With 16 weeks of regular season play in the book, the NFL’s playoff picture is getting clearer even though there is still the possibility for some considerable movement this week. However, the New England Patriots are well-positioned to earn a first-round bye for the 10th year in a row: the team defeated the Buffalo Bills 24-17 on Saturday to lock up the AFC East and stay ahead of their only competitors, the Kansas City Chiefs, for the number two seed.
With that being said, let’s check out what the playoff seeding in the conference currently looks like:
AFC playoff picture
- Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
- New England Patriots (12-3)
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
- Houston Texans (10-5)
- Buffalo Bills (10-5)
- Tennessee Titans (8-7)
In the hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7), Oakland Raiders (7-8)
The Ravens locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs on Sunday by beating the Cleveland Browns 31-15 on the road. And with the Bills being locked into the number five seed, this means that four spots are still to be decided: the Patriots can either finish as the second or third seed, while the Chiefs can end up anywhere from number two to number four. The Texans could earn the third seed still, in case Kansas City loses.
The race for the wildcard spots, meanwhile, comes down to three teams: the Titans need a win over Houston on Sunday to qualify, with the Steelers needing both a victory against Baltimore and a Tennessee loss to get back into the playoff picture. The Raiders, on the other hand, need to have numerous things go their way — including losses by both the Titans and Steelers — to jump into the sixth seed. It’s not impossible, but unlikely.
NFC playoff picture
- San Francisco 49ers (12-3)
- Green Bay Packers (12-3)
- New Orleans Saints (12-3)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
- Minnesota Vikings (10-5)
In the hunt: Dallas Cowboys (7-8)
The NFC remains wide open, with four teams still in a position to earn the top seed: the 49ers need to beat the Seahawks on Sunday to stay atop the conference, with the Packers and Saints also playing divisional opponents — the Detroit Lions and Carolina, respectively — to finish the year. Meanwhile, there is still a theoretical chance that the Cowboys end up winning the NFC East despite losing in Philadelphia over the weekend.
Only the Vikings are locked into their seed: they will play the number three seed, whoever it is, on wildcard weekend.