The NFL Playoff Picture Heading into Christmas

By Austin Miller

With just two weeks left of the NFL regular season, the playoff picture is coming more and more into focus. We are all looking forward to the post-season and the Super Bowl, but we cannot lose sight of the weeks that are still remaining before all that begins.

These last few weeks always seem to have some surprises in store for us. And these surprises are even more consequential, as they can determine who goes to the playoffs, or who gets a bye week, all of which will have repercussions down the road. 

Let’s look at some of the big stories from Week 15 of the 2020 National Football League season. 

Cleveland Browns Closer to the Clinch

The Cleveland Browns pulled off an impressive win against the New York Giants. The 20-6 win means the Browns could clinch a playoff spot next week. Given that they are going against the New York Jets, whose record is 1-13, things are looking much rosier after their stunning win. The Browns are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives them a 90% chance of making the playoffs.

Shockingly the Giants with a losing record, (5-9) are still in the running for a spot, as they are number 2 in the AFC East. Anything could happen as we finish off the last two weeks. 

Teams That Have Clinched Playoff Spots

As of now, a total of six teams have officially clinched playoff spots. Expect a few teams like the Cleveland Browns and Tenessee Titans to join them soon, even if as of now, it is unofficial. There are three teams from the AFC and three from the NFC. There are still 8 spots available.

The six teams to have thus far clinched a playoff spot are:

  1. Green Bay Packers (NFC)
  2. New Orleans Saints (NFC)
  3. Seattle Seahawks (NFC)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (AFC)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC)
  6. Buffalo Bills (AFC)

Four other times are at least as likely to make the playoffs as the Cleveland Browns. Here they are, starting with the likeliest to make it to the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Power Index.

  1. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a 99% chance.
  2. The Los Angeles Rams have a 98.3% chance. 
  3. The Tennessee Titans have a 97.8% chance.
  4. And the Indianapolis Colts have an 89.8% chance.

Packers Seek Homefield Advantage

The Green Bay Packers beat the Carolina Panthers 24-16, however, the win was disappointing for star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They are worried about what should have been a blowout, and so close to the playoffs. 

While a win is a win, close calls can be scary. This is especially true in the single-elimination postseason. One mediocre game against a great opponent means goodbye until next year. 

Throughout the playoffs, the higher seed teams have advantages. It means you can get a first-round bye, home-field advantage, and go up against lower seeds. It’s a sweet deal. It also means that once you clinch the playoffs, there is still a lot riding on each game. 

Green Bay has some tough games ahead, playing the Tenessee Titans, for example. This could be a match that will determine so much of the postseason, and therefore, who makes it to the Super Bowl.