NFL Playoff Bracket if the Postseason Started Today


Jan 2, 2024

We have to soak in every minute of football action we can. After 18 weeks, the NFL regular season is over, and most teams are left licking their wounds. However, the 14 teams left standing dial things up a notch, competing for glory and the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Here’s what the playoff brackets would look like if the postseason started today.

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Division Leaders (odds to win the division) Wild Card Teams (odds to make the playoffs)
No. 1 – San Francisco 49ers (Unavailable) First-Round Bye
No. 2 – Dallas Cowboys (-1350) No. 7 – Green Bay Packers (-188)
No. 3 –  Detroit Lions (Unavailable) No. 6 – Los Angeles Rams (Unavailable)
No. 4 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-245) No. 5 – Philadelphia Eagles (Unavailable)

More NFC: Seahawks Sustain Playoff Hopes

We can’t delve into the NFC half of the bracket without dissecting the Week 17 contest between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions were robbed of their successful two-point conversion, creating a substantive shift in the NFC playoff picture. Because of the blown call, the Dallas Cowboys were gift-wrapped the NFC East lead, and the Lions’ bid for the top spot in the conference was kiboshed. Heading into Week 18, the San Francisco 49ers are seemingly locked into the first seed, with the Lions and Cowboys destined for Wild Card Round matchups.

As it stands, the Cowboys will host the Green Bay Packers in Round 1. The Packers easily dispatched the Minnesota Vikings at home, reviving their playoff hopes. Some playoff narratives write themselves, but Green Bay getting to take on their former head coach in an opening-round grudge match is the entertainment we deserve. But with five teams within striking distance, the Packers need to take care of business against the Chicago Bears in Week 18.

The Lions still benefit from hosting a playoff game, but it will likely come against a more formidable opponent. The Los Angeles Rams are one season removed from their Super Bowl win and currently occupy the sixth seed. They’ll need a win against the 49ers to assure themselves of that spot, but they’ll finish no worse than seventh, depending on how this week plays out. 

That leaves the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. The second-place finisher in the NFC East has claimed the fifth seed. Although that is currently the Philadelphia Eagles, a win against the New York Giants and a Cowboys loss to the Washington Commanders would upset that balance.

Likewise, there are no guarantees in the NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped a crucial home decision to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, leaving much to be decided within the division. The Bucs, Saints, and Atlanta Falcons will battle it out for NFC South supremacy, with the winner hosting a playoff game in a couple of weeks.

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Division Leaders (odds to win the division) Wild Card Teams (odds to make the playoffs)
No. 1 – Baltimore Ravens (Unavailable) First-Round Bye
No. 2 – Miami Dolphins (-164) No. 7 – Indianapolis Colts (-124)
No. 3 – Kansas City Chiefs (Unavailable) No. 6 – Buffalo Bills (-750)
No. 4 – Jacksonville Jaguars (-225) No. 5 – Cleveland Browns (Unavailable)

More AFC: AFC West Up for Grabs

The AFC Playoff picture is equally convoluted. Nine teams are still vying for a postseason berth, with four already clinching a spot. Among those is the Baltimore Ravens, who locked up the first seed with a decisive win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. That means at least some starters could be rested in Week 18’s showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving them plenty of time to rest up for the second round.

The Steelers are one of four teams clamoring for the final two playoff spots. The Houston Texans are also on the outside looking in, with both teams trying to catch the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills. After Week 17, the Colts are sitting in the seventh spot, setting up a potential clash with the Dolphins. However, Miami needs a win against the Bills to assure themselves of the second seed and an AFC East crown. A loss relegates them to a wild-card berth, with Buffalo usurping them for the division lead. 

Few people would have guessed it at the season’s outset, but it took the Kansas City Chiefs 17 weeks to clinch a division title. That relief came from a 25-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Still, they will need some help to improve their standing. If the playoffs started today, KC would enter the first round with a meeting versus the sixth-seeded Bills.

Despite taking to the field without their starting quarterback, the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to fend off the Carolina Panthers and maintain their lead in the AFC South. Nevertheless, the Jags, Colts, and Texans are still in the running for the fourth seed. That means Jacksonville needs a win over the Tennessee Titans to secure a playoff berth and set up a playoff date with the Cleveland Browns. If not, they risk losing their spot to the Texans or Colts, likely missing out on the postseason altogether.

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Thumbnail photo via Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

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