Patriots

NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups, standings after Week 15

Patriots

The playoff races in the NFL intensified in Week 15 thanks to several thrilling finishes, including the San Francisco 49ers losing the NFC's No. 1 seed on a last-second touchdown by the Atlanta Falcons.

In the AFC, the top four seeds all won, which sets up many pivotal matchups over the final two weeks of the regular season.

Here's a look at the updated AFC and NFC playoff pictures based on the outcome of the Week 15 games. This story will be updated as more games conclude.

AFC
1. Baltimore Ravens, 12-2, AFC North winner: Bye week

The Ravens are in a prime position to secure the No. 1 seed after clinching the AFC North title with Thursday night's win over the New York Jets. A Week 16 victory over the Cleveland Browns would clinch homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs for Baltimore. 

2. New England Patriots, 11-3, AFC East leader: Bye week
The Patriots recovered from a lackluster first half Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals to earn a comfortable 34-13 victory to clinch a playoff berth. There's still more work to do for the Pats, however, because a first-round bye has not yet been sealed. New England can clinch the No. 2 seed with wins in both of its final two regular season games. The margin for error is pretty slim, though. The Patriots cannot afford to finish with the same record as the Chiefs or Texans because both teams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the defending champs. The Patriots will host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday, and a win would secure the division title for Tom Brady and Co.

 

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3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4, AFC West winner) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6, second wild card)

The Chiefs kept the pressure on the Patriots by cruising to an easy 23-3 win over the Denver Broncos at a snowy Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City could still move up to the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round playoff bye because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England. KC finishes with winnable games versus the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers.

The Steelers lost 17-10 at home to the Bills on Sunday night, but Pittsburgh still occupies the second wild card spot over the Tennessee Titans because it has a better win percentage in conference games.

4. Houston Texans (9-5, AFC South leader) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (10-4, first wild card)
The Texans earned a massive Week 15 victory over the Titans with first place in the AFC South at stake. Houston now has a one-game lead in the division title race and the inside track to a home playoff game in the Wild Card round. The Titans and Texans will play once more in Week 17. The Texans could still finish as the No. 3 seed because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs after beating them earlier this season.

The Bills clinched a playoff spot with Sunday night's win over the Steelers. Buffalo remains one game behind New England in the AFC East title race entering Saturday's much-anticipated Week 16 showdown at Gillette Stadium.

In the Hunt
7. Tennessee Titans, 8-6
8. Cleveland Browns, 6-8
9. Oakland Raiders, 6-8

NFC
1. Seattle Seahawks, 11-3, NFC West leader: Bye week
The Seahawks staved off a late Carolina Panthers comeback attempt to earn a 30-24 victory on the road. However, the biggest win for the Seahawks came Sunday evening when the 49ers lost in the final seconds of their game against the Falcons. San Francisco's defeat vaulted Seattle up to the No. 1 seed because the Seahawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker from their Week 10 road win over the 49ers. These two teams will play one more at Seattle in Week 17.

It also should be noted that the Seahawks currently own the tiebreaker over the Packers based on win percentage in common games.

2. Green Bay Packers, 11-3, NFC North leader: Bye week
The Packers keep winning, but they haven't been impressive doing it. Green Bay hosted the rival Bears at Lambeau Field and escaped with a 21-13 victory to keep its hold on first place in the NFC North. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed just 16 of 33 pass attempts for 203 yards and a touchdown. The Packers secured a playoff spot with the Rams' loss, and they can clinch the division title with a Week 16 road win over the Minnesota Vikings.

 

3. New Orleans Saints (11-3, NFC South winner) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (10-4, second wild card)
The Saints closed out Week 15 with a "Monday Night Football" victory over the Indianapolis Colts. New Orleans cannot finish below the No. 3 seed, but it needs help to earn a first-round bye. The Saints lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the 49ers after a Week 14 defeat to San Francisco, and they also are behind the Packers based on win percentage in conference games.

The Vikings beat the Chargers 39-10 on the road, and they can still earn a home playoff game by winning the NFC North. Minnesota must beat the Packers at home next week to have any chance at winning the division.

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-7, NFC East leader) vs. 5. San Francisco 49ers (11-3, first wild card)
The Cowboys entered Week 15 having lost four of their last five games, but they gave a tremendous performance Sunday in a 44-15 win over the Rams. Dallas will win the NFC East and clinch a home playoff game if it beats the rival Philadelphia Eagles on the road in Week 16.

The 49ers' heartbreaking loss to the Falcons dropped them from the No. 1 seed to potentially having to begin the playoffs on the road during Wild Card Weekend. However, they did clinch a playoff berth Sunday with the Rams' loss to the Cowboys. San Francisco also has a tough end to the regular season with matchups against the Rams and Seahawks. That said, back-to-back victories to end the season would give the 49ers the No. 1 seed.

In the Hunt
Los Angeles Rams, 8-6 
Philadelphia Eagles, 7-7

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