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NFL playoff picture: Projecting the seeds & matchups for AFC, NFC brackets in Week 15

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The Eagles became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth in Week 14 with their 48-22 blowout win over the Giants.

Other teams across the league will look to join them in the 2022 NFL postseason during Week 15.

Sure, some playoff spots have been virtually clinched at this point, but there are mathematical scenarios that could keep all out of action. There are plenty of teams still vying for playoff spots as the NFL enters its final four weeks of the regular season, so it will be important to monitor who is moving up and down the standings in each conference.

Several teams have key clinching scenarios in Week 15. Those will be the biggest games to watch this week, as the playoff picture could become a lot clearer if those break in a certain way. That includes the likes of Bills vs. Dolphins, Chiefs vs. Texans, Vikings vs. Colts and Commanders vs. Giants, to name a few.

The AFC is quite muddled at this point. Still, a couple of teams can clinch their divisions with either a win, a loss by another team or both.

As for the NFC, Philadelphia has clinched a playoff berth, and it can come close to clinching the NFC East and No. 1 seed with another win. Save for that, the Vikings have yet another chance to clinch their division while the 49ers could wrap up the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks on Thursday.

Sporting News makes game picks every week, so those can help you see whether your favorite team’s chances of making the playoffs will improve or lessen in Week 15. There will be a lot of competition for those playoff spots either way, especially with seven teams now making the NFL postseason.

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Below is a breakdown of the playoff picture in each conference, as 14 teams get ready to play deeper into January.

NFL playoff picture: AFC projections

  • No. 1 seed: Buffalo Bills

Games remaining: vs. Dolphins, at Bears, at Bengals, vs. Patriots

Buffalo is on a four-game winning streak and is starting to separate itself from the rest of the AFC East. The Bills have beaten the Patriots and Jets in recent weeks and can take a three-game divisional lead on the Dolphins with a win in Week 15. Their grasp on the No. 1 seed is more tenuous, as a few teams are either tied or one game back of the Bills in the race for the AFC’s only playoff bye week.

  • No. 2 seed: Kansas City Chiefs

Games remainingat Texans, vs. Seahawks, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

Kansas City survived against Denver in Week 14. It built a massive lead but the Broncos got within six points by the end of it. As such, it was another solid but unimpressive win for the Chiefs.

Kansas City is playing the Texans, Seahawks, Broncos and Raiders to close the season. Only one of those teams, the Seahawks, currently has a winning record. The Chiefs should finish the year strong as a result and could challenge Buffalo for the No. 1 seed.

  • No. 3 seed: Baltimore Ravens

Games remaining: at Browns, vs. Falcons, vs. Steelers, at Bengals

The Ravens won their first game without Lamar Jackson (knee sprain) in a 16-14 affair against the Steelers. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley was solid but he suffered a concussion that will put his status in jeopardy. The Ravens may be forced to start undrafted rookie Anthony Brown because of that, so it may be hard for them to hold off the Bengals as the two teams fight for a division title.

  • No. 4 seed: Tennessee Titans

Games remaining: at Chargers, vs. Texans, vs. Cowboys, at Texans

The Titans appear to be regressing, as they have lost three consecutive games since earning a 27-17 win over the Packers on “Thursday Night Football.” Still, the Titans have a two-game lead in the AFC South and have two games remaining against the lowly Texans. That gives them the edge in the division race over the Jaguars.

Still, it is worth wondering whether Tennessee will be able to make any sort of noise should it make it into the playoffs.

  • No. 5 seed: Cincinnati Bengals

Games remaining: at Buccaneers, at Patriots, vs. Bills, vs. Ravens

The Bengals began the season 0-2 but have gone 9-2 since then. They have won five games in a row and recently beat the Chiefs, proving that they are one of the AFC’s best teams. Cincinnati remains tied with Baltimore in the NFC North race but the Ravens own a head-to-head tiebreaker over them. As such, they will remain the top wild-card team.

  • No. 6 seed: Miami Dolphins

Games remaining: at Bills, vs. Packers, at Patriots, vs. Jets

The Dolphins are mired in another mini-skid as they have lost back-to-back games against the 49ers and Chargers. Tua Tagovailoa has struggled in each of those outings, especially when he completed just 10 of 28 passes against Los Angeles for 145 yards and a touchdown.

Things won’t get easier for the Dolphins in Week 15, as they have to play the Bills in a potential snow game. If they drop that one, they will be teetering on the playoff brink. They still have three divisional games left, however, so they are in control of their own destiny (to an extent).

  • No. 7 seed: New England Patriots

Games remaining: at Raiders, vs. Bengals, vs. Dolphins, at Bills

The Patriots leapfrogged the Jets and Chargers for the No. 7 seed in the AFC. That represents the lone change in the playoff picture between Weeks 14 and 15.

