2019 NFL Playoff Picture: Scenarios Headed to Week 16

First things first. Here’s what the playoffs would look like if the season ended this second. 

Of course the bracket is likely to have some movement before the postseason begins. In the NFC, the top seed Seattle could easily end up with the 5 seed, while the 2 seed Packers could slide to the 6 seed. 

The NFL’s tiebreaking procedures can be confusing on the surface but here’s a quick primer: 1) Head-to-head record), 2) Division record, 3) Conference record 4) Record against common opponents. 5) Strength of schedule. Luckily we don’t often have to dig digger than that. 

Let’s take a ride through the playoff scenarios for each team that has not been yet eliminated.


1. Baltimore (12-2)

Baltimore needs just one more win to secure the top seed and home-field throughout the playoffs. Remaining games: Week 16 at Cleveland and Week 17 vs. Pittsburgh.

2. New England (11-3)

The Patriots need just one more win to secure the second seed. Even if Buffalo wins Sunday and/or the two teams wind up with the same record and same divisional and conference record, the Pats holds the  common opponent breaker. They beat the Eagles, the Bills lost to Philly. However, if New England loses their last two and Buffalo wins out, the Bills would win the AFC East. If New England and Kansas City finish with the same record, the Chiefs would claim the higher seed since they beat the Pats earlier this season. Remaining games: Week 16 vs. Bills. Week 17 vs. Dolphins.

3. Kansas City (10-4)

The Chiefs have clinched the AFC West and will likely stay in the 3 seed. They hold the tiebreakers over the Patriots and Ravens, having beat both opponents. But as mentioned above, the Chiefs hold the tiebreaker over the Pats. Remaining games: Week 16 at Bears. Week 17 vs. Chargers.

4. Houston (9-5)

The Texans are one win away from the AFC South title. They could move up to the 3 seed if they end up with the same record as the Chiefs since they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Remaining games: Week 16 at Bucs. Week 17 vs. Titans. 

5. Bills (10-4)

The Bills have clinched a playoff spot and it’s highly likely they’ll enter the postseason as the 5 seed. They can still win the AFC East if they win out and the Pats lose their final two. Remaining games: Week 16 at Pats. Week 17 vs. Jets.

6. Steelers (8-6)

The Steelers remained in the final slot as their Sunday Night Football loss because the Titans also lost. Remining games: Week 16 at Jets. Week 17 at Ravens

Still hopeful

Titans (8-6)

The Titans simply need to win one more game than the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs. They can still win the AFC South if they win out and the Texans lose their final two. Week 16 vs. Saints Week 17 at Texans

Longshots: Browns (6-8), Raiders (6-8) 


1. Seattle (11-3)

The Seahawks control their own destiny. Win the next two and they have homefield throughout the playoffs. But even if they win next week and San Francisco loses in Week 16 but beats Seattle in Week 17, the Seahawks would be relegated to the wildcard round as San Francisco holds the strength of schedule tiebreaker. Week 17 should be a beauty. Remaining games: Week 16 vs. Cards. Week 17 vs. 49ers.

2. Packers (11-3)

The Packers have a strong path to the division title given that they hold a two-game lead over the Vikings in the divisional record tiebreaker. But crazier things have happened. Remaining games: Week 16 at Vikings. Week 17 at Lions. 

3. Saints (11-3)

With the NFC South already clinched, the red-hot Saints are looking to move up and gain a bye week. Remaining games: Week 16: at Titans. Week 17 at Panthers. 

4. Cowboys (7-7)

This week against the Eagles will likely decide the NFC East. If the Cowboys win, they win the division.  If the Eagles win, then also win Week 17 they will be division champions and hosting a playoff game. Remaining games:  Week 16 at Eagles. Week 17 vs. Redskins.

5. 49ers (11-3)

Sunday’s loss to the Falcons was not great but there’s still a path to the division crown and possible home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the 49ers. Win the last two games. Even if they lose and beat Seattle, they hold the strength of schedule tiebreaker, but would likely be supplanted by New Orleans or green Bay for the top spot. Remining games: Week 16 vs. Rams. Week 17 at Seahawks. 

6. Vikings (10-4) 

The Vikings are not officially in the postseason yet but it’s very likely. They get in with a win Sunday or a Rams loss. If neither happens, the same drill repeats in Wek 17. Remaining games: Week 16 vs. Packers. Week 7 vs. Bears

Still hopeful

Eagles (7-7)

As mentioned above, they win out and they are NFC East champions.

Not quite as hopeful but still technically alive

Rams (8-6)