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

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2020

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

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Football fans who enjoy high stakes and developing drama are going to love the final week of the 2020 NFL season. Of the league's 32 teams, 18 remain alive for the postseason. Of this year's 14 playoff spots, only the AFC's No. 1 seed is completely locked.

    The Kansas City Chiefs have secured the top spot in the AFC. The rest of the AFC and NFC playoff seed are relatively unsettled, as are the AFC South and NFC East divisional races. Naturally, most games on the Week 17 slate are going to carry playoff implications.

    Here, we'll examine the playoff picture as a whole dive into some potential playoff scenarios and make predictions for the final AFC and NFC playoff fields.

    Are you ready for some playoff football? Let's get to it.

Week 17 Playoff Picture

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press


    1. Kansas City Chiefs 14-1 (Y, Z)

    2. Buffalo Bills 12-3 (Z)

    3. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-3 (Z)

    4. Tennessee Titans 10-5

    5. Miami Dolphins 10-5

    6. Baltimore Ravens 10-5

    7. Cleveland Browns 10-5

    8. Indianapolis Colts 10-5



    1. Green Bay Packers 12-3 (Z)

    2. New Orleans Saints 11-4 (Z)

    3. Seattle Seahawks 11-4 (Z)

    4. Washington Football Team 6-9

    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-5 (X)

    6. Los Angeles Rams 9-6

    7. Chicago Bears 8-7

    8. Arizona Cardinals 8-7

    9. Dallas Cowboys 6-9

    10. New York Giants 5-10


    X = clinched playoff spot, Y = clinched playoff bye, Z = clinched division

Week 17 Playoff Scenarios

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, the Chiefs have secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Things are a little less clear at the top of the NFC playoff race. The Green Bay Packers need a win over the Chicago Bears to secure the No. 1 seed, and both the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints are alive for the top spot.

    The Saints would secure the No. 1 seed with a Packers loss, a win and a Seattle win. Seattle can get it with a win, a Green Bay loss and a New Orleans loss or tie.

    Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills only need to win in Week 17 to lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC. If the Bills happen to lose, the Pittsburgh Steelers could swoop in and take the second seed. However, the Steelers have announced that Ben Roethlisberger and perhaps some other starters will rest in the finale.

    "I'm excited to get a little bit of rest," Roethlisberger told reporters.

    The winner of the AFC South will be the AFC's fourth seed, but that race isn't settled yet. The Tennessee Titans will win the division with a win over the Houston Texans, a loss by the Indianapolis Colts or ties by both Tennessee and Indy.

    The Colts can take the division with a win and a Titans loss. If the Titans don't win the division, they'll still get into the postseason with losses by the Miami Dolphins or Baltimore Ravens.

    The Baltimore Ravens can earn a berth with a win, a Cleveland Browns loss, a Colts loss or a tie and ties by Cleveland or Indy. They can also get in with a tie and losses by the Miami Dolphins or the Titans.

    The Browns can clinch a spot with a win over the Steelers or a loss by the Colts. A tie and losses by the Ravens, Dolphins or Colts could also do it. If the Colts don't win the AFC South, they'll need a win and losses by the Ravens, Dolphins or Browns to get in. A tie and a loss by any of those three teams would also get Indy in.

    The Dolphins can get in with a win or a Ravens, Browns or Colts loss.

    In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals are in with a win or a tie and a Bears loss. Chicago can get a berth by beating the Packers or with a Cardinals loss. Ties by both the Bears and the Cardinals would also put Chicago into the postseason.

    The Los Angeles Rams are in the playoffs with a win over Arizona, a tie, or a loss or tie by Chicago. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already locked into a wild-card spot, though they're eager to make sure it's the top one.

    "We're gonna play everybody," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "We wanna be 11-5, and we want that five seed."

    If Arizona is the No. 5 seed, it will face the winner of the NFC East. That division can be won by the Washington Football Team with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. If the Eagles win that game, however, the winner of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants matchup will claim the division.

    The Washington-Philadelphia game has been set for Sunday Night Football.

Predicted 2020 Playoff Field

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press


    1. Kansas City Chiefs

    2. Buffalo Bills 12-3

    3. Pittsburgh Steelers

    4. Tennessee Titans

    5. Miami Dolphins

    6. Baltimore Ravens

    7. Indianapolis Colts



    1. Green Bay Packers

    2. New Orleans Saints

    3. Seattle Seahawks

    4. Washington Football Team

    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    6. Arizona Cardinals

    7. Los Angeles Rams