NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC standings for Week 15

December 20, 2020 by No Comments

Week 15 is here, leaving less than three weeks in the 2020 NFL regular season. Every win means everything in trying to lock down seeding, division titles or wild-card berths to get into the playoffs, while every loss is devastating.

The postseason field has expanded by one team each in the AFC and the NFC to a total of 14 has made the late-season results more interesting. Based on the current standings, here’s an updated look at what each conference tournament would look like if the playoffs started now:

WEEK 15: Sporting News’ latest NFL power rankings

(Getty Images)

NFL standings for Week 15

AFC playoff picture

Who would be in?

1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1), champions, AFC West.  The Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champs, are back where they belong, as the unquestioned top seed with likely MVP Patrick Mahomes. They clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Broncos in Week 13 and clinched another division title with a win over the Dolphins in Week 14. They can focus on the lone bye and home-field advantage after going up a full game on the Steelers. Remaining schedule:  at NO, vs. ATL, vs. LAC

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2), first place, AFC North. The Steelers lost in shocking fashion to Washington at home in Week 13 to dash their hopes of a perfect season, and then took another big hit at the Bills in Week 14. They still lead the Browns by two games in the division and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker plus the division-record tiebreaker. The Steelers clinched a playoff berth with a Raiders loss but now know they will be chasing the Chiefs. Remaining schedule: at CIN, vs. IND, at CLE

3. Buffalo Bills (11-3), champions, AFC East. The Bills clinched their first division title in a quarter-century and their second straight playoff berth with a win over the Broncos on Saturday in Denver. Their win over the Steelers in Week 14 was key toward securing a top-three seed, because they lost to the Titans. Remaining schedule: at NE, vs. MIA

4. Tennessee Titans (9-4), first place, AFC South. The Titans are a longer shot to move up to catch the Chiefs, whom they don’t play, and they have already lost to the Steelers. They do have a key win over the Bills but failed to beat the Browns in Week 13 to solidify their playoff position. They hold the division-record tiebreaker over the Colts.  Remaining schedule:  vs. DET, at GB, at HOU

5. Cleveland Browns (9-4), second place, AFC North.  The Browns, despite their Monday night loss to the Ravens, still hold the top wild-card spot by a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts and a full game over the Dolphins. The Browns also have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans should the South change hands in the final three weeks. Catching the Steelers is near-impossible despite the race tightening of late. Remaining schedule: at NYG, at NYJ, vs. PIT

6. Indianapolis Colts (9-4), second place, AFC South. The Colts are putting it all together at the right time with only one tough game left: at the Steelers in Week 16. Their losses to the Browns and Ravens hurt, so beating the Texans and Raiders back-to-back was huge. That got them into a virtual tie with the Titans, with whom they split. They need to keep winning to keep pace and hope the Titans stumble once. Remaining schedule: vs. HOU, at PIT, vs JAX

7. Miami Dolphins (8-5), second place, AFC East. The Dolphins still have this wild-card spot ahead of the Ravens because their conference record is a half-game better. They fell a full game back of No. 6 with their loss to the Chiefs and the Colts’ win in Las Vegas. They still need to host New England and go to Buffalo and have another tough game outside the division on the road aginst the Raiders in Week 16.  Remaining schedule:  vs. NE, at LV, at BUF

Who can get there?

8. Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
9. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

The Ravens close with winnable games against the Jaguars, Giants and Bengals in trying to catch the Dolphins, who for now hold a tiny tiebreaker against them. The Ravens now hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over the Colts and Browns but lose it to the Titans. The Raiders are hanging on by a threat after consecutive home losses to the Colts and Chargers.

Who’s likely out?

10. New England Patriots (6-7)
11. Denver Broncos (5-9)

Who’s out

12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
13. Houston Texans (4-9)
14. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12)
16. New York Jets (0-13)

The Patriots became inconsistent to get back into the wild-card race and their loss to the Rams in Week 14 kept them from getting back above .500. The Broncos and Texans are doing better than expected of late, but it’s more thinking about next year for both teams. The Chargers can think about what could have been with all their close losses. The Bengals were done when Joe Burrow went down in Week 11. The Jaguars and Jets are battling for the top draft pick, and both lost in lopsided games in Week 14 to maintain the draft order.

