NFL Playoff Picture: How Week 15 can affect seeding

NFL Playoff Picture: How Week 15 can affect seeding
From ESPN - December 16, 2017

We are going to learn a ton about the NFL playoffs this weekend.

Unless we do not.

The right combination of events over the next two days could determine two division titles, up to four total playoff berths and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in both conferences. Here is what's at stake with the Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs matchups on Saturday, and Sunday's slate of 12 games.

(To simplify the following, I have left out most scenarios that involve the real but highly unlikely possibility of ties. If you ca not get through the weekend without that information, please see ESPN's complete rundown of Week 15 playoff scenarios.)


1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)

Week 15 matchup: vs. New England (4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday)

If the Steelers win: They would clinch a first-round bye. They can secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a Jaguars loss.

If the Steelers lose: They could be one game away from falling out of position for a first-round bye. The Patriots would have the edge for the No. 1 seed, and the Jaguars hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Pittsburgh if it comes to that.

2. New England Patriots (10-3)

Week 15 matchup: at Pittsburgh (4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday)

If the Patriots win: They would clinch the AFC East and reclaim their position atop the AFC seedings.

If the Patriots lose: They can still clinch the AFC East with a Bills loss. They can clinch a playoff berth with a Ravens loss.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)

Week 15 matchup: vs. Texans (1 p.m. ET on Sunday)

If the Jaguars win: They would clinch a playoff berth but not the AFC South.

If the Jaguars lose: They can still secure a postseason spot if both the Bills and Ravens lose, or if the Ravens lose and the Chiefs-Chargers game does not end in a tie. (Sorry, broke my no-ties rule there.)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)

Week 15 matchup: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (8:25 p.m. ET on Saturday)

If the Chiefs win: The Chiefs would establish an important head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chargers, in essence giving them a two-game lead in the division with two to play. That means the only way they would not win the AFC West is if they finished 0-2, the Chargers finished 2-0 or the Raiders finished 3-0.

If the Chiefs lose: They would no longer have control over whether they win the division, and would be fighting for tiebreaker position among wild cards. One remote tiebreaker to consider: Their current .522 strength of victory percentage is the highest among AFC contenders.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-5)

Week 15 matchup: at San Francisco (4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday)

If the Titans win: At the very least, they would keep up with the Jaguars, keeping the possibility of potentially clinching the AFC South alive by winning their final two games. But because the Titans are playing an NFC game, this is not a week for them to make tiebreaker progress in the wild-card race.

If the Titans lose: It depends on whether the Jaguars win. If Jacksonville does not, the Titans will still have a decent shot at the division. If Jacksonville does, the Titans will fall squarely into a multiple-team wild-card race.

6. Buffalo Bills (7-6)

Week 15 matchup: vs. Miami (1 p.m. ET on Sunday)

If the Bills win: It would be an important victory in the common-games tiebreaker with the Ravens, if it comes to that. At the moment, the Ravens are 3-0 against teams the Bills have or will have played. The Bills are 1-1.


1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-2)

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3)

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)


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