2020 NFL playoff projections: NFC West makes history, Raiders sneak into postseason and full 14-team field

With the 2020 NFL season headed into just its third week, right now might seem like a weird time to start talking about the playoffs. But we’re doing to do that anyway here because, let’s he honest, it’s never too early to start talking about the playoffs. 

Through the first two weeks of the season, the most dominant division in football has been the NFC West. Not only are the three teams at the top of the division all unbeaten (Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams), but the only loss suffered by an NFC West team came in a game where one team in the division had to lose (Cardinals beating the 49ers in Week 1). 

Overall, the NFC West is 6-0 in non-divisional games this year, which is the tops in the NFL and much better than every other division in the NFC.

Non-divisional records thru 2 weeks:

  • NFC West: 6-0
  • AFC North: 3-1
  • AFC West: 4-2
  • AFC South: 2-2
  • NFC North: 1-1
  • NFC East: 1-5
  • AFC East: 0-2
  • NFC South: 0-4  

With the NFC West looking so strong, there’s a chance the four teams in the division could combine to make some history this year by doing something that no NFL division has ever done: sending every single one of its teams to the playoffs. 

With the addition of an extra playoff slot in each conference, there’s a chance that all four NFC West teams could make the postseason, and right now, that’s actually what the computer over at SportsLine is projecting. According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh — who has simulated the season 10,000 times — the NFC West is on track to send all four of its teams to the playoffs. 

Based on Oh’s projections through two weeks, here’s what the NFC playoff field is going to look like:

1. Seahawks
2. Saints
3. Packers
4. Cowboys
5. Rams
6. Cardinals
7. 49ers
First teams out: Bears, Buccaneers

Besides the fact that the NFC West is being projected to get four teams in, the most notable part of Oh’s projections is that he has Tom Brady and the Buccaneers spending the playoffs at home. 

If the NFC West does get all four teams in the postseason, it would mark the first time since 1998 that an NFL division has produced four playoff teams. Twenty-two years ago, the AFC East sent the Jets, Dolphins, Bills and Patriots to the playoffs. However, not every team in the division made the postseason, because at the time the AFC East had five teams (the Colts were the team that didn’t make it). In 2002, the NFL realigned its divisions so that each one only had four teams. 

Speaking of the AFC, here’s Oh’s projections for that conference. 

1. Ravens
2. Chiefs
3. Titans
4. Bills
5. Steelers
6. Patriots
7. Raiders
First teams out: Chargers, Colts

The most notable part of the AFC projection is probably the fact that the Raiders are expected to make the playoffs. Keep in mind, there’s still 14 weeks to play, but any time you mention the “Raiders” and the “playoffs” in the same sentence, it’s definitely a reason to celebrate for Raider Nation.

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