NFL playoff picture: Projecting the seeds, matchups for 2023 brackets in Week 14

With just five weeks left in the 2023 NFL season, the playoff races in both the AFC and NFC remain wide open.

Sure, there are a few upper-echelon teams in the NFC that have clinching scenarios in Week 14. The cream of the crop in the AFC is starting to separate itself from the pack as well.

But for the most part, few teams are truly out of the postseason race. And those “in the hunt” for wild-card spots still will have plenty of chances to stake their claim to one of the seven available spots in each conference.

At present, the AFC is the more muddled of the two conferences. There are eight teams with between seven and nine wins, and the No. 1 seed has been changing hands a lot in recent weeks. Until a team pulls away or one of the conference’s middling teams fades in the wild-card race, there will be plenty of drama throughout the conference each week.

The NFC is a bit more settled. There are four clear-cut favorites to make the postseason — the Eagles, Cowboys, 49ers and Lions — but beyond them, many teams floating around .500 have a chance to make runs at wild card spots. Add in the unsettled NFC South and there should be enough excitement on that side of the bracket to keep fans interested.

NFL WEEK 14 PICKS: Straight up | Against the spread

Sporting News makes game picks every week, so those can help you see whether your favorite team’s chances of making the playoffs will improve or lessen in Week 14. There will be a lot of competition for those playoff spots either way, especially with seven teams now making the NFL postseason.

Below is a breakdown of the playoff picture in each conference, as 14 teams get ready to play deeper into January.

NFL playoff picture: AFC projections

Tyreek Hill

(Getty Images)

  • No. 1 seed: Miami Dolphins

Games remaining: vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

The Dolphins possess the league’s most explosive offense and are on a three-game winning streak that has catapulted them to the top of the conference. They are in control of the AFC East — sporting a three-game lead over the Bills — and with their defense improving, they should be a threat to win the AFC and get the No. 1 seed. But to do so, the Dolphins will have to survive a tough, three-game finish to the season against the Cowboys, Ravens and Bills.

  • No. 2 seed: Baltimore Ravens

Games remaining: vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

The Ravens are the Dolphins’ top challenger for the No. 1 seed. Like Miami, Baltimore has a tough close to the season, playing against the 49ers, Dolphins and Steelers. That Week 17 game could ultimately end up being for the No. 1 seed depending on how things shake out in the division.

As it stands, the Ravens are a complete team, as they lead the NFL in sacks while Lamar Jackson has performed well throughout the season. So long as he stays healthy, the Ravens will remain a contender.

  • No. 3 seed: Kansas City Chiefs

Games remaining: vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

The Chiefs haven’t been the same explosive offense this season that they have been in years past. Still, they are leading the AFC West and figure to win the division for an eighth consecutive year under Andy Reid.

The Chiefs have a tough game against the Bills in Week 14, but they face an easier schedule down the stretch. That could allow them to emerge as a competitor to land the No. 1 seed.

MORE: NFL Player Props on SuperDraft: New users get a Travis Kelce free square for Week 14!

  • No. 4 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars

Games remaining: at Browns, vs. Ravens, at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, at Titans

The Jaguars lost starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence to an ankle injury in Week 13. His status moving forward is uncertain, so if he has to miss time, C.J. Beathard will be tasked with leading the Jaguars against the Browns defense. That won’t be an easy matchup for the veteran.

Jacksonville needs to stave off competition for the No. 4 seed from within the crowded AFC South, so it can’t afford to turn its Week 13 loss to the Bengals into any sort of losing streak.

  • No. 5 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers

Games remaining: vs. Patriots, at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

The Steelers will be without Kenny Pickett as he deals with an ankle injury, but they get an easy matchup with a hapless Patriots offense in Week 14. Their schedule toughens up at the end of the year, but they should relish a chance to sweep the Ravens in Week 18.

Pittsburgh is teetering on the edge of winning a wild-card berth while remaining within striking distance of Baltimore in the AFC North. They have a better than 50 percent chance to make the postseason, per Sporting News’ expert model, and a win over the Patriots on Thursday will only help that.

MORE: Sporting News expert model projections for NFL Week 14 games

  • No. 6 seed: Cleveland Browns

Games remaining: vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

The Browns have started four different quarterbacks in 2023 but are still in the playoff race. They will need to ride either Joe Flacco or Dorian Thompson-Robinson to stay in the wild-card chase but Cleveland will need more help from its defense to make life easier on their banged-up offense.

The Browns are on a two-game losing streak but could be poised to make a nice run to end the season. They are facing some banged-up teams that are in the wild-card hunt, so some wins against them might clear their path to the postseason a bit.

  • No. 7 seed: Indianapolis Colts

Games remaining: at Bengals, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans

The Texans got some buzz as the team that could challenge the Jaguars in the AFC South, but the Colts own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston. Indianapolis opens Week 14 on a four-game winning streak and will remain in the postseason picture as long as they stay hot.

