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NFL playoff scenarios for Week 18

Here is what is at stake in the final week of the NFL season

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

While we still have one more game to be played in Week 17, between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, we have a very clear idea of what is at stake in Week 18. Both the Bills and the Bengals have already clinched playoff spots, and while there are seeding implications in that game, we now know what teams are playing for in Week 18.

Here are the playoff scenarios for Week 18 of the NFL season.

Who has clinched, and what

NFC

We can start with the NFC, where six teams have now booked a ticket for the postseason. The final playoff spot, the NFC East division champion, and homefield advantage, all remain undecided.

Philadelphia Eagles

With their win over the Chicago Bears back in Week 15, the Philadelphia Eagles clinched at least a playoff berth. However, thanks to Philadelphia’s losses to the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints in the past two weeks, the Eagles have yet to clinch the NFC East, or the top seed in the conference.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff spot back in Week 15. They are still alive for the NFC East title, and have an outside shot at the top seed in the NFC.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings clinched a playoff spot back in Week 15. Their loss to the Green Bay Packers on New Year’s Day, coupled with the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the Las Vegas Raiders, eliminated them from contention for the top spot in the conference.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers clinched a playoff spot back in Week 15. With their overtime win against the Las Vegas Raiders, the 49ers still have a shot at homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

New York Giants

With their win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants clinched a playoff spot in the first season under new head coach Brian Daboll. It is the first playoff berth for Big Blue since 2016. The Giants are locked into the sixth seed in the NFC.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thanks to their win over the Carolina Panthers, clinched the NFC South Sunday afternoon. Tom Brady and company are locked into the fourth seed in the NFC.

AFC

On the AFC side of things, five teams have clinched playoff spots, and two more will join them in Week 18.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs locked up their seventh-straight AFC West title with their Week 15 victory over the Houston Texans. Their win over the Denver Broncos kept them alive in the chase for the top seed in the AFC.

Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills wrapped up a playoff spot with a Week 15 win over the Miami Dolphins. They clinched the division back in Week 16 with a victory over the Chicago Bears. However, they cannot clinch homefield advantage in the AFC on Monday night, even if they defeat the Cincinnati Bengals. Nor will they be eliminated from the top spot with a loss. Homefield advantage in the AFC will come down to results from Week 18.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched a playoff berth back in Week 16, when the New York Jets lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thanks to the Ravens’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, they can clinch the AFC North on Monday night with a win over the Buffalo Bills. They also have an outside shot at the top seed in the AFC.

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens clinched a playoff spot in Week 16. They can still win the division, but would need the Cincinnati Bengals to lose on Monday night to the Buffalo Bills. If that happens, then a Baltimore win next week over the Bengals clinches the division for the Ravens.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers clinched a playoff spot in Week 16.

Playoff scenarios

NFC

One playoff spot remains up for grabs in the NFC. Here are the scenarios for each team still in contention. Whichever team qualifies out of these three will be the seventh seed in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers

Thanks to their fourth-straight win, the Packers control their destiny. They will secure the final spot with a victory over the Detroit Lions. That is even if the Seattle Seahawks beat the Los Angeles Rams, because the Packers would have the better conference record. A loss, or a tie, with Detroit will eliminate the Packers from playoff contention.

Detroit Lions

For the Lions to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, they first need to beat the Packers in the season finale. Then they would need the Seattle Seahawks to lose to Baker Mayfield and the Los Angeles Rams. If the Lions lose to Green Bay, they are eliminated. If they beat the Packers, but the Seahawks beat the Rams, the Lions are eliminated. The Lions can also get in if they tie the Packers, and the Seahawks lose to the Rams.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle can still get into the playoffs with a Lions win over the Packers, and a Seahawks win over the Rams. If the Packers win, the Seahawks are eliminated regardless of their result.

AFC

On the AFC side of things, there are five teams vying for two spots. The Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars will meet on Saturday night, with the winner clinching a spot as the AFC South champions. Although there is a scenario where both the Titans and the Jaguars can get in, with one as a Wild Card team.

Here is how things stand in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars will clinch a playoff spot, and the AFC South, with a win over the Tennessee Titans. They can also get in with a loss, provided the Patriots, the Steelers, and the Dolphins all lose. In that case, all four teams would have an 8-9 record, and the Jaguars would win the tiebreaker based on their conference record. In this scenario, Jacksonville would have a 7-5 record in AFC games, the Dolphins and Patriots would have matching 6-6 conference records, and the Steelers would have a 4-8 record in AFC games.

That would make the Jaguars the seventh seed in the AFC.

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans will clinch a playoff spot, and the AFC South, with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Any other result and the Titans are eliminated, and they cannot back into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins first need a win over the New York Jets to get into the playoffs. They would also need a loss or a tie from the New England Patriots against the Buffalo Bills. A Patriots win against Buffalo, and the Dolphins are eliminated.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots control their destiny. With a win on the road against the Buffalo Bills, they are in the playoffs. There is a scenario where they get in with a loss, but that would require the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers to lose to the Browns, and the Dolphins to lose to the New York Jets.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Thanks to their dramatic win on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive for the playoffs. To get in, they would need to beat the Cleveland Browns in Week 18, and see the Patriots and the Dolphins lose.

Seeding or division title scenarios

There are a few seeding scenarios to watch this week, as well as some teams that can lock up their division on the final week of the season.

NFC

Philadelphia Eagles

While the Eagles have already clinched a playoff spot, they have yet to clinch the NFC East. Philadelphia earns a division title with either win against the Giants or a Dallas loss to the Commanders. They can also clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win, or a loss from both the Cowboys and the 49ers.

Philadelphia can finish as either the first, the second, or the fifth seed in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys can still win the NFC East. If the Eagles lose to the Giants, and the Cowboys beat the Commanders, the Cowboys win the East. Dallas is still alive for the top spot in the conference as well, If they beat the Commanders, the Eagles lose to the Giants, and the 49ers lose to the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Dallas can finish as either the first, the second, or the fifth seed in the NFC.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers still have a shot at winning homefield advantage. If they beat the Cardinals, losses by both the Eagles and the Commanders would make the 49ers the top seed in the NFC.

San Francisco can finish as either the first, the second, or the third seed in the NFC.

AFC

Buffalo Bills

If the Bills are to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, their easiest path is with wins against the Bengals in Week 17, and the Patriots in Week 18. If they lose on Monday night, they would need to win in Week 18, and for the Bengals and Chiefs to both lose in Week 18.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs can secure homefield advantage in the AFC with a win in Week 18 over the Las Vegas Raiders, and a loss from the Bills, either on Monday night against the Bengals, or next week against the Patriots. They can also back into homefield if the Bills lose twice, and the Bengals lose in Week 18.

Cincinnati Bengals

There is a path for the Bengals to secure homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. First, they need to win their final two games, against the Bills on Monday night and the Ravens in Week 18.

Then they would need the Chiefs to lose in Week 18 to the Raiders.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars will clinch a playoff spot, and the AFC South, with a win over the Tennessee Titans. As winners of the AFC South, they would be the fourth seed in the AFC.

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans will clinch a playoff spot, and the AFC South, with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. As winners of the AFC South, they would be the fourth seed in the AFC.

This post will be updated after the Bills-Bengals game on Monday night.