the 2019 season continues.

This year's playoff pool is an interesting one. At the top are four teams with a mere 12 losses between them—four teams finished the regular season with at least 12 losses apiece. Among the wild-card teams are an 11-5 Seattle Seahawks squad. Hosting the Seahawks will be the 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles.

While the teams owning a first-round bye have an obvious advantage, there's no guarantee that they'll fare better than a team like Seattle or Philadelphia. A lot could depend on the second-round matchups; for example, the Seahawks have already knocked off the No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers once.

Here, we'll dig into the potential Round 2 scenarios and examine two wild-card teams that stand a good chance of going all the way. First, though, let's examine the current playoff matchups.

    

NFL Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 4-5)

AFC

Bye: 1. Baltimore Ravens, 2. Kansas City Chiefs

5. Buffalo Bills at 4. Houston Texans

6. Tennessee Titans at 3. New England Patriots

NFC

Bye: 1. San Francisco 49ers, 2. Green Bay Packers

5. Seattle Seahawks at 4. Philadelphia Eagles

6. Minnesota Vikings at 3. New Orleans Saints

    

Round 2 Scenarios

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

For the most part, the second-round scenarios are pretty straightforward. If the No. 6 seed wins in a division, it will automatically play the No. 1 seed in Round 2. If it does not, then the winner of the other wild-card matchup will face the No. 1 seed.

In the AFC, this means that the Baltimore Ravens will face the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills or Houston Texans in the divisional round. The 49ers will face Seattle, Philadelphia or the Minnesota Vikings.

The Kansas City Chiefs will host either Buffalo, Houston or the New England Patriots. The Green Bay Packers will host the Eagles, Seahawks or the New Orleans Saints.

As far as the most intriguing potential matchups go, a rematch between the Chiefs and Texans would be a lot of fun—Houston won the regular-season meeting by seven points. Likewise, a third meeting between the Seahawks and the 49ers would make for an entertaining bout.

A contest between the Packers and the Saints, who did not play in the regular season, would also make for some compelling entertainment.

    

Bills, Seahawks Could Shake Up the Postseason

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The Seahawks may have the best chance to reach the Super Bowl out of the wild-card pool. They have a future Hall of Famer at quarterback in Russell Wilson, a seasoned coaching staff and a vastly underrated receiving corps.

The Seahawks have also been playing in close, competitive games all season long. If not for a controversial non-call of pass interference at the end of regulation in Week 17, Seattle might be the No. 2 seed, while San Francisco may be in the wild-card spot.

Wilson failed to connect with tight end Jacob Hollister on a 3rd-and-goal attempt from the 5-yard line with 15 seconds to play. It appeared that Hollister had been held on the play, but there was no obvious booth review of the play.

"If the NFL is going to take the challenge flag out of the coaches' hands in the final two minutes of the game, it needs to make sure it takes the appropriate time to review such a game-altering play," NFL Media's Gregg Rosenthal wrote after the game.

Pressure and adversity shouldn't be issues for the Seahawks, who will also benefit from already seeing both the 49ers and the Saints this season.

Over in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills pose a threat because of their stingy defense—ranked second in scoring with just 16.2 points per game allowed—and eighth-ranked rushing attack. A strong defense and ground game will travel in the postseason, regardless of weather conditions.

As long as Buffalo can continue getting the occasional big play from quarterback Josh Allen—who was clutch in key victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch—the Bills will be difficult to stop.

As is the case with Seattle, Buffalo will benefit from familiarity with the playoff pool. While the Bills haven't faced the Chiefs, they've played the Patriots (twice), the Ravens and the Titans.

While the Bills lost to the Patriots (twice) and the Ravens in the regular season, they don't see themselves as significant underdogs.

"We're not pushovers, we're not anybody's little brother," tackle Dion Dawkins said, per Leo Roth of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

No one should feel great about hosting Buffalo in the postseason this year.