NFL Playoff Predictions

Luke Brennaman

Now that we are officially through 15 weeks of the NFL season one thing is for certain: nothing is guaranteed. In both the AFC and NFC numerous teams are fighting for a finite amount of playoff spots. Teams like the Detroit Lions have won six of their last seven to insert themselves into playoff consideration. Meanwhile, the Titans have lost four straight as they are barely hanging on to their AFC playoff spot. It will be all said and done in a few weeks, but here’s how I think it will turn out.


In the NFC there is an enormous record gap when comparing the division winners to the teams chasing after wild card spots. Since the Eagles, Vikings, and 49ers established their dominance early on, not too many divisional races are still in the air. 

  • Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)- The birds will take the overall one seed in the NFC, and the playoffs will run through Philly. This Eagles team has very few flaws: an MVP candidate quarterback, coach of the year nominee in Nick Siriani, and more importantly, a complete team. The Eagles will have the luxury of a first round BYE and will host all of their playoff games. 
  • Minnesota Vikings (11-3)- After a miracle win on Saturday afternoon the Vikings still have the 2 seed in the NFC. This team has done incredibly well when looking at their record, but there is plenty of doubt in the air. They only have a +2 point differential on the season which doesn’t add up for an eleven win team. The Vikes have earned a playoff spot and have plenty of more to prove. 
  • San Francisco 49ers (10-4)- After Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks started off with the lead in the NFC West everything is now starting to fall into place. The Seahawks have  lost four of their last five, and with the 9ers catching fire, winning six in a row, the NFC West champs will be from Santa Clara. Kyle Shanahan has done a tremendous job getting this team to the point they currently lie. The 49ers have lost two starting quarterbacks in Trey Lance and Jimmy Garppolo, a 2021 MVP candidate in Debo Samuel, and have also been battling injuries on the defensive side of the football. However, nothing has slowed this team down. Bang Bang Niner Gang will head into the playoffs with serious momentum if they handle business in their final 3. 
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)- It feels illegal to talk about the NFC South after going through the other division races. The Tom Brady led Buccaneers are doing everything they can to give up their playoff spot to either the Panthers, Saints, or Falcons who all sit at 5-9. If I have learned anything from watching football over the past decade it is to never count out TB12. The Bucs will go onto win the division title and somehow sneak into the playoffs with a record below 500. 
  • Wild Card Spot #1: Dallas Cowboys (10-4)- After an embarrassing loss to the Jags on Sunday, the Cowboys are going to have to settle with a wild card spot. They blew a 17 point 3rd quarter lead in the loss which has taken them out of the division race with the Eagles. 
  • Wild Card Spot #2: New York Giants (8-5-1)- The G-men got a HUGE win on Sunday night to give them the tiebreaker over the Commanders. This Giants team started 6-1 and have since only won two of their last five. Their remaining schedule forces them to play the Vikings, Colts, and Eagles in the last three weeks. With both the Vikings and Eagles games being on the road nothing is going to come easy for the Giants. However, they could get lucky in week 18 if the Eagles decide to rest their starters. 
  •  Wild Card Spot #3: Detroit Lions (7-7)- I have the Lions sneaking into the playoffs as the final wild card team. They could become the first team since 1990 to overcome a 1-6 start and reach the playoffs. The Lions have the easiest remaining schedule of the other contending NFC teams. They are set to play the Panthers, Bears, and Packers to close out the regular season. This easy schedule puts them ahead of the Commanders and Seahawks, who have very tough future matchups. 

In the Hunt:

Washington Commanders (7-6-1)- The Commanders loss on Sunday vs the Giants dropped their playoff chances from 51.7% to 21.4% according to The Athletic. They were coming off BYE and had plenty of time to prepare for the SNF showdown. I don’t see them coming back from this one. Washington still has to play the 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys. I only see them winning one more at the most. 

Seahawks (7-7)- The Sea Birds have done themselves no favors. In the last 5 weeks they are 1-4 with 3 losses against below .500 football teams. They blew the division race and are currently blowing the wild card race. I’m not writing off Geno Smith just yet, but with the Jets and Chiefs the next two weeks it’s going to take a miracle in Seattle.  

Now to the AFC … 

The AFC has been the conference to watch this season. With young arms at the forefront such as Allen, Maholmes, and Burrow it is far more exciting than the NFC. However, there are some other contending quarterbacks who plan on making a name for themselves. Guys like Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa look to make pushes to insert their respective squads into the playoffs.  

  • Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)- The Chiefs have been dominant all year and once again I see the AFC playoffs going through Arrowhead. Through 15 weeks the Bills currently hold the top spot in the conference with their head-to-head win over the Chiefs. I think the Bills will end up losing to the Bengals on the road in week 17 to blow the lead.
  • Buffalo Bills (11-3)- The Bills have completely turned it around after their back-to-back losses in week 8 and 9. Now winners of their last 5, the Bills look to win out and earn the first round BYE + home field advantage in the playoffs. The key matchup to watch is their January 2nd, Monday Night Football duel with the Bengals. That game could also insert the Bengals into AFC champion consideration. 
  • Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)- The Bengals are heating up at the right time. They have yet to lose in both November and December. It looked like the Super Bowl hangover had hit the Bengals after their 4-4 start, but now they are right back in the mix. Zach Taylor’s team has won 6 straight with some huge wins along the way. The Bengals have topped the Chiefs, Titans, and Buccaneers during this run, but they still have a lot more to prove. In the final three weeks Cincinnati has to play the Patriots, Bills, and Ravens. I see the Bengals locking up the AFC North and potentially even coming for the AFC crown. 
  • Tennessee Titans (7-7)- The Titans looked promising at the start of this season and now have gone into the gutter. They have now lost four in a row and are on the verge of blowing the division race. The Jaguars sit at 6-8 and play the Titans in week 18 for what could be the AFC South tie-breaker. As much as I want the Jags and Trevor Lawerence to get into the playoffs, Vrabel and the Titans will find a way to pull it out. 
  • Baltimore Ravens (9-5)- After blowing the division lead last week to the Bengals, Baltimore is sitting in the first wild card position. They have a manageable remaining schedule and could play in a huge week 18 game against the Bengals in an attempt to take back the AFC North. 
  • Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)- The Chargers are heating up and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. I think they win out and finish the regular season at 11-6 with either the first or second wild card spot.
  • Miami Dolphins (8-6)- It is going to be a war in the AFC to decide who gets the final playoff spot; I see it being the boys in Miami. Mike Mcdaniel needs his team to make one last push to get in. They have lost two tight ones to the Chargers and Bills which extends their losing streak to three. I see them winning two of their last three to get in over division rivals Jets and Patriots. 

In the Hunt: 

Jets (7-7)- After losing a heartbreaker on Sunday to the Lions the Jets have some work to do. They need to put themselves in a position to have a “win and you’re in” type of game against the Dolphins in week 18. If you ask me, I don’t see the Jets winning one more game the rest of the year. ELIMINATED. 

Patriots (7-7)- If the Jets loss on Sunday was considered a heartbreaker then the Patriot’s loss was a heartbreak on steroids. The Pats blew a touchdown lead in the finals seconds against the Raiders and then proceeded to lose in regulation on the final play (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it). They have lost all momentum and still have to play the Bengals, Bills, and Dolphins. No chance this team gets into the playoffs. Thank Jacobi Meyers for that one! 

Jags (6-8)- The fighting Jags are still alive. Their only hope is to catch the Titans and win the division, which is possible. They will need to beat the Jets and Texans in their next two games to set up the week 18 finale vs Tennessee. I personally would love to see the Jags sneak in and make the AFC even more interesting.