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The 2022 NFL regular season comes to an end this weekend, and while some teams have already booked a place in the playoffs, other teams will have their fate decided in week 18. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the NFL playoff scenarios for this week.
Which teams are in?
Taking a look at the AFC and NFC playoff pictures, 11 out of 14 teams have already secured a place in the playoffs. Although some teams have already won their respective divisional titles, there’s still a lot to play for in terms of seedings ahead of the playoffs. On that note, these teams have made the playoffs on the NFC side:
With a 13-3 record, the Philadelphia Eagles are currently the number 1 seed in the NFC. It’s worth noting however, that in order to clinch a first round bye with home field advantage throughout the playoffs, these will need to happen:
- Eagles beat or tie the Giants
- Cowboys lose or tie vs the Commanders, while the 49ers also lose or tie vs the Cardinals
Despite being the number 1 seed, the Eagles can fall as far as number 5 if they lose this week, and the Cowboys win. That said, they’ll finish at least number 2 if the Dallas Cowboys don’t beat the Washington Commanders.
San Francisco 49ers
As the number 2 seed, the 49ers currently have a 12-4 record. It’s worth noting that San Francisco already won their division; and even though they’re chasing the number 1 seed, they’ll need some help to get there. To finish as the top seed, San Francisco will need to:
- Beat the Arizona Cardinals
- The Eagles would have to lose to the Giants too
Additionally, if the 49ers defeat the Cardinals this weekend, they are guaranteed at least the second seed in the NFC.
Unlike the other teams, the Vikings cannot win the number 1 seed. However, they can’t finish worse than the number 3 seed. For the Vikings to clinch the number 2 seed, they’ll need:
- To beat the Bears, while the 49ers don’t win against the Cardinals
- Minnesota can also secure the number 2 seed with a tie, provided the Cardinals beat the 49ers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 8-8 Buccaneers shouldn’t even be in the playoff picture, but the NFC South has been underwhelming this season. With that in mind, the Bucs have clinched the NFC South title, and they’ll finish as the fourth seed, irrespective of what happens in week 18.
The Cowboys are currently the number 5 seed, but they can go all the way up to number 1 in week 18. For that to happen however, defeating the Commanders wouldn’t be enough; Dallas would need the Eagles to lose, and also for the 49ers to not win against the Cardinals.
New York Giants
With a win against the Colts in week 17, the New York Giants made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. On that note, there are no playoff scenarios for this team; they’ll finish as the sixth seed, no matter what happens in week 18.
There are seven NFC playoff spots, and six of those have been guaranteed. On the other hand, five teams have secured a place in the AFC playoffs, and these are:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs will clinch the number 1 seed if they beat the Raiders this weekend. However, in the event that they don’t, they can still get a first round bye if:
- The Bills lose to the Patriots
- KC ties the Raiders while the Bills tie the Patriots
Keeping that in mind, the Kansas City Chiefs cannot finish worse than the number 2 seed.
The Bills can clinch a first round bye with home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they beat the Patriots, while the Chiefs lose to the Raiders. Furthermore, Buffalo will finish at least number 2 if
- They defeat the Patriots
- The Bengals don’t beat the Ravens
Because of Cincinnati’s unfinished game against Buffalo, the Bengals will play 16 games, rather than 17. On that note, it’s impossible for Cincy to get the number 1 seed. However, the Bengals can finish as the second seed if they defeat the Ravens, while the Bills lose to the Patriots.
Los Angeles Chargers
With a 10-6 record, the Los Angeles Chargers cannot win any of the top 4 spots. It’s fair to note that the Chargers can clinch the number 5 seed if they win this weekend. Even if they don’t, they can still be the top wildcard team if:
- Baltimore loses to Cincinnati
- The Ravens tie the Bengals, provided the Chargers also tie the Broncos
Just like the Chargers, the Ravens will either finish fifth or sixth. Baltimore can clinch the number 5 seed if:
- They beat the Bengals, while the Chargers don’t beat the Broncos
- They tie the Bengals, while the Chargers lose to the Broncos
Which teams are still in the hunt?
In the NFC, three teams will battle for one remaining playoff spot.
There are three scenarios where Detroit makes the playoffs, and these are:
- Lions beat the Packers, while the Seahawks don’t beat the Rams
- Detroit ties Green Bay, while the Seahawks lose to the Rams
- Detroit ties Green Bay, Seattle ties the Rams, and the Commanders beat the Cowboys
Considering these interesting scenarios, the Lions do not control their playoff destiny.
Green Bay Packers
It’s actually pretty simple for the Packers: beat the Detroit Lions, and they’re in the playoffs.
The Seahawks can book a spot in the playoffs if:
- They defeat the Rams, while the Packers don’t beat the Lions
- Seattle ties the Rams, the Lions tie the Packers, and Washington loses to, or ties Dallas
Likewise, three AFC teams will fight for the number 7 seed.
New England Patriots
Unlike the Dolphins and Steelers, the Patriots control their playoff destiny. New England will secure a playoff spot if they defeat the Bills this weekend. However, in the event that they don’t, the Patriots can still make the playoffs if:
- The Dolphins don’t beat the Jets, and the Steelers don’t beat the Browns, provided New England ties Buffