It’s Week 15 in the NFL and the countdown is on to the playoffs.  For the first time since 2005, only 20 teams remain in contention for a playoff spot and many are looking at certain elimination this weekend if they don’t turn up the heat.  Even for those that already know they’re on their way, the last couple of games will give them a chance to possibly move up and get a better spot when the postseason elimination rolls around.

NFL Playoffs Breakdown Week 15

In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs have already clinched their division – The Ravens in the North and the Chiefs in the West – and the Ravens are setting themselves up for a nice start.  If the Chiefs lose or tie this weekend, or the New England Patriots lose, they will pick up a first-round bye, as well as the number-one seed.  If both of those scenarios play out, they will also be able to claim home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs.  The Ravens have a week off and will play next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, face the Denver Broncos on Sunday.  They’ve won the last eight meetings and should have a fairly easy run this weekend, despite the fact that the Broncos found a little extra strategy late in the season.  If (when) the Chiefs win, the Broncos are out of the postseason action completely.

The Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans are both fighting for a playoff spot this weekend.  At 8-5 each, this game is a toss-up with both expected to play tight.  A victory for either team puts it closer to a playoff spot, but doesn’t guarantee anything.  However, the Titans have been pulling off some awesome victories and are most likely going to take that step toward the postseason on Sunday.

The New England Patriots have a shot at a NFL playoff berth if they beat, or tie, the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15.  Despite having lost their last two games, the Pats are the odds-on favorite to win and are ready for another postseason appearance.

The Carolina Panthers have already been eliminated from playoff contention, so a win against the Seattle Seahawks doesn’t mean much to the team.  In fact, a loss works to their advantage, as it would give them a better shot at a first-round draft pick next season.  Don’t expect to see much out of the Carolina squad, but watch as the Seahawks pick up a playoff berth with their victory.

If the Philadelphia Eagles can take down the Washington Redskins this Sunday, as long as the Dallas Cowboys lose to the LA Rams, they’ll be in a good spot to move to the top of the NFC East.  The Cowboys/Rams game might prove interesting, but the Eagles shouldn’t have too much difficulty against one of the worst teams in the league this year.  They’ve won their last five games and are about to pick up win number six.

The Cleveland Browns are still (barely) hanging onto their playoff hopes, and they might get some respite as they take on the Arizona Cardinals this weekend.  If the Browns win and the Pittsburgh Steelers lose against the Buffalo Bills, which is a real possibility, they’ll still be in the running.

The 49ers are up against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a game that will allow them to clinch a playoff berth.   All they have to do is at least tie the game to get their spot, and the outcome is already predictable.  Besides, just like with the Panthers, the Falcons score better by losing since they are all but guaranteed a top-ten draft pick next year.

The New Orleans Saints have locked up the NFC South in the NFL standings, but are hoping to get home-field advantage.  They’re facing the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, who can be eliminated from a NFL playoff run in Week 15 with a loss.  Indy won’t go down without a fight, but the Saints, barring any huge mistake (or blind refs), should walk away with the win.

So that’s it for our breakdown of the NFL action in Week 15, let’s see who still in contention for the playoffs.