As we wrap up week 14 on the NFL calendar, the NFL playoff picture is really beginning to take shape. This has been a wild season in many aspects, and the playoff picture in both conferences prove that. Without further ado, let’s get into a breakdown of the NFL playoff picture, and what to watch for over the final stretch of the season.
1) Dolphins 9-3
2) Ravens 9-3
3) Chiefs 8-4
4) Jaguars 8-4
As you can probably tell, the race for the #1 seed and a first-round bye is very intense. All of these teams have the same amount of losses, and are separated by just one win. After the Ravens had their bye during this past week, every team now has five games remaining. Five weeks left, and all four division leaders are separated by one game. This will be a very exciting race to watch as the season comes to an end.
5) Steelers 7-5
6) Colts 7-5
7) Browns 7-5
Two AFC North rivals, the Steelers and Browns occupy the first two wild-card spots. Both of these teams have been surprisingly good despite their situations. The Steelers have been awful on offense, yet they’ve managed to squeak out seven wins. The Browns have had subpar quarterback play, but have also managed to put themselves right in the thick of things anyways.
Still, the Colts have been the most surprising team here. Indianapolis had no expectations coming into the season, and have been without their rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson for most of it. Still, they’ve got a winning record, and with their easy schedule to round out the year, they’re a legitimate playoff threat.
In the Hunt
8) Texans 7-5
9) Broncos 6-6
10) Bills 6-6
11) Bengals 6-6
12) Chargers 5-7
13) Raiders 5-7
The Texans are each tied in record with Indianapolis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, yet are out via tiebreaker. Denver is just a game behind at 6-6. Both of these teams have been surprisingly good this year, and both seem like a very scary first-round matchup. If these teams take care of business to end the year, they shouldn’t need much help.
The Bills and Bengals meanwhile, have each had very disappointing seasons. Both of these teams were considered Super Bowl contenders before the year started. The Bills can only afford to maybe lose one game, so their back is up against the wall. The Bengals have already lost Joe Burrow for the rest of the year, so their season is essentially over.
Finally, the Raiders and Chargers. At 5-7, they’ll need to win every game to end the year, which includes matchups against Kansas City and Denver. Los Angeles is essentially in the same boat. They’ll both need most of the teams above them to lose a game or two or three as well.
1) Eagles 10-2
2) 49ers 9-3
3) Lions 9-3
4) Falcons 6-6
In the NFC, it seems like there are two top dogs, as there was last year as well. The Eagles and 49ers seem to be a level above the rest of the conference, and the 49ers just destroyed the Eagles in Philadelphia this weekend. After them, we have the Lions at 9-3. They’re a very formidable threat as well, but they have had some bad losses as well. Still, they’re a team you don’t want to see in the postseason.
Finally, there’s a team on here that isn’t quite like the rest. The Falcons lead their division, but at an unimpressive record of 6-6. The NFC South as a whole is a dumpster fire, with every team in a rebuilding phase. The Falcons are the most competitive at the moment though, and they would host one of the teams below.
Wild Card Race
5) Cowboys 9-3
6) Vikings 6-6
7) Packers 6-6
8) Seahawks 6-6
9) Rams 6-6
10) Saints 5-7
11) Buccaneers 5-7
The NFC has a Wild Card race, but it’s a bit more mediocre than the one in the AFC. The Cowboys lead it, and they’re actually looking like a threat in the NFC this year. If it wasn’t for the Eagles dominance, they wouldn’t even have to be in the Wild Card race at all.
Then, we have six teams separated by one game. The Vikings and Seahawks are still at .500, but in this race, that’s enough to be in the mix. Both of these teams had a several game lead on the three below them, but both have now lost consecutive games and this race has become far more close because of it. The Vikings have held onto their spot, but with the Packers win this week, the Seahawks lost their spot to Green Bay.
Then we’ve got the Rams, Bucs and Saints. Los Angeles has put an impressive couple of weeks together, and have climbed their way back into a tie for the final Wild Card spot. The Saints on the other hand, are fading out of the NFL playoff picture fast. Tampa Bay doesn’t seem like the biggest threat, but their division and a Wild Card spot are both still very much in play.
Same Top Dawgs
Even before the playoff race, it looks like the same couple teams that dominated the NFL and playoffs last year, will be back in the mix this year.
The Eagles and 49ers look like the far-and-away two best teams in the NFC, as they have all season. They’ll be on a collision course once playoff time comes, and one of those two will likely be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
In the AFC, last year’s runner-up Bengals seem to be out of the race with a sub-par record and a backup quarterback. The Bills remain alive in the NFL playoff picture, but they don’t seem to be as big of a threat as they were last year. Currently, out of the teams who have dominated in the past couple of years, the Chiefs look like the only team to keep that form this year.
New Kids on the Block
This year has been one that’s revived many franchises across the league.
In the NFC, the Lions and Falcons have crept into the playoff picture after each franchise had missed the playoffs for at least the past couple of seasons. One of these teams is a bit better than the other, but both are currently set to host a playoff game for the first time in what feels like ages.
In the AFC, however, the playoffs look a bit different than they did last year. Baltimore made the playoffs last year, but they already look like a much better team in 2023. Their 10-7 record was good, but they’ve almost matched their win total already with 9 this year. Sticking with division leaders, the Dolphins also deserve some recognition. Miami looks poised to win the AFC East for the first time since 2008.
The Wild-Card Race is almost completely comprised of new teams as well. All three current wild-card teams; the Steelers, Browns and Colts, missed the playoffs last season. The first-two team’s out of the race, Houston and Denver, also missed the playoffs last year. If 2023 has taught us anything, it’s that parity is very much alive in the AFC. The biggest question here remains: Are any of these teams good enough to beat Kansas City in the Playoffs?
Do We Know Any Potential Playoff Matchups Yet?
While there’s still about a quarter of the season left to play, some likely matchups in this NFL playoff picture are beginning to take shape.
In the NFC, there is a very likely Wild-Card matchup. Dallas is currently the first Wild-Card team, and if they don’t win their division, they’ll almost certainly earn that slot. This will pit them against either The Falcons, Saints, or Buccaneers, whichever one wins the lowly NFC South.
It’s looking like Detroit will end up as the third-place division winner, which means they’d host either Minnesota, Green Bay, Los Angeles or Seattle. Between the 49ers and Eagles, whichever team doesn’t earn the first seed will host one of these teams as well.
As for the AFC, well, it’s a bit more unclear. All four division winners are within a game of each other in the standings, so it’s tough to get a good sense of who will finish where. As for the Wild Card race, there are 9 teams that own between 5 and 7 wins, so that’s wide open as well. Seeding and Wild Card spots may be up for grabs as late as the very last Sunday of the year.