It’s never too early for NFL teams with winning records to think about the path to the playoffs. The midway point of the 2020 regular season in Week 9 is a good time to check in on what 14 teams would make the postseason.
With the playoff field expanded by one team each in the AFC and the NFC, that brings more teams into realistic contention for at least a wild-card berth. Based on the current standings, here’s an updated look at what each conference tournament would look like if the playoffs started now:
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NFL standings for Week 9
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0), first place, AFC North. The Steelers are the only undefeated team left in the NFL and have a half-game edge over the Chiefs for home-field advantage, which is also now the lone bye in the AFC playoffs. They don’t play the Chiefs head-to-head.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1), first place, AFC West. The Chiefs had their blemish against the Raiders and can’t let up in the second half with the Steelers finding a way to keep winning every week. Kansas City does have a tougher overall schedule than Pittsburgh.
3. Buffalo Bills (7-2), first place, AFC East. The Bills lost to the Chiefs, who are ahead of them by a full game. They also lost to the Titans, who are a half-game behind. The Patriots are fading fast, but the Bills now are trying to protect a three-win lead over the Dolphins. They probably will end up being locked into this seed.
4. Tennessee Titans (6-2), first place, AFC South. The Titans rebounded after dropping two consecutive games after starting 5-0, keeping the Colts, whom they have yet to play, a game behind. They also hold the tiebreaker for now with a 2-0 division record.
5. Baltimore Ravens (6-2), second place, AFC North. The Ravens lost to the Steelers and the Chiefs, which puts their chances of winning the division again with another top seed at a long shot. After a key win over the Colts, they need to focus on beating the Patriots, Titans and Steelers in the next month.
6. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3), second place, AFC West. The Raiders have the first tiebreaker among 5-3 teams in the AFC with their 3-2 conference record. They have a win over the Browns and also play the Colts and the Dolphins in December
7. Miami Dolphins (5-3), second place, AFC South. The Dolphins got a big second win in a row with Tua Tagovailoa on the road against the Cardinals. They are barely ahead of the Browns, whom they don’t play.
Who can get there?
8. Cleveland Browns (5-3)
9. Indianapolis Colts (5-3)
10. Denver Broncos (3-5)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)
The Browns and Colts lost their positions with a bye and a loss, respectively, with the Raiders and the Dolphins winning again. The Broncos still have a chance to make a move up with their schedule. Don’t sleep on Joe Burrow and the Bengals getting back in the race with a lot of NFC East left on the slate.
Who’s likely out?
11. New England Patriots (3-5)
13. Los Angeles Chargers (2-6)
14. Houston Texans (2-6)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
16. New York Jets (0-9)
It’s shocking to see the Patriots in this company, although looking back, it’s weird that their two wins are over the Dolphins and the Raiders. Other than the Jets twice, the Patriots’ finishing schedule is hard to overcome. The Chargers have blown too many chances to earn.a wild card.
NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. New Orleans Saints (6-2), first place, NFC South. The Saints swept the Bucs to get into the driver’s seat in the division and jump over the Seahawks for the critical top seed and home-field advantage with a sparkling 5-1 conference record, with the Packers being the only loss.
2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2), first place, NFC West. The division is tough, but the Seahawks at least are getting some separation from the 49ers and the Rams. The Cardinals, who handed them their only NFC loss before the interconference loss to the Bills, are the new top threat to keep them from taking back the throne after just missing in 2019. While the Seahawks are now behind the Saints and even with the Packers, Russell Wilson is trying to hold off Patrick Mahomes in the MVP race.
3. Green Bay Packers (6-2), first place, NFC North. The Packers have lost two of their past four games, missing chances to pull away from the Bears in the division. With the Vikings and the Lions fading, they are a good bet to lock down at least this seed soon. Green Bay did already lose to Tampa Bay and beat New Orleans but doesn’t play Seattle.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1), first place, NFC East. The Eagles would be far out of wild-card contention with this record, but it is good enough to give them a strong lead in the division after beating the Giants and the Cowboys back-to-back. They can’t expect to finish higher than this, but they do get direct shots at the Packers and the Saints.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) second place, NFC South. Tom Brady and the defense had a terrible night at the worst time against the Saints, blowing an opportunity to take over first place in the division with the most wins in the conference. They are down a half-game for now, but it’s really two because they now need to finish a game ahead.
6. Arizona Cardinals (5-3), second place, NFC West. The Cardinals got a well-timed bye to help them continue their playoff surge with Kyler Murray in the second half. Like the Seahawks, they will need to keep taking advantage of a weak slate. The Dolphins were a tough loss to take, especially with the Seahawks losing. They missed a chance at moving into first place.
7. Los Angeles Rams (5-3), third place, NFC West. The Rams have the hold on the last spot for now thanks to their head-to-head win over the Bears in Week 7, a team that also lost in Week 9.
Who can get there?
8. Chicago Bears (5-4)
9. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
10. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
11. Detroit Lions (3-5)
The Bears need to bounce back fast to stay in the NFC North race, but they are alive and well for a wild card. The 49ers might have too many injuries to overcome with Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle going down again. The Vikings can get into the mix quickly if they can find some consistency.
Who’s likely out?
12. Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
13. Carolina Panthers (3-6)
14. Washington Football Team (2-6)
15. Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
16. New York Giants (2-7)
Philadelphia doesn’t have a big lead in the NFC East, but Washington, Dallas and New York aren’t good enough to close the gap. Forget that trio for a wild-card spot, too.The Falcons are starting to play better, but it’s too little, too late. The Panthers have fought well, but now they’re back in fourth place in the South.