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A look at the NFL playoff picture heading into week 15

Week 15 kicked off Thursday, with the Los Angeles Chargers beating the Las Vegas Raiders 30-27 in overtime to improve to 5-9. While the Chargers are already eliminated, they did help play spoilers to the Raiders, who are now a longshot to make the playoffs at 7-7. Let’s take a look around the rest of the league.

We’ll start in the AFC, where Kansas City moved up to the top spot after a win versus Miami and a Steelers loss last week.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs 12-1
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-2
  3. Buffalo Bills 11-3
  4. Tennessee Titans 9-4
  1. Cleveland Browns 9-4
  2. Indianapolis Colts 9-4
  3. Miami Dolphins 8-5
  1. Baltimore Ravens 8-5
  2. Las Vegas Raiders 7-7

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Raiders are now a longshot to grab a wild card spot, even after a 6-3 start to the season. With multiple 9-4 and 8-5 teams ahead of them, not only do the Raiders have to win their final two games, but they will need a lot of help ahead of them to be able to sneak in.

As for teams actually in the top seven, Cleveland has a strong chance to make their first postseason since 2002, sitting at 9-4 with games against the Giants and Jets in the next two weeks.

Indianapolis currently sits at the six spot, but either them or Tennessee (currently at four) will win the AFC South, with the other likely finishing as a wild-card.

For the AFC’s final spot, it will likely come down Miami and Baltimore, who both sit at 8-5. Miami currently holds the tiebreaker. Baltimore likely has the advantage, however, with three winnable games versus Jacksonville, the Giants, and Cincinnati. Miami, on the other hand, still has the Belichick-led Patriots, the Raiders, and the Bills.

Speaking of the Bills, let’s look at the division leaders in the AFC. Kansas City, as mentioned, is 12-1 and controls its destiny for the number one seed and the only bye. The race for number two seed has gotten interesting, with Buffalo just a half-game back of Pittsburgh and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to their 26-15 victory last Sunday night.

Pittsburgh still has matchups with Indianapolis and Cleveland, so Buffalo could slip up to the two spot, and Pittsburgh could drop to the third spot even after starting 11-0.

The Titans currently sit at four, holding the tiebreaker in the AFC South over the Colts with a better division record.

Turning our attention to the NFC, which also saw a changing of the guard at the top of the conference last week, with Green Bay sliding up to the top spot after New Orleans lost to Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers beat the Saints all the way back in week 3 to give them the tiebreaker.

  1. Green Bay Packers 11-3
  2. New Orleans Saints 10-3
  3. Los Angeles Rams 9-4
  4. Washington Football Team 6-7
  1. Seattle Seahawks 9-7
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-5
  3. Arizona Cardinals 7-6
  1. Minnesota Vikings 6-7
  2. Chicago Bears 6-7

Much like the AFC, multiple playoff teams are likely set, with the Packers and Saints battling for the one seed, the Rams and Seahawks battling for the West (with the loser taking the top wild card), and the Brady-led Bucs taking a wild card spot as well.

The third wild card spot will come down to three teams, the Cardinals, Vikings, and Bears. Minnesota and Chicago play this weekend, which will propel one team to 7-7 and knock one to 6-8, likely knocking the loser out of the race.

The winner could set themselves up nicely for a run at the seventh seed, with the Cardinals still having to play the 49ers and Rams.

As for the other wild cards, Tampa Bay will grab one, and the runner-up in the NFC West will grab the other. Los Angeles beat Seattle back in week 10, but the two will face again in week 16 in a game that will likely decide the division.

The NFC East will come down to Washington and New York, with Washington currently at 6-7 and the Giants at 5-8. If both teams finish with the same record, New York would own the tiebreaker, having beaten Washington in both weeks 6 and 9.

For a complete list of clinching scenarios for this week, check out this link to the NFL’s official site.

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