NFL Playoff Picture: Updated seeds after Week 15

AP Photo/Don Wright

The NFL has a new leader atop the AFC and a total of five playoff spots accounted for. That leaves seven slots left to be claimed in the final two weeks of the season.

Here's what we know with Week 15 in the books, using ESPN's Football Power Index when appropriate to indicate favorites.


1. New England Patriots (11-3)

Sunday's wild game in Pittsburgh helped the Patriots clinch the AFC East and reclaim the pole position for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Jaguars' 10th victory means the Patriots haven't clinched a first-round bye, but they'll have a chance to wrap that up with home games against the Bills in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)

The catch rule bit the Steelers and probably scuttled their chances to clinch home-field advantage. Because of the head-to-head tiebreaker, they'll need to win one more game than the Patriots over the final two weeks of the season. The Steelers have already won the AFC North, but because they lost to the Jaguars in Week 5 and would thus lose a tiebreaker with Jacksonville, Pittsburgh is not yet guaranteed a first-round bye.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)

The Jaguars clinched a playoff berth with Sunday's win over the Texans and could wrap up the AFC South with one more victory (or a Tennessee loss). But why stop there? Amazingly, the Jaguars are still in play for the AFC's top seed and could win a tiebreaker with either the Patriots or Steelers, or both. Wouldn't that be an incredible turn of events at the end of a wild season?

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

The Chiefs rebounded Saturday after allowing their AFC West lead to shrink as small as possible without losing it entirely. Their victory over the Chargers clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams, in essence giving the Chiefs a two-game lead over Los Angeles with two games to play.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-6)

If you're going to lose in the midst of a playoff race, you had better hope it comes against a team in the opposite conference. Sunday's loss to the 49ers didn't help the Titans, but it didn't hurt them as much as if it had been to an AFC opponent. As a result, the Titans still are positioned ahead of both the Bills and Ravens, based on the conference-record tiebreaker. FPI still gives the Titans a 68.5 percent chance to make the playoffs.

6. Buffalo Bills (8-6)

For the moment, we have the Bills in the sixth seed, based on the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Ravens. But after next week, both the Bills and Ravens will have enough common games (minimum of four required) to shift the applicable tiebreaker. And so the Bills could win on Sunday at the Patriots and still drop behind the Ravens in the seedings -- if the Ravens beat the Colts.

In the hunt:

  • Baltimore Ravens (8-6): As noted, a win Saturday against the Colts would vault the Ravens into the No. 6 seed, regardless of the Bills' outcome.

  • Los Angeles Chargers (7-7): The Chargers need help from the Ravens or Bills -- or the Chiefs -- if L.A. is going to make the playoffs. Winning on Saturday in Kansas City might have been their best chance, but that didn't happen.


1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)

Sunday's victory over the Giants clinched a first-round playoff bye, meaning the Eagles will finish no lower than No. 2 in the conference. They could clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as early as Week 16 with a win or a Vikings loss. Philadelphia will have a favorable schedule to do it, with home games against the Raiders in Week 16 and the Cowboys in the regular-season finale.

2. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

A dominant performance against the Bengals lifted the Vikings to their second NFC North title in four seasons under coach Mike Zimmer. They're still in play for the conference's top seed, but they can't win a tiebreaker with the Eagles. So they'll need to win their remaining two games, in addition to having the Eagles finish 0-2, for it to happen. They can clinch a first-round bye as early as next week.

3. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

Although they put themselves in great position to win the NFC West with Sunday's demolition of the Seahawks, the Rams have not yet clinched a playoff berth. That could happen as early as next week; and in reality, they would need to finish 0-2 -- and the Seahawks 2-0 -- to not win the division. (Seattle would beat Los Angeles in the division-record tiebreaker if both teams finish 10-6.)

4. New Orleans Saints (10-4)

The Saints took a step closer to winning the NFC South with Sunday's victory over the Jets, but they aren't there yet. They hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Panthers, but the Falcons can still leapfrog both teams and win the division with a 3-0 finish. Regardless, FPI gives the Saints a 69.7 percent chance to win the division.

5. Carolina Panthers (10-4)

The Panthers don't have an easy path to the division title. But they should be able to clinch a wild-card berth with one more victory. FPI gives them a 19.5 percent chance to win the NFC South but a 94.4 percent to earn a wild-card spot.

6. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

The Falcons grinded out a victory Monday night in Tampa Bay to keep pace with the rest of the NFC playoff field. They have eliminated the Packers and hold what amounts to be a two-game lead over the Lions, Seahawks and Cowboys. Atlanta's hopes of winning the NFC South outright remain in play as well. The Falcons will clinch the division if they win their final two games.

In the hunt:

  • Detroit Lions (8-6), Seattle Seahawks (8-6) and Dallas Cowboys (8-6): The Falcons’ victory over the Buccaneers was a big blow to all three teams’ playoff chances. Any of them would need to finish 2-0 as well as have the Falcons go 0-2 to overtake Atlanta. The Lions have the best chance if that happens, and would win tiebreakers at 10-6 with either the Cowboys or Seahawks.