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What Week 15 means for the 2020 NFL playoff picture

The playoff race is front and center midway through December. We break down the implications of the Week 15 schedule.

Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans rushes for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on November 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

4:05 p.m./4:25 p.m. recap

The big result was the 49ers losing at home to the Falcons. San Francisco drops behind the Seahawks in the NFC West and thus for the top seed. FULL RESULTS HERE.

1:00 p.m. recap

The Texans beat the Titans 24-21 to take a one-game lead in the AFC South and get the first win in the head-to-head schedule with Tennessee. The Packers beat the Bears 21-13 to get a key win and the Eagles edged out Washington with a last second touchdown. FULL RESULTS HERE.

Welcome to Week 15 of the 2019 NFL season! The Baltimore Ravens crushed the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football to open the week. The Ravens clinched the AFC North with the win, and now wait for the Patriots and Chiefs results to see if they clinch a first round bye or maybe even home field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

We’ve got three weeks remaining on the regular season calendar and the playoff race is in a fevered pitch halfway through December. The Saints, Chiefs, and Ravens have all clinched a playoff berth, and a host of teams can join them in the playoffs with a win in Week 15. The 49ers, Patriots, and Bills all can clinch a playoff berth simply with a win. Other teams will need some help.

Games of the Week

Texans vs. Titans: The two teams are tied atop the AFC South with both of their 2019 matchups to be played. This matchup won’t clinch it for either team, but it’s a big one, especially if the Texans get the road win.

“Elimination” games

12 teams have been eliminated from the playoff picture, and quite a few more are on the verge of mathematical elimination. However, there are a host of other games featuring teams badly in need of a win. Losing won’t eliminate certain teams, but they are still quasi-elimination games.

Rams @ Cowboys: The Rams are a game back with three to go. If they lose in Dallas, they’re in trouble with a road game in San Francisco next week. Meanwhile, the Cowboys still get a game in Philadelphia with a chance to sweep the Eagles, but if they drop a game back, they’re in big trouble needing that road win over Philly.

Texans vs. Titans: It’s the game of the week because of how important it is for each team. The loser of this game is still in the thick of the wild card race, but they are in a tough spot. This is a bigger game for the Titans given that they still have to go to Houston in Week 17.

Below is a rundown of the NFL playoff picture and who the top six seeds in each of the conferences face. It’s followed by some of the notable matchups between playoff contenders.

AFC playoff picture

1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-2 — Win over Jets 42-21
2. New England Patriots: 10-3 — @ Bengals
3. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-4 — vs. Broncos
4. Houston Texans: 8-5 — @ Titans
5. Buffalo Bills: 9-4 — @ Steelers
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-5 — vs. Bills

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (8-5), Oakland Raiders (6-7), Indianapolis Colts (6-7), Cleveland Browns (6-7)

Texans (8-5) @ Titans (8-5)
Bills (9-4) @ Steelers (8-5)
Colts (6-7) @ Saints (10-3)

NFC playoff picture

1. San Francisco 49ers: 11-2 — vs. Falcons
2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 — vs. Bears
3. New Orleans Saints: 10-3 — vs. Colts
4. Dallas Cowboys: 6-7 — vs. Rams
5. Seattle Seahawks: 10-3 — @ Panthers
6. Minnesota Vikings: 9-4 — @ Chargers

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (8-5), Chicago Bears (7-6), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

Bears (7-6) @ Packers (10-3)
Rams (8-5) @ Cowboys (6-7)
Colts (6-7) @ Saints (10-3)