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NFL playoff picture: Ravens first AFC team to clinch spot, Cowboys don’t like how they did
December 19 2023, 08:00

Week 15 in the NFL season brought about more chances for teams to clinch their playoff berth, with the San Francisco 49ers (11-3) the only squad to have written their ticket to the postseason last week. 

Three more teams on the NFC side joined them, though, as the Philadelphia Eagles (11-3) and Dallas Cowboys (10-4) will have a chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. However, the NFC East squads did not get a win to do so. 

With the Atlanta Falcons losing in a massive upset to the one-win Carolina Panthers, as well as the 49ers taking care of business against the Arizona Cardinals on the road, the Eagles were locked into a playoff spot before kickoff on Monday night. Yes, they won, but they went into Lumen Field knowing they at least were able to get into the playoff position.


Meanwhile, the Cowboys were blown out by the surging Buffalo Bills, but it did not matter. They got in thanks to the Falcons’ loss as well. 

However, quarterback Dak Prescott was not happy following the 31-10 rout that occurred at Highmark Stadium in Buffalo on Sunday night. When asked about still clinching the playoffs, Prescott, who saw a five-game win streak snapped, had a blunt response. 

"Don’t care, to be honest," he said to the reporter. 

On the other side of the league, the first AFC team heading to the postseason is the Baltimore Ravens. 


Lamar Jackson and company went to Jacksonville, Florida, where the Ravens took down Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars to lock in their playoff berth. Jackson is fully entrenched in the MVP conversation, as Baltimore continues to roll and will see Brock Purdy and the Niners on Christmas night to possibly determine who gets the award. 

Also worth noting, the Detroit Lions (10-4) got back on track, taking down the Denver Broncos on Saturday night to put themselves in place to wait for a Seahawks loss. However, a miraculous game-winning drive by backup quarterback Drew Lock and the Broncos led to a massive upset that keeps Seattle in the playoff race and leaves Detroit to wait another week before they get in.

The Lions are looking to get in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Led by Jared Goff at quarterback, Detroit is still searching for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. 

With those spots set, let’s take a look at the rest of the playoff picture right now, starting with the NFC. 

The NFC South race continues to stay close thanks to wins by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. The Bucs took down the Green Bay Packers, 34-20, on the road, while the Saints ended the Tommy DeVito magic ride against the New York Giants in the Superdome, 24-6. 

Say what you want about the NFC South, but 7-7 for both of these squads makes this an interesting part of the league to watch in the final three games coming up. 

At the same time, the Falcons are not out of it, sitting one game back at 6-8 after the dreadful loss to the 2-12 Panthers. 

The Bucs will take on the Jaguars, another team gunning for their division title, next week. The Saints, meanwhile, have the Los Angeles Rams on a short week before these NFC South foes face off in Week 17. 


With losses by the Falcons and Packers, we have two teams looking at a 6-8 record heading into Week 16. At the same time, though, they are just one game out because of the Seahawks, Bucs, Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Rams all at 7-7. 

Of course, the NFC South winner secures the No. 4 seed, and no one is catching the Cowboys and Eagles for the No. 5 seed at this point in the season. 

So that leaves the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds up for grabs. Teams like the 5-9 Giants and Chicago Bears are also not mathematically out of it, though they need a little help. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to spiral, falling to the Indianapolis Colts to become 7-7 on the year. 

The Colts moved into the final wild card spot in the AFC, while the Steelers moved out of playoff position. Now, they are the only team in the AFC North that does not have a playoff spot at the moment. 

The Cleveland Browns, led by Joe Flacco, pulled off a second-half comeback against the Bears to move to 9-5. They hold the No. 5 seed in the AFC, while the Cincinnati Bengals have the No. 6 seed, as they continue to win under Jake Browning, who took down the Vikings. 

Josh Allen and the Bills have faced their gauntlet of a remaining schedule head on, taking down the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cowboys to move up two spots to No. 9, just outside of a playoff position. The Houston Texans, who needed an overtime field goal to beat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, are the only team ahead of them. 

As the Bills went up the standings, Russell Wilson and the Broncos fell after the loss to the Lions. It has been incredible to see this team come from the depths of the AFC West and sit at 7-6 going into Saturday. 

However, they have more work to do if they wish to reach the playoffs in the first season under head coach Sean Payton. 

Finally, let’s pour one out for all the teams eliminated from postseason football this season: the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets. 

New York went with Zach Wilson again on Sunday against the Dolphins after he shocked the Texans with 30 points in the second half of their Week 14 matchup. However, Wilson would leave the game early due to a concussion, and Trevor Siemian did not stand a chance against the Dolphins, even without Tyreek Hill in the game. 

The Titans gave it their all, as rookie quarterback Will Levis fought to force overtime. It was all for naught after Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired in overtime. 

Moving forward, Levis will still get much-needed reps heading into his second NFL season, where he may be the starter coming out of training camp.