Every week, the NFL playoff picture gets clearer and clearer.
There have been some surprise teams and some unexpected flops in 2022, but now we have a good idea where most teams stand. With a few weeks left in the regular season for things to shake out, we break down the AFC and NFC playoff pictures below, analyzing how each team in the hunt can make the postseason and which teams are locks.
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2023 AFC NFL Playoff Picture
The AFC Locks:
Per FiveThirtyEight, these five AFC teams all have playoff odds between 90 and 99 percent. While no one has mathematically clinched just yet, it seems likely that we’ve got the bulk of our AFC playoff picture already determined.
With two spots left undecided on the AFC side of the bracket, here are the main teams in the playoff hunt:
New York Jets’ Playoff Chances
The fact that the Jets (7-4) even have playoff chances this late in the season is a modern miracle. But they actually have a pretty good shot. FiveThirtyEight’s playoff chances give them a 53 percent shot and they’re one of our best value bets on playoff odds right now.
They lost a key game against the Patriots a few weeks ago, costing Zach Wilson his job. But now, with Mike White at the helm, they have a relatively easy schedule remaining and a solid chance at the postseason.
Cincinnati Bengals’ Playoff Chances
From the Super Bowl to the fringe of the playoff picture in a matter of months. It’s been a tough season for Joe Burrow’s Bengals and it may not have a happy ending.
With shaky offensive line play and some skill position injuries, Burrow just hasn’t been able to elevate Cincinnati (7-4) to serious contender yet this season. Though the Bengals currently sit in a playoff spot and are tied with the Ravens for the division lead, they may struggle to stay afloat down the stretch. Cincinnati has the fourth-toughest remaining schedule, with games against the Chiefs, Bills and Ravens still on the slate.
Los Angeles Chargers’ Playoff Chances
Despite sitting outside the playoffs, NFL playoff odds actually have the Chargers (6-5) with a good shot to make the dance right now, and there are a few reasons why.
The Chargers are going to get back a few key injured players in Mike Williams, Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater over the next few weeks. As well, LA has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL. If Justin Herbert starts playing like an NFL MVP candidate down the stretch, the Chargers have a good shot to jump some teams and get in the playoffs. Implied odds give them a 41 percent chance to do it.
New England Patriots’ Playoff Chances
It’s hard to count out Bill Belichick, but playoff odds don’t love New England’s chances this year. The Patriots (6-5) currently sit outside the NFL playoff picture and have a 37 percent shot to sneak in, but they have one of the hardest remaining schedules in the AFC and little room for error. The Pats will need a few upsets down the stretch, and for the Bengals, Jets and Chargers to fall out of it, to have a chance.
2023 NFC NFL Playoff Picture
The NFC Locks:
Once again, these four NFC locks all have playoff chances over 90 percent. The 49ers are the lowest, at 96 percent, but the landscape of the NFC right now doesn’t have many teams pushing them out any time soon.
The rest of the playoff picture is much more open, though, with at least seven NFC teams still in serious postseason contention:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Playoff Chances
Despite a 5-6 record, the Buccaneers have the next-best playoff chances at 70 percent. Their case is aided by faith in Tom Brady and one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFC. As the Bucs get healthier, easy games against the Panthers, Saints and Cardinals should help them make the playoffs once again.
Washington Commanders’ Playoff Chances
The Commanders rank 24th in scoring and aren’t even a truly elite defense. But because of their 7-5 record and the sad state of the NFC, Washington is almost a sure thing to make the playoffs.
Playoff chances give them a 66 percent shot to make the postseason and the only team that could realistically push them out is the Seahawks.
Seattle Seahawks’ Playoff Chances
The Seahawks came into this season basically tanking. But now, they find themselves just a game back of the division lead and the only team outside the NFC playoffs, right now, with a winning record. They’re certainly not going to win the Super Bowl, but they can definitely make the playoffs.
The Seahawks have a mix of offensive and defensive EPA (expected points added) comparable to the Vikings, Buccaneers and Cowboys. And playoff odds give them a 66 percent chance to sneak into the postseason. A key game against the Buccaneers could make or break their playoff aspirations.
New York Giants’ Playoff Chances
The Giants are 7-4. So surely they’ll find a way into the playoffs, right?
According to playoff chances, the Giants aren’t a lock, with a 50 percent chance to make the postseason. New York has the hardest remaining schedule in football, with a remaining opponent win percentage of .688. The overall difficulty of the schedule makes two winnable divisional games against the Commanders almost must-wins for the Giants at this point.