NFL Playoff Picture Week 15: Updated playoff race and scenarios

The NFL standings saw a major shakeup after Week 14, and there was some significant movement in the NFL playoff picture heading towards Week 15. With the 2020 NFL playoff race heating up, let’s take a look at the AFC and NFC playoff standings. 

NFL playoff picture for Week 15

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) Kansas City Chiefs, 12-1 – clinched the AFC West

2) Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-2 – clinched a playoff berth

3) Buffalo Bills, 11-3 – clinched the AFC East

4) Tennessee Titans, 9-4

5) Cleveland Browns, 9-4

6) Indianapolis Colts, 9-4

7) Miami Dolphins, 8-5

Outside looking in: Baltimore Ravens (8-5), Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), New England Patriots (6-7)

As we look at the NFL playoff picture heading towards Week 15, a number of elements are separating themselves. With the Steelers’ loss on Sunday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs took over possession of the number one seed. With the Bills’ victory over the Broncos, they clinched the AFC East for the first time since 1995.

The loss for the Dolphins has dropped them to the seventh seed in the AFC standings when it comes to the 2020 NFL playoff race. The Raiders blew their opportunity to draw level with the Dolphins as they lost to the Colts. With the Ravens win over the Browns on Monday Night Football, they now have the same record as Miami, with the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.

The Las Vegas loss to the Chargers on Thursday Night Football all but ended their chances at a wild-card spot. They are now 2.5 games behind the Browns and Colts in the wild card race, 1.5 games behind the Dolphins the seventh seed, and 1.5 games behind the Ravens, who are currently behind the Dolphins in the wild card tiebreaker.

Current NFC playoff standings

1) Green Bay Packers, 11-3 – clinched the NFC North

2) New Orleans Saints, 10-3 – clinched a playoff berth

3) Los Angeles Rams, 9-4

4) Washington Football Team 6-7

5) Seattle Seahawks, 9-4

6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8-5

7) Arizona Cardinals 7-6

Outside looking in: Minnesota Vikings (6-7), Chicago Bears (6-7), San Francisco 49ers (5-8), New York Giants (5-8), Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1), Dallas Cowboys (4-9)

The NFL playoff picture is really heating up heading into Week 15, especially in the NFC. Victory for the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football ensured they would remain the third seed at the very worst. However, a victory for the Seahawks means the Rams have no room for error.

A loss for the New Orleans Saints, accompanied by a victory for the Packers, has a major effect on the NFC playoff standings. Both the Rams and Seahawks also have a shot at the number one seed in the final weeks.

Victories for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals have elevated the Cardinals back into the wild-card part of the NFL playoff picture heading into Week 15. The Vikings drop back out of the wild-card spots heading towards Week 15. Meanwhile, the Bears got back to within a game of the playoff race with a victory over the Houston Texans

The NFC East continues to twist and turn. A loss for the Giants and a win for Washington put them in charge of the division. Wins for the Cowboys and Eagles in Week 14 keep them in contention, but both are running out of time.

NFL playoff scenarios heat up in Week 15

AFC playoff scenarios

When it comes to the AFC’s top seed in the NFL playoff picture heading towards Week 15, one thing is clear; the Pittsburgh Steelers do not have much room for error down the stretch. With their loss to the Bills, the Steelers are now one game behind the Chiefs for the number one seed. They also have a much tougher three-game schedule to finish the season compared to the Chiefs.

With the Browns’ loss to the Ravens in their epic Monday Night Football game, the Steelers have all but locked up the division. The Browns are now two games behind. The Ravens are very much in the thick of things for the seventh seed with the Jaguars, Giants, and Bengals left on their schedule.

The playoff scenario for at the top of the AFC South standings remains the same as before. The Titans are in the driving seat with a better divisional record. However, if the Colts win out, the Titans cannot afford to drop a game.

The Raiders, Dolphins, and Ravens appear to be fighting for the final spot in the AFC side of the 2020 NFL playoff race. However, losses for the Raiders and Dolphins also keeps the Patriots alive.

NFC playoff scenarios

The NFL playoff picture in the NFC entering Week 15 is very muddled. There are tight races all the way up and down the board. The Saints’ loss in Philadelphia is huge in the 2020 NFL playoff race. The Packers now only need to match the Saints’ win total over the final three weeks to clinch the bye. 

In the NFC West, the Week 16 game between the Seahawks and Rams looks set to decide the outcome of that division. In the NFC East, all four teams still have a chance to take the division. There are likely to still be plenty of ups and downs in the East down the stretch.

Week 15 clinching scenarios

With just three weeks remaining in the 2020 NFL playoff race, the picture entering Week 15 is becoming clearer. As many as eight teams have clinching scenarios this week, four from each conference.

AFC clinching scenarios

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills all have clinching scenarios this week.

The Kansas City Chiefs can clinch a first-round bye in Week 15 if:

1) The Chiefs defeat the Saints, the Steelers lose to the Bengals, and the Bills lose to the Denver Broncos.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can clinch the AFC North if:

1) The Steelers defeat the Bengals.

2) The Browns lose to the Giants.

3) The Steelers tie with the Bengals, and the Browns tie with the Giants.

The Tennessee Titans can clinch a playoff berth if any of the following scenarios occur:

1) The Titans defeat the Detroit Lions, and the Ravens lose to the Jaguars.

2) The Titans defeat the Lions, the Raiders lose to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Dolphins lose to the Patriots, and the Browns either win or tie against the Giants.

3) The Titans defeat the Lions, the Raiders lose to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Dolphins lose to the Patriots, and the Titans or Browns clinches the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Dolphins.

NFC clinching scenarios

Three teams can clinch playoff spots in the NFC standings in Week 15. meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints get another opportunity to clinch the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints can clinch the AFC South if any of the following scenarios occur:

1) The Saints defeat the Chiefs.

2) The Buccaneers lose to the Atlanta Falcons.

3) The Saints tie with the Chiefs, and the Buccaneers tie with the Falcons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can clinch a playoff spot if:

1) The Buccaneers defeat the Falcons, and the game between the Bears and Vikings ends in a tie.

The Los Angeles Rams can clinch a playoff berth if either of the following scenarios occur:

1) The Rams defeat the New York Jets.

2) The game between the Bears and Vikings ends in a tie.

The Seattle Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth if either of the following scenarios occur:

1) The Seahawks defeat the Washington Football Team.

2) The game between the Bears and Vikings ends in a tie.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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