NFL Playoff Picture & Bracket: Bills Jump Steelers For AFC’s 2-Seed Following Win vs. Patriots
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Allen
The Buffalo Bills made easy work of the New England Patriots to move into the No. 2 slot in the AFC playoff picture.
That’s as high as the Bills can get after the Kansas City Chiefs secured the top spot with a win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Week 17 is a bit of an unknown for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bills — with little for either team to play for, both could sit main players. Pittsburgh plays the Browns in Week 17 with Cleveland fighting for a spot. The Bills host the Dolphins, who are also playing for a playoff berth.
Find the latest standings in both conferences below followed by a tick-tock of how Week 16 shifted them.
NFL Playoff Picture
Late Sunday Night Update
After the Tennessee Titans‘ 40-14 loss to the Packers, they face a must-win game against the Texans in Week 17 if they are to top the AFC South. Tennessee could have clinched the division with a win on Sunday Night Football and a Colts loss, but the win didn’t come in Week 16.
The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, still have to beat the Bears next week at Soldier Field to ensure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A Seattle Seahawks loss against the 49ers in Week 17 would also guarantee the Packers a first-round bye.
If the Packers lose and the Seahawks and New Orleans Saints both win, then it would be New Orleans topping the NFC standings.
Sunday Evening Update
The Seattle Seahawks took control of their own destiny, winning their first NFC West title since 2016 with a 20-9 victory over the Rams.
The Washington Football Team had a chance to clinch the NFC East, but with Alex Smith out, their offense struggled under Dwayne Haskins in a 20-13 loss.
Washington will close out the season at the Philadelphia Eagles, who were eliminated after their loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Washington and Dallas are still alive in the race for the NFC East, with the New York Giants also in the mix as they host the Cowboys next Sunday. Washington can clinch the division with a win next week, but if the Football Team loses to the Eagles, then the winner of Cowboys-Giants will win the division.
The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams will meet next week in what is effectively a play-in game with the winner grabbing a wild card spot.
Sunday Afternoon Update
As expected, the AFC goes through Kansas City.
It was close, but ultimately a 17-14 win over the Falcons clinched a first-round bye and top overall seed for the Kansas City Chiefs.It looked like the Chiefs would face overtime, but Younghoe Koo missed a 39-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to secure the victory.
Elsewhere in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped their three-loss streak to rebound with a 28-24 comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts to clinch the AFC North, saving themselves from a pressure-packed Week 17 against the Browns.
With the Colts loss, the Tennessee Titans can clinch the AFC South with a win over the Packers on Sunday night.
The Cleveland Browns could have clinched their first berth since 2002 with a win over the Jets on Sunday afternoon, but a 23-16 loss leaves Cleveland in limbo heading into the season’s final week.
The Baltimore Ravens kept the pressure on the Miami Dolphins for the AFC’s final wild-card spot with a 27-13 win over the Giants.
In the NFC, the Chicago Bears took over the seventh and final spot in the playoff picture with a 41-17 win over Jacksonville. The Bears now can make the playoffs with either a win over Green Bay in Week 17 or a Cardinals loss to the Rams.
Sunday Morning Update
What’s at stake for the 2020 NFL playoff picture on Sunday?
Here’s a quick rundown of scenarios to monitor in the early window:
- The Kansas City Chiefs could clinch the AFC’s lone bye with a win over the Falcons. Patrick Mahomes & Co. could also lock in the top spot if the Steelers lose.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers could claim the AFC North crown with a win over the Colts or a Browns loss to the Jets.
- The Cleveland Browns could clinch a berth with a win over the Jets and either a Ravens loss (to the Giants) or a Colts loss (to the Steelers).
- The Indianapolis Colts could punch their postseason ticket with a win over the Steelers and a Ravens loss to the Giants.
- The Chicago Bears could leapfrog the Arizona Cardinals to take over the NFC’s final wild card spot if Mitchell Trubisky & Co. beat the Jaguars.
Saturday Late Night Update
The Miami Dolphins went back to Ryan Fitzpatrick. As a result, they might be headed back to the playoffs.
Head coach Brian Flores made the decision to lift rookie Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter while trailing the Las Vegas Raiders, 16-13, for the veteran Fitzpatrick — and that paid off in the form of a crazy 26-25 win.
Miami holds onto the final wild-card spot in the AFC — a position that would have been in question with the Ravens facing the Giants on Sunday. A loss to the Raiders would have made the Dolphins’ playoff chances remote: Entering the game, our model projected a 50% chance for the Dolphins to make the playoffs. Now that’s up to 64%.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have been eliminated.
Fitzpatrick led three scoring drives with 9-of-13 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown, including the final 34-yard pass to set up a field goal while an Oakland Raider defender was flagged for grabbing his face mask.
Miami tied the game in Fitzpatrick’s first drive with a 22-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining. The Raiders answered immediately with an 85-yard touchdown but a missed extra point kept it a 22-16 game.
