The 2024 NFL playoff bracket is officially set after a dramatic final week of regular season action. The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs secured the AFC’s top two seeds, while over in the NFC the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers claimed first-round byes. Wild Card weekend kicks off on Saturday with a Texans-Browns clash, followed by Dolphins-Chiefs and Chargers-Jaguars on Sunday.
AFC Playoff Picture
The AFC playoff picture underwent big changes in Week 18. The Bills rallied to beat the Patriots and steal the AFC East crown back from Miami on tiebreakers. Buffalo and Kansas City both finish 14-3, but the Bills’ head-to-head win back in Week 6 gives them the No. 1 seed. The Chiefs still get a coveted first-round bye after handling the Raiders.
In one of the biggest upsets of the season, the 4-12 Texans shocked the Titans to keep Tennessee out of the postseason. That allowed the Browns to sneak in as the third Wild Card with their win over the Steelers. The final berths went to familiar faces in the Chargers and Jaguars, who round out the AFC field.
AFC Playoff Bracket
|Kansas City Chiefs
|Los Angeles Chargers
The Bills and Chiefs earned first-round byes, while the Bengals held off the Ravens for the AFC North title. The Jaguars won the mediocre AFC South, followed by Wild Cards LA and Cleveland. The Texans are the surprise of the bunch at just 5-12.
NFC Playoff Picture
Over in the NFC, the Eagles withstood a late Cowboys rally to clinch the East and home-field advantage. The 49ers crushed the Cardinals to secure the 2 seed. The Vikings won the North, the Bucs took the South, and the Giants and Seahawks round out the field as Wild Cards.
NFC Playoff Bracket
|San Francisco 49ers
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|New York Giants
Wild Card Weekend Schedule
Wild Card weekend kicks off on Saturday, January 14 with the Texans visiting the Browns. Sunday features a Dolphins-Chiefs matchup followed by Chargers-Jaguars. Monday night closes things out with a Lions-Rams showdown.
Saturday, January 14
The Texans pulled off a monumental upset of the Titans to sneak into the playoffs, while the Browns return for the second straight season. This projects as the biggest mismatch of the weekend on paper.
Sunday, January 15
|Kansas City Chiefs
|Los Angeles Chargers
The Dolphins-Chiefs battle features two of the most explosive offenses in the league. Miami was just a tiebreaker away from claiming the AFC’s top seed. The late afternoon matchup has Justin Herbert’s Chargers trying to solve Trevor Lawrence and the upstart Jags.
Monday, January 16
|Los Angeles Rams
The final game of the opening playoff round pits the Lions against the defending champion Rams. Detroit is making its first postseason appearance since 2016 behind breakout campaigns from Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Playoff Analysis and Super Bowl Favorites
The Bills and Chiefs established themselves as the class of the AFC this season. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes finished 1-2 in MVP voting and their teams earned 14 wins each. Buffalo gets the edge for home-field advantage after going into Arrowhead and winning a classic back in Week 6. The Bengals can’t be counted out either after reaching the Super Bowl last year. Jacksonville and Cleveland look vulnerable hosting Wild Card games.
Over in the NFC, the 15-2 Eagles soared to the best record behind MVP finalist Jalen Hurts. The 49ers went 12-2 in games started by Brock Purdy. Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Seattle all have veteran quarterbacks capable of playoff runs. The Lions and Giants face uphill battles on the road.
According to most oddsmakers, the Bills and Eagles remain clear betting favorites to reach Super Bowl LVIII in Arizona next month. Buffalo is +275 to win it all, followed by Philadelphia (+325), Kansas City (+450) and San Francisco (+500). If the chalk holds, we’d be in store for an Allen vs. Hurts showdown.
Injury News and Roster Moves
The Ravens saw their playoff hopes dashed with backup QB Tyler Huntley suffering a shoulder injury last week. There is concern it could require surgery that would sideline him for 6-8 months. Baltimore may need to add another veteran signal-caller behind Lamar Jackson heading into 2024.
Chargers WR Mike Williams popped up on the injury report last week with a back issue. His status for Sunday’s game is unclear. LA lost WR2 Keenan Allen late in the year, so Williams’ health is crucial.
The Cowboys activated LT Jason Peters from injured reserve last week, only to see him suffer another injury setback. His availability for even later playoff rounds is in doubt.
Standout 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey is battling knee, ankle and shoulder ailments. He played only 49% of offensive snaps last week while rookie Jordan Mason filled in capably. San Francisco will need a healthy CMC to make a Super Bowl run.
Coaching Carousel Begins Spinning
With the regular season complete, the annual NFL coaching carousel has begun spinning. On Monday morning, the Panthers, Broncos and Cardinals all fired their head coaches. Carolina parted ways with Steve Wilks, Denver fired rookie boss Nathaniel Hackett, while Kliff Kingsbury got the ax in Arizona after a 4-13 campaign.
More changes are likely on the way. Speculation continues swirling around Sean Payton landing with the Broncos or Cardinals. Denver seems ready to back up Brink’s trucks of cash to lure Payton out of the broadcast booth.
On the coordinator front, several top assistants like Shane Steichen, DeMeco Ryans and Leslie Frazier are expected to land head coaching interviews. The upcoming stretch between Wild Card and Divisional weekends is prime hiring season.
We could see 5+ head coach vacancies filled by divisional round kickoff. Expect a frenzy of reports linking top candidates like Payton and Jim Harbaugh to needy teams.
Looking Ahead to Divisional Weekend
Once Wild Card weekend wraps up, the Divisional round takes center stage the following week. The top two seeds in each conference host games, while the lower remaining seeds face off.
In the AFC, that would mean the Chiefs welcoming the Browns/Texans winner to Arrowhead. Buffalo would host whoever comes out of the Chargers/Jaguars matchup. Over in the NFC, the Eagles would play the Giants or Seahawks. The Vikings/Bucs would head west to battle the 49ers.
Of course there is always potential for upsets. If Houston stuns Cleveland, we could see Davis Mills visiting Josh Allen’s Bills. An intriguing possibility in the NFC is a Brock Purdy vs. Tom Brady showdown in San Francisco.
Those matchups highlight the upside chaos of the NFL playoffs. After Wild Card weekend shakes out the bracket, Divisional matchups will be set in stone. With 8 hungry teams left standing, the race to Super Bowl LVIII really takes off.
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