NFL playoff picture: 49ers clinch NFC West as Seahawks keep fading

Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 15 underway:


x – 1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1), NFC East leaders: The first team to punch its playoff card for 2022, making it two years in a row under coach Nick Sirianni. Philly also picked up breathing room in its bid for a bye and home-field advantage thanks to Minnesota’s Week 14 loss. Remaining schedule: at Bears, at Cowboys, vs. Saints, vs. Giants

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3), NFC North leaders: They failed to wrap up their division last weekend but still only need one more win (or Detroit loss) to do so. However,  any notion of snatching NFC’s top seed is quickly fading. Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, vs. Giants, at Packers, at Bears

y – 3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4), NFC West champions: The first team to clinch a divisional crown in the 2022 season, the Niners would move up to the No. 2 seed with a Minnesota loss Saturday. Their last two NFC West titles (2012, 2019) led to Super Bowl berths. Remaining schedule: vs. Commanders, at Raiders, vs. Cardinals

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4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7), NFC South leaders: They remain atop this woeful division despite Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the 49ers. But beware of objects in rearview mirror – the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, both 5-8, are now just a game back of the Bucs for first place. Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, at Cardinals, vs. Panthers, at Falcons

5. Dallas Cowboys (10-3), wild card No. 1: If they overlooked Houston, at least they survived. Can’t do the same next weekend in Jacksonville if they want Week 16 date with Philadelphia to be meaningful as it pertains to NFC East implications. More immediately, a win puts America’s Team into the playoffs. A loss by the Lions or Commanders would also clinch a spot for Dallas. Remaining schedule: at Jaguars, vs. Eagles, at Titans, at Commanders

6. Washington Commanders (7-5-1), wild card No. 2: Rather productive Week 14 for a team that didn’t play. While on their bye, the Commanders, winners of six of their past eight, jumped from eighth place in the NFC to sixth courtesy of losses by the Giants and Seahawks. Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, at 49ers, vs. Browns, vs. Cowboys

7. New York Giants (7-5-1), wild card No. 3: Falling like a stone with just one win in their past six outings. Washington’s superior record in NFC East games moved the Commanders ahead of New York going into their massive Week 15 rematch. Remaining schedule: at Commanders, at Vikings, vs. Colts, at Eagles

8. Seattle Seahawks (7-7), out of playoff field: Thursday’s loss was their fourth in the past five games as they continue to fall off the playoff pace. Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Jets, vs. Rams

9. Detroit Lions (6-7), out of playoff field: No margin for error remains for a long shot run at NFC North throne. But odds are growing they could become first team since 1990 to overcome 1-6 start and reach playoffs. Remaining schedule: at Jets, at Panthers, vs. Bears, at Packers


1. Buffalo Bills (10-3), AFC East leaders: They own inside track to remain in Orchard Park throughout January and will sew up AFC’s first playoff berth by beating Miami on Saturday night. Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, at Bears, at Bengals, vs. Patriots

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3), AFC West leaders: Their Week 6 loss to Bills would currently mean road to the AFC crown goes through Buffalo. But on plus side, K.C. will win its seventh consecutive divisional title with one more win or loss by the Chargers, whom the Chiefs already swept. And the upcoming schedule suggests the No. 1 seed remains a distinct possibility if the Bills trip. Remaining schedule: at Texans, vs. Seahawks, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

3. Baltimore Ravens (9-4), AFC North leaders: They remain atop the division, by virtue of a tiebreaker – Week 5’s victory over Cincinnati, which Baltimore will face again – but remain without QB Lamar Jackson for at least another week. At least the near-term schedule looks favorable. Remaining schedule: at Browns, vs. Falcons, vs. Steelers, at Bengals

4. Tennessee Titans (7-6), AFC South leaders: Uncharacteristically blown out two weeks in a row – and now losers of three straight – they look to be a one-and-done postseason squad for the third consecutive year … assuming they get that far with Jacksonville (5-8) steadily closing on them in the division. Remaining schedule: at Chargers, vs. Texans, vs. Cowboys, at Jaguars

5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4), wild card No. 1: Defending AFC champs are keeping pace with battered Ravens but face a much more daunting schedule ahead of potentially pivotal Week 18 rematch with Baltimore. Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, at Patriots, vs. Bills, vs. Ravens

6. Miami Dolphins (8-5), wild card No. 2: After returning from 0-2 trip on the West Coast, they’re back east ahead of big stakes Saturday night game at Buffalo. Remaining schedule: at Bills, vs. Packers, at Patriots, vs. Jets

7. New England Patriots (7-6), wild card No. 3: A season sweep of the Jets puts them ahead of New York, while a superior record in AFC games gives them tiebreaker edge over Chargers. Remaining schedule: at Raiders, vs. Bengals, vs. Dolphins, at Bills

8. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6),  out of playoff field: Surviving the Dolphins enabled Bolts to leapfrog the Jets (by virtue of their superior record in AFC games) into final wild-card spot Sunday night … but they handed it over to New England on Monday. Bolts’ 5-4 mark in AFC games keeps them ahead of New York. Remaining schedule: vs. Titans, at Colts, vs. Rams, at Broncos

9. New York Jets (7-6), out of playoff field: They fell from seventh place to ninth in Week 14. Now they face virtual must-win proposition against the Lions. Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, vs. Jaguars, at Seahawks, at Dolphins

x – clinched berth

y – clinched division


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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