NFL Playoff Scenarios 2020-21: AFC, NFC Bracket Picture and Pre-Week 15 Odds

Keegan PopeContributor IIIDecember 20, 2020

NFL Playoff Scenarios 2020-21: AFC, NFC Bracket Picture and Pre-Week 15 Odds

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    With three gameweeks remaining on the NFL slate, nearly all of this year's 14 playoff spots are still up for grabs. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (AFC), Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC), Buffalo Sabres (AFC), Green Bay Packers (NFC) and New Orleans Saints (NFC) have punched tickets to the postseason, and there are 10 teams currently projected outside the playoffs that still have a chance to get in.

    The majority of those teams hail from the NFC, where much of the conference has been mired in mediocrity—of the seven teams outside the bracket, none have winning records. That parity, though, will make for a fantastic homestretch as teams face off and jockey for wild-card spots.

Projected AFC Playoff Bracket

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    1. Kansas City (bye)
    2. Pittsburgh vs. 7. Miami
    3. Buffalo vs. 6. Indianapolis
    4. Tennessee vs. 5. Cleveland


    Teams Still in the Hunt: Baltimore (8-5), Las Vegas (7-7), New England (6-7)

    Kansas City has sewn up the AFC West title for a fifth consecutive year, but to avoid having to play on opening weekend and to keep home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it will likely need to win out.

    The Chiefs have a one-game lead over Pittsburgh, which has lost two straight after winning its first 11 games. KC's toughest remaining matchup comes Sunday, when they travel to New Orleans to face the 10-3 Saints. A win against Drew Brees and Co. would give the Chiefs one hand on the No. 1 seed.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers' spot was sealed before they took the field in Week 14. The Buffalo Bills easily dispatched the Denver Broncos 48-19 on Saturday night to clinched both the AFC East title and a playoff berth.

    The Tennessee Titans, who are expected to beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday, need to win and a loss by the Baltimore Ravens to clinch their postseason spot or they need to beat the Lions and see the Miami Dolphins lose and the Cleveland Browns win or tie. One scenario seems a likelier than the other.

    The rest of the AFC will have to wait another week to decide its playoff fate.

Projected NFC Playoff Bracket

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    1. Green Bay (bye)
    2. New Orleans vs. 7. Arizona
    3. Los Angeles vs. 6. Tampa Bay
    4. Washington vs. 5. Seattle


    Teams Still In The Hunt: Minnesota (6-7), Chicago (6-7), Detroit (5-8), San Francisco (5-8), New York (5-8) Philadelphia (4-8-1), Dallas (4-9)            

    Over in the NFC, things are a bit more complicated, at least at the bottom rungs of the bracket. Green Bay has already locked up the NFC North but still haven't quite sealed the No. 1 seed.

    The Packers (11-3) hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over New Orleans from their matchup earlier this season, and if the Saints lose to Kansas City on Sunday, Green Bay would have to lose both of its final two games to lose control of the top seed. That seems unlikely against the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears, but it's not impossible. At that point, Green Bay would be 11-5, and New Orleans, if it won out after losing to the Chiefs, would stand at 12-4. If both end up 12-4, Green Bay takes the No. 1 seed based on the tiebreaker.

    While the Saints have already locked in a playoff berth, they can take the NFC South title with a win over Kansas City or a Tampa Bay loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Los Angeles Rams, meanwhile, can sew up a berth with a victory over the winless New York Jets or a tie between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago.

    With a win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks can add themselves into the playoff mix. Funnily enough, it's Washington, which leads the NFC East at 6-7, that Seattle is projected to play in the Wild Card Round despite having a better overall record.

    The only other NFC team with a chance to clinch a playoff spot Sunday is Tampa Bay, which needs to beat Atlanta and also have Minnesota and Chicago tie. So Tom Brady and Co. are likely to be waiting another week to book their postseason plans.

Week 15 NFL Betting Odds

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    Tennessee (-9) vs. Detroit

    San Francisco (-3.5) vs. Dallas

    Minnesota (-3) vs. Chicago

    Tampa Bay (-7) vs. Atlanta

    Indianapolis (-7) vs. Houston

    Seattle (-6.5) vs. Washington

    Miami (-1.5) vs. New England

    Baltimore (-13) vs. Jacksonville

    Los Angeles Rams (-17) vs. New York Jets

    Arizona (-6) vs. Philadelphia

    Kansas City (-2.5) vs. New Orleans 

    Cleveland (-6.5) vs. New York Giants

    Pittsburgh (-14.5) vs. Cincinnati

    Via DraftKings.

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