MORE: NFL’s expanded playoffs, explained

(Getty Images)

NFC playoff picture

Who would be in?

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers had a great Week 14 with their win over the Lions. They clinched a second straight division title with the Vikings losing. They got the bonus of jumping into the top seed because the Saints, whom they beat, lost to the Eagles. They followed up all of that by holding on to beat the Panthers in Week 15. The Packers have only one tricky game left, the Titans in Week 16, and that’s in Lambeau Field. They should be successful in their quest to keep home-field advantage and the lone NFC playoff bye. Remaining schedule: vs. TEN, at CHI

2. New Orleans Saints (10-3), first place, NFC South. The Saints finally suffered their first defeat with Taysom Hill filling in for Drew Brees at quarterback as their offense and defense both started too slowly and couldn’t catch up in the loss to the Eagles in Week 14. The Saints already clinched a playoff berth with their win and the Bears’ loss in Week 13. They still will clinch another South title with one more win or a Buccaneers loss. Remaining schedule: vs. KC, vs. MIN, at CAR

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4), first place, NFC West. The Rams stayed in first place in Week 14 after dominating the Patriots. The Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker for the division lead because of their Week 10 victory over the Seahawks. They play the Seahawks and Cardinals for a second time each to close the season in trying to lock down their third dvision title in four seasons. Remaining schedule:  vs. NYJ,  at SEA, vs. ARI

4. Washington Football Team (6-7), first place, NFC East. Washington jumped here before the game at the 49ers in Week 14 when the Giants, to whom it lost twice, lost to the Cardinals in the early afternoon window. Washington maintained its position with a win over the 49ers, going up a full game on the Giants and keeping pace with the winning Cowboys and Eagles as well. WFT needs to finish a game ahead of the Giants because it lost to the Giants twice. Remaining schedule: vs. SEA, vs. CAR, at PHI

5. Seattle Seahawks (9-4), second place, NFC West.  The Seahawks got very well at home against the Jets in Week 14 after losing to another New York team, the Giants, in Week 13. They kept pace with the Rams and the division should come down to the Week 16 game after a tough test in Washington in Week 15. The top or second wild-card berth still seems secure.  Remaining schedule:  at WAS, vs. LAR, at SF

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) second place, NFC South. After a bye in Week 13, the Bucs are simply focused on maintaining a wild card with the Saints pulling away in the division. They got a very important win toward that end against the Vikings at home in Week 14. They are still staring at No. 5 or No. 6 when they get to the playoffs with an easy closing slate. Remaining schedule:  at ATL, at DET, vs. ATL

7. Arizona Cardinals (7-6), third place, NFC South.  The Cardinals got back into playoff position and ended a three-game losing streak with their important win at the Giants in Week 14, keeping them a game ahead for this spot. They have little margin for error with the Vikings and Bears right behind them. They have a favorable finish save for the Rams on the road in Week 17.  Remaining schedule:  vs. PHI,  vs. SF, at LAR

Who can get there?

8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
9. Chicago Bears (6-7)
12. New York Giants (5-8)

The Vikings fell down here with their loss to the Buccaneers while the Bears pulled even with their win over the Texans. The Giants dropped down here with their loss to the Cardinals and stayed here with Washington winning.

Who’s likely out?

10. San Francisco 49ers (5-8)
11. Detroit Lions (5-8)
13. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1)
14. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
15. Dallas Cowboys (4-9)
16. Carolina Panthers (4-10)

The Lions and Falcons are down here after both firing their coaches during the season. The 49ers joined them with consecutive home losses to the Bills and Washington. The rebuilding Panthers’ Week 15 loss in Green Bay was their eighth one-possession defeat this season. The Eagles and Cowboys got key wins in Week 14 to stay alive in the division race, but it still doesn’t look good with Washington winning and the Giants still a game ahead.

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