The Updated NFL Playoff Picture
So, after Week 14, there was just one team in the NFL (Philadelphia) who had punched its playoff ticket. With Week 15 nearly in the books, six teams are in, and eight spots remain.
Clinched in the AFC
NFL Buffalo Bills
This past Saturday night in the snow, the Bills rallied to defeat the Dolphins, giving Buffalo a fourth consecutive playoff berth. It is, at worst, a wild-card team, but likely winner of the AFC East. With just one win in the final three weeks, or loss by the Dolphins, clinches the division.
Favored to win the title, Buffalo is getting more action (+375), according to BetUS sportsbook NFL Super Bowl odds.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday afternoon in Houston, the Chiefs escaped the Texans, 30-24, in overtime, clinching the AFC West the seventh season in a row. Only the Patriots’ run of 11 consecutive division titles in the Tom Brady years is a longer stretch of dominance.
The Chiefs and Bills are currently tied atop the AFC, but the Bills own the tiebreaker.
NFL Hopefuls in the AFC
The AFC North battle is between the Bengals and Ravens. Cincinnati now has the advantage by virtue of its second-half dismenbering of the Bucs at Tampa Bay. That was combined with Baltimore’s ugly loss to the Browns. Both teams are probably playoff bound, both still have a shot to win the division. They close the regular season Jan. 8th in Ohio, and as long as Lamar Jackon can return in time to get his team within one of the Bengals, it will be for the AFC North.
As things stand today, the other three spots belong to the Titans, Chargers and Dolphins. However, the Tennessee lead in the AFC South is precarious at best, There’s a Week 18 game at Jacksonville to perhaps decide the division.
The Chargers, at 8-6, have the Colts, Rams and Broncos remaining, so not exactly three bumps in the road. Miami plays the Packers this week, then two teams (Pats and Jets) directly behind it in the wild-card chase.
Clinched in the NFC
Philadelphia hasn’t clinched the NFC East, but just one win (or a Cowboys loss) takes care of that. Also, any Eagle win, or losses by the Vikings and 49ers, also wraps the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Despite not having secured any seed at the time of this writing, Phillys is the 8-5 (+160) choice to win the NFC, as per NFL conference odds.
In the craziest NFL game we’ve seen all season (with apologies to Pats-Raiders), Minnesota Vikings and their record-setting, 33-point comeback were able to clinch their first NFC North title since 2017. Minnesota is the current No. 2 seed, though still in a battle with the champs of the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers
That’s them. The 49ers clinched the NFC West with a road win over the Seattle Seahawks this past Thursday. There’s nothing about the season that’s been as planned, with third-string quarterback Brock Purdy the man who secured the division. The last two times the Niners won their division, they also won the conference.
The Cowboys also punched their playoff ticket last Sunday, even though Dallas Heimliched away a game to the Jaguars in overtime. When the Giants beat the Commanders, it was the ‘Boys second consecutive entry into the tournament.
NFL Hopefuls in the NFC
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are atop the NFC South at (kid you not) 6-8, but the Panthers, Saints and Falcons all trail by just a game. They’re bad teams, but one host a playoff game.
As of this writing, the Giants and Commanders are both in the playoffs, but the schedule makes it difficult to keep those spots. New York still has the Vikings and Eagles, Washington with the 49ers and Cowboys
Both the Seahawks and Lions are just a half-game out of the playoffs, with the red-hot Lions owning the least-intimidating opposition (Panthers, Bears, and Packers). Seattle has the tiebreaker over Detroit, but the ‘Hawks play the Chiefs this week, the Jets after that.