2023 NFL playoffs: AFC and NFC seed projections, predictions

There are eight weeks left in the 2023 NFL regular season, but we’re already looking to January and how the 14-team playoff picture could look on the road to Super Bowl LVIII.

Will the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs hold onto the 1-seed in the AFC? And could we get a Super Bowl rematch with the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who are currently the 1-seed in the NFC? Plus, which teams could sneak into the wild-card round of the postseason?

We used ESPN’s Football Power Index to project the rest of the season, looking at the playoff picture for both conferences, along with odds for the favorites to make the postseason, clinch the division and even make the Super Bowl. We also have seeding projections for the AFC and NFC, so you can see the most likely matchups in each conference, and an early look at the teams fighting for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.

Here’s everything you need as we get closer to the NFL playoffs (updated on Friday, Nov. 17, after the news about Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury):

Jump to a section:
AFC: Full projections | Seeding
NFC: Full projections | Seeding
Week 10 matchup to watch
Race for the 2024 No. 1 pick

Projecting the AFC playoff field

FPI sees runaway favorites for the AFC West and East, but it’s less clear about the South and North, where a few teams could win division titles.

The 5-5 Cincinnati Bengals now have a 10% chance to make the playoffs, per FPI, following the news of Joe Burrow’s injury. Before the injury, they had a 28% chance to make the playoffs. FPI also gives them a 0.3% chance to win the AFC North.

The 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs are on track to get the 1-seed, which comes with a bye until the divisional round. In the opening wild-card round, the 2-seed hosts the 7-seed, the 3-seed hosts the 6-seed and the 4-seed hosts the 5-seed.

The most surprising team might be the 5-4 Houston Texans, which have gone from potential No. 1 pick candidates to the fringes of postseason contention.

Projecting the NFC playoff field

And here’s where things stand in the NFC, which has three divisions all but locked up 10 weeks into the season:

It’s the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles who have the inside track to get to the 1-seed, which comes with a bye until the divisional round. In the opening wild-card round, the 2-seed hosts the 7-seed, the 3-seed hosts the 6-seed and the 4-seed hosts the 5-seed.

The wild-card race in this conference is wide open, as seed Nos. 6 and 7 could come from a host of teams, including the 4-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 3-6 Los Angeles Rams.

Biggest game of the week

The AFC North picture is becoming clearer after the Baltimore Ravens’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football in Week 11, but two huge quarterback injuries will affect the race down the stretch. That starts with the matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, who are both 6-3.

The Browns will be without quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will miss the remainder of the season after fracturing a bone in his throwing shoulder. And now the Bengals will be without Joe Burrow, who appears headed toward surgery after tearing a ligament in his right wrist.

The race for the No. 1 pick in 2024

The 2024 NFL draft likely will feature two quarterbacks fighting for the No. 1 spot, as Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina) are ESPN’s top-ranked prospects. Which teams could take them? That’s where it gets complicated.

Yes, the New York Giants (2-8) have one more win than the Carolina Panthers (1-8) — whose pick is owned by the Chicago Bears as a result from last year’s pre-draft trade — but FPI projects a close race for the top pick between the Bears and Giants. FPI gives New York an 18.5% chance to lose all of its remaining games, while it gives Carolina a 4.7% chance to do the same.

The Arizona Cardinals also have two first-round picks, with FPI projecting their original selection at No. 3 and the Houston Texans’ — which was acquired in the move up last April — at No. 20.

NFL playoff schedule

Week 18 games are on Jan. 7 and then it’s on to the postseason. Here’s when each round of games will be played:

Jan. 13-15: Wild-card round
Jan. 20-21: Divisional round
Jan. 28: AFC and NFC Championship Games
Feb. 11: Super Bowl LVIII (in Las Vegas)

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