Fitzpatrick found Myles Gaskin for a 59-yard touchdown and 23-22 lead. A pass interference call then aided a Raiders drive that saw Josh Jacobs take a knee at the 1-yard line. Head coach Jon Gruden made the decision to kick the field goal with 23 seconds left for a 25-23 lead. Three plays later, the lead was gone and game was over.
Tagovailoa was 17-of-22 for 94 yards.
Now Miami faces a Week 17 test on the road against the Buffalo Bills, who have already clinched the division and could possibly be eliminated from contention for the conference’s only first-round bye if the Chiefs win on Sunday. At that point, Buffalo only has seeding to play for.
The Ravens figure to have to easier games against the Giants and Bengals in Week 17.
Saturday Night Update
The Arizona Cardinals controlled their own playoff destiny, needing a win over the 49ers as 6-point favorites to make things easier.
Things are not easy for Arizona anymore.
The Cardinals dropped a 20-12 game to the 49ers and now their playoff hopes hinge on the Chicago Bears. Chicago will be in a similar spot on Sunday as a big favorite, but Jacksonville isn’t trying to spoil anything — especially its chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Arizona still holds the seventh playoff spot, but will have to wait for Sunday’s results to see what’s at stake in Week 17.
As of Saturday night, our model — which simulates the remainder of the season 10,000 times — gives the Cardinals a slight edge over the Bears to make the playoffs with a 54% chance for Arizona vs. 46% chance for Chicago.
Next week, the Bears will play the Packers, who may have little to play for themselves. Meanwhile, the Cardinals travel to Los Angeles to face a Rams team playing for playoff positioning.
The news gets worse for the Cardinals, who watched Kyler Murray take a huge hit to end the game: The Bears currently own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals based on record against common opponents.
Saturday Afternoon Update
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially clinched their first playoff berth since 2007 with a 47-7 rout of the Detroit Lions on Saturday afternoon. Currently in the No. 5 spot of the NFC picture, Tom Brady & Co. claimed the fourth of seven total berths in the conference.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals will look to hold onto control of the NFC’s final wild-card slot with a win over divisional rival San Francisco 49ers on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday Morning Update
All three Saturday NFL games feature teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
The Buccaneers are not officially in yet, but are comfortable taking on the Lions as nearly double-digit favorites. The Cardinals control their own destiny for what looks like the last playoff spot in the NFC. And the Dolphins need a win to hold off the Ravens for the AFC’s final wild card.
AFC Standings & Playoff Scenarios
Miami has a hold on the final spot in the AFC playoff picture, but it’s not a strong grip: Our projections give the Dolphins a 50% chance to make the playoffs, but the Ravens a 88% chance. The Dolphins must beat the Raiders as short road favorites on Saturday because the Ravens have a much easier test as 10-point home favorites against the Giants on Sunday.
The Colts and Steelers meet on Sunday in a game with big playoff implications. Pittsburgh can breathe easier with a win because it would clinch the AFC North. A Cleveland loss would also clinches the division for Pittsburgh — though that seems unlikely considering the Browns are 10-point favorites against the Jets. Despite their 10 wins, the Colts have not officially clinched a spot but can with a win and help from others: Either a Baltimore loss or Miami loss would do it.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, Cleveland needs a win to stay alive in the division, but a win paired with a loss from either Baltimore, Miami or Indianapolis clinches a spot for Baker Mayfield and Co.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs can officially claim the conference’s only first-round bye with a win or a loss from either the Bills or Steelers.
Finally, Tennessee has a chance to clinch the AFC South, but it would mean upsetting Green Bay. A Titans win and a Colts loss means a division championship for Tennessee. Just a win, or a loss for the Dolphins or Ravens, clinches a playoff spot for the Titans.
NFC Standings & Playoff Scenarios
No team can clinch a playoff spot on Saturday, but the Cardinals can take a step closer by taking care of business as 5.5-point favorites against the 49ers, putting the pressure on the Bears on Sunday. A Cardinals win and Bears loss clinches a spot for Arizona and eliminates Chicago. The Bears are 7-point favorites on the road against the Jacksonville “tanking-for-Trevor” Jaguars.
The Bucs are in with a win or Bears loss, but no longer have an outside chance at the division — the Saints clinched the NFC South on Friday.
The Seahawks and Rams meet on Sunday with the NFC West on the line. Seattle clinches the division with a win at home. Los Angeles at least clinches a playoff spot with a win, or losses from either Arizona or Chicago.
The NFC East can finally be decided this week if Washington can beat Carolina, but the chances of that may hinge on who starts at quarterback for the Football Team. Washington also needs the Giants to lose to the Ravens.
The race for the first-round bye is much tighter in the NFC, though Green Bay can clinch it this week with a win and Seattle loss.
NFL Playoff Bracket Predictions
Below is how we project the end-of-season bracket heading into Saturday.
How did we project these brackets? We used our model to project the top-four seeds of each conference by ranking the most likely division winners by their chances to land the Nos. 1-4 seeds. Then, we identified teams with the next highest playoff odds, and assigned the subsequent standings based on highest average wins.