Week 13 shook up the NFL standings and playoff picture for both the AFC and NFC entering Week 14. Several teams held their position in the 2020 NFL playoff race, while a couple saw their standings slip. Let’s look at how the NFL playoff picture for both the AFC and NFC shapes up heading into Week 14.
NFL playoff picture for Week 14
The current NFL playoff standings have a different shape in the new playoff format
After around 30 years of featuring 12 playoff teams, six for each conference, the NFL expanded their playoffs to a 14-team system for the 2020 season. Each conference will now feature three wild card teams instead of two for the first time since the 2002 expansion. The additional wild card team places a premium on the number one seed. Only that team receives a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs.
The remaining six teams in each conference will face off on wild card weekend, as the three remaining divisional winners hosting the three wild card teams (#2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, and #4 vs. #5). This change in the NFL structure has significantly altered the playoff scenarios and how we view both the playoff picture and standings in the NFC and AFC.
Current AFC playoff standings
1) Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-1
2) Kansas City Chiefs, 11-1 – clinched a playoff berth
3) Buffalo Bills, 9-3
4) Tennessee Titans, 8-4
5) Cleveland Browns, 9-3
6) Miami Dolphins, 8-4
7) Indianapolis Colts, 8-4
Outside looking in: Las Vegas Raiders (7-5), Baltimore Ravens (7-5), New England Patriots (6-6)
Heading towards Week 14 of the 2020 playoff picture, two divisions are on the verge of being sealed, while two others hang very much in the balance. The Chiefs have already clinched their 2020 playoff spot and have a four-game lead in the AFC West standings with four games to play.
Where the NFL playoff race is really heating up in the AFC is the AFC East and AFC South. In the South, the Titans lead the Colts based on their record within the conference. The Buffalo Bills lead the Miami Dolphins by a game and a half after their Monday Night Football win. The Bills also have a one game lead and a better win percentage over the Titans.
The Colts and Dolphins won to retain their wild-card spots, with a one-game lead over the Raiders.
Current NFC playoff standings
1) New Orleans Saints, 10-2 – clinched a playoff berth
2) Green Bay Packers, 9-3
3) Los Angeles Rams, 8-4
4) New York Giants, 5-7
5) Seattle Seahawks, 8-4
6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-5
7) Minnesota Vikings, 6-6
Outside looking in: Arizona Cardinals (6-6), San Francisco 49ers (5-7), Chicago Bears (5-7), Washington Football Team (5-7), Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1), Dallas Cowboys (3-9)
The New Orleans Saints became the first team in the 2020 NFL playoff race to clinch a spot, and next week they can clinch their place on top of the NFC South standings. The Minnesota Vikings pulled out a win in Week 13. As a result, they take over the final wild-card spot in the NFC.
NFL Playoff scenarios heat up in Week 14
AFC playoff scenarios
In the AFC, the playoff standings seem to be separating into two groups: the fight for the #1 seed and the fight for the other five spots. Unless both the Steelers and Chiefs have a massive drop off in the final few weeks, that part of the NFL playoff picture looks reasonably sewn up as to the two contenders head towards Week 14.
However, the race for the first seed just became a lot more interesting with the Steelers’ loss to the Washington Football Team. Pittsburgh is now ahead of Kansas City, even though they have the same record, because of their conference record (8-0 to the Chiefs’ 9-1). However, the Steelers failed to lock up a playoff berth with the loss and are only two games ahead of the Browns in the AFC North.
The Titans and Colts are now in a straight shootout for the AFC South. While the Titans have a slight advantage based on their record in the conference, they need to match the Colts’ finish to the season and avoid losing to either the Jaguars or Texans to have a chance to maintain that advantage. The Bills and Dolphins both have tough finishes, but the Bills are firmly in control having already beaten the Dolphins once this year.
That Week 14 game between the Browns and Ravens will be crucial to both sides’ playoff hopes. Therefore, if a couple of wild card teams struggle down the stretch, the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots are looming, with the opportunity to sweep up the final spot.
NFC playoff scenarios
The Saints can clinch the NFC South in Week 14. Then, for them, the remainder of the 2020 NFL playoff race becomes a case of securing the playoff bye week.
With a surprising win over the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Giants now have firm control of the NFC East. Although they have the same record as the Washington Football Team, they hold the tiebreaker, having already beaten them twice this season. The Eagles fell to the Green Bay Packers, putting them two games behind New York. Dallas also lost to the Ravens this week, making their pathway to the NFC East title incredibly narrow.
With the Rams getting the win over the Arizona Cardinals, they are now ahead of Seattle in the NFC West based on their head to head record. Arizona is now two games back and are sitting on the outside looking in as Minnesota takes over the final wild-card spot in the NFC. The Vikings get the spot over Arizona because of their common games record, 2-2 for Minnesota compared to 2-3 for the Cardinals.
Week 14 clinching scenarios
With four weeks left in the season, the clinching scenarios for the NFL playoffs are still few and far between. However, three teams can clinch spots in the 2020 NFL playoff race this week, and three can also lock up their divisions in Week 14.
AFC clinching scenarios
The Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs all have clinching scenarios in Week 14.
The Kansas City Chiefs can clinch the AFC West if either:
1) Kansas City win their game against the Miami Dolphins.
2) Las Vegas loses or ties with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can clinch the AFC North if:
1) Pittsburgh win their game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns lose to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can clinch a playoff berth if any of the following scenarios occur:
1) Pittsburgh win or tie their game against the Buffalo Bills.
2) The Raiders lose or tie with the Colts.
3) The Miami Dolphins lose or tie with the Chiefs.
4) The Tennessee Titans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Buffalo Bills can clinch a playoff berth if:
1) Buffalo win their game against the Steelers, the Ravens lose to the Browns, the Dolphins lose to the Chiefs, the Raiders lose to the Colts, and the Patriots lose or tie against the Los Angeles Rams.
NFC clinching scenarios
Both the Saints and Packers have opportunities to top the standings in their respective NFC divisions, while the Packers can also clinch a playoff spot in Week 14.
The New Orleans Saints can clinch the AFC South if any of the following scenarios occur:
1) New Orleans win their game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
2) Tampa Bay loses to the Minnesota Vikings.
3) New Orleans ties with the Eagles, and the Buccaneers tie with the Vikings.
The Green Bay Packers can clinch the AFC North if either:
1) Green Bay win their game against the Detroit Lions, and the Vikings either lose or tie with the Buccaneers.
2) Green Bay ties with the Lions and the Vikings lose to the Buccaneers
The Green Bay Packers can clinch a playoff berth if any of the following scenarios occur:
1) Green Bay wins their game with the Lions, and the Arizona Cardinals lose or tie with the New York Giants.
2) Green Bay wins their game with the Lions, and the Los Angeles Rams lose or tie with the New England Patriots.
3) Green Bay wins their game with the Lions, and the Seattle Seahawks win or tie with the New York Jets.
4) Green Bay wins their game with the Lions, and the Cardinals lose to the Giants.
5) Green Bay ties their game with the Lions, the Rams lose to the Patriots, and the Cardinals tie with the Giants.
6) Green Bay ties their game with the Lions, the Seahawks win or tie with the Jets, and the Cardinals with the Giants.