New England’s defense put on a show against Arizona while rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. helped support Mac Jones on the ground after an injury to Rhamondre Stevens. The Patriots still have a streaky offense, which has led to frustration with both Jones at Matt Patricia at times, but as long as their defense plays well, they will have a chance to find success.

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NFL playoff picture: NFC projections

AJ Brown and Jalen Hurts
  • No. 1 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Games remaining: at Bears, at Cowboys, vs. Saints, vs. Giants

The Eagles are the lone NFL team that has clinched a playoff berth so far, and they have a clear path to the NFC’s No. 1 seed as well. They are two games ahead of the Vikings and Cowboys and currently own head-to-head tiebreakers against each of them.

Philadelphia looks like the best team in the league and should be a major threat during the postseason. If they clinch a bye, that will only make them harder to beat.

  • No. 2 seed: Minnesota Vikings

Games remaining: vs. Colts, vs. Giants, at Packers, at Bears

The Vikings haven’t quite been able to wrap up the NFC North yet, but they need only a win or a Lions loss to clinch the division. They will have a good chance to earn a victory against the Colts (4-8-1) in Week 15.

Despite their solid 10-3 record, the Vikings have only won a single game by more than one score. That came back in Week 1 against the Packers. They could continue to regress a little as a result, but they still aren’t likely to fall out of the top four seeds in the conference.

  • No. 3 seed: San Francisco 49ers

Games remaining: at Seahawks, vs. Commanders, at Raiders, vs. Cardinals

Brock Purdy’s first start for the 49ers went swimmingly, as he helped lead the team to a 35-7 shellacking of the Buccaneers while throwing for 185 yards and two touchdowns. It looks like he’s not a huge downgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo, so San Francisco should still be able to get to the postseason. The team can clinch the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 15.

  • No. 4 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Games remaining: vs. Bengals, at Cardinals, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

The Buccaneers are the lone sub-.500 team currently making the playoffs. Their path to the postseason isn’t secure, as just one game separates them from the Panthers and Falcons in the NFC South.

Tom Brady has been under a lot of pressure this season and that is adversely impacting the Bucs. However, if the team can just beat Carolina and Atlanta, it should make it into the postseason even with a potential 8-9 record.

  • No. 5 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Games remaining: at Jaguars, at Eagles, at Titans, at Commanders

The Cowboys suffered a scare against the Texans but were ultimately able to pull off a last-minute win against the NFL’s worst team. Now, Dallas will get to take on another team outside of the playoff picture, the Jaguars. The Cowboys should be able to win that one, but their bigger focus will be on beating the Eagles the following week. If they lose to Philadelphia, the Eagles will officially clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker against them.

  • No. 6 seed: Washington Commanders

Games remaining: vs. Giants, at 49ers, vs. Browns, vs. Cowboys

The Commanders had a great Week 14, and they didn’t even play. Washington was on bye but by virtue of losses by the Giants and Seahawks, the Commanders moved from the NFC’s No. 8 seed to No. 6 overall. They now have a 73 percent chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.

Washington can elevate those chances with a Week 15 win over the Giants. It marks the second time in as many games that the Commanders have played New York, and the winner will control its own destiny regarding the playoffs.

  • No. 7 seed: New York Giants

Games remaining: at Commanders, at Vikings, vs. Colts, at Eagles

The Giants started the season 6-1 but are just 1-4-1 in their last six games. They have a tough schedule to finish the season, as they are facing three teams currently in the playoff picture, and all of those games are on the road. It’s easy to imagine the Giants slipping out of the playoffs because of that.

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Current NFL playoff picture

Here’s how the standings in both conferences break down entering Week 14, along with the other teams that are still in the playoff hunt. 

Rank Team Record Clinched
1 Bills 10-3 N/a
2 Chiefs 10-3 N/a
3 Ravens 9-4 N/a
4 Titans 7-6 N/a
5 Bengals 9-4 N/a
6 Dolphins 8-5 N/a
7 Patriots 7-6 N/a

In the hunt: Chargers (7-6), Jets (7-6), Jaguars (5-8), Raiders (5-8), Browns (5-8), Steelers (5-8)

Rank Team Record Clinched
1 Eagles 12-1 Playoffs
2 Vikings 10-3 N/a
3 49ers 9-4 N/a
4 Buccaneers 6-7 N/a
5 Cowboys 10-3 N/a
6 Commanders 7-5-1 N/a
7 Giants 7-5-1 N/a

In the hunt: Seahawks (7-6), Lions (6-7), Falcons (5-8), Packers (5-8), Panthers (5-8), Saints (4-9)

Credit: sportingnews.com

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