But even one slip-up could be enough to push the Colts outside of the playoff bubble. So, they have little margin for era as Shane Steichen looks to get the team to the postseason in his first year as head coach.

NFL playoff picture: NFC projections

AJ Brown and Jalen Hurts

(Getty Images)

  • No. 1 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Games remaining: at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

The Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 10-2, but they aren’t guaranteed to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The 49ers, Lions and Cowboys are breathing down their neck to get it, so Philadelphia needs to improve its play on defense to ensure it can stay perched atop the NFC.

Luckily for the Eagles, they have a relatively easy close to the season, facing the Giants twice and the Cardinals in their final three games. So, as long as they can beat one of the Cowboys or Seahawks, they should be positioned to win the NFC East and, potentially, lock down the No. 1 seed.

  • No. 2 seed: San Francisco 49ers

Games remaining: vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

The 49ers might be the best team in the league when healthy. Their offense is loaded with top-tier weapons like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, while Brock Purdy is enjoying a stellar second season. Add in that their defense has been much better with Chase Young and this doesn’t seem like a team with which most will want to mess.

The 49ers somehow have a bottom-10 strength of schedule to close the season, too. So, they will be in the mix for the No. 1 seed, especially since they own key head-to-head tiebreakers for it over the Eagles and Cowboys.

  • No. 3 seed: Detroit Lions

Games remaining: at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, at Cowboys, vs. Vikings

Detroit’s defense has fallen flat at times during the 2023 NFL season, but their offense remains one of the best units in the NFL. They have a stellar offensive line while Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery have all played well this season.

As long as those players stay healthy, the Lions should be able to wrap up the NFC North, which they are currently leading by three games. But can they get the No. 1 seed? With a few potential playoff opponents to close the season, that won’t prove to be an easy feat.

MORE: Revisiting Dan Campbell’s playing NFL career

  • No. 4 seed: Atlanta Falcons

Games remaining: vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

The NFC South is the weakest division in football, but the Falcons are the best team within it. Desmond Ridder has been an issue at quarterback, but their running game has performed well since Arthur Smith unleashed Bijan Robinson.

The Falcons have three divisional games in their last five, so if they continue to win, they should wrap up the division with relative ease. They enter Week 14 on a two-game winning streak and favored to beat the Buccaneers.

  • No. 5 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Games remaining: vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

The Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the NFC. Their defense hasn’t been as strong as one hoped given injuries to Trevor Diggs and Leighton Vander Esch, but cornerback DaRon Bland is still having a great year with his NFL-record five pick-sixes through 12 games.

If Dallas can beat Philadelphia in Week 14, it can position itself to scrap for the NFC East over the final month of the season. However, a loss would put them two games and a head-to-head tiebreaker behind the Eagles, so they need to win this weekend to stay in the mix for a division title and shot at the No. 1 seed.

  • No. 6 seed: Minnesota Vikings

Games remaining: at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

The Vikings were on a five-game winning streak before stumbling ahead of their bye. They dropped two prime-time games against the Broncos and Bears by a total of three points, but after a week off, they should be ready to try to move above .500 once again.

The Vikings have a tough end-of-season stretch with three divisional games in the final three weeks, but that will allow them to gain some ground on the Lions and Packers, who are both in the thick of the playoff race. As one of four teams sitting at 6-6 on the season, the Vikings need to get back to their winning ways to avoid slipping from No. 6 in the postseason picture to the latter end of the teams in the hunt for a playoff spot.

  • No. 7 seed: Green Bay Packers

Games remaining: at Giants, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, at Vikings, vs. Bears

The Packers are one of the hottest teams in football right now. They are on a three-game winning streak that includes beating the Lions on Thanksgiving and knocking off the defending champion Chiefs the following week.

Jordan Love is playing at a high level, and if that continues, the Packers might be able to do something Aaron Rodgers couldn’t in his first year as Green Bay’s starter: make the postseason.

MORE: How Jordan Love’s start to NFL career compares to that of former Packers starter Aaron Rodgers

Current NFL playoff picture

Here’s how the standings in both conferences break down entering Week 14, along with the other teams that are still in the playoff hunt. 

Rank Team Record Clinched
1 Dolphins 9-3 N/a
2 Ravens 9-3 N/a
3 Chiefs 8-4 N/a
4 Jaguars 8-4 N/a
5 Steelers 7-5 N/a
6 Browns 7-5 N/a
7 Colts 7-5 N/a

In the hunt: Texans (7-5), Broncos (6-6), Bengals (6-6), Bills (6-6), Chargers (5-7), Raiders (5-7)

Rank Team Record Clinched
1 Eagles 10-2 N/a
2 49ers 9-3 N/a
3 Lions 9-3 N/a
4 Falcons 6-6 N/a
5 Cowboys 9-3 N/a
6 Vikings 6-6 N/a
7 Packers 6-6 N/a

In the hunt: Rams (6-6), Seahawks (6-6), Buccaneers (5-7), Saints (5-7), Giants (4-8), Bears (4-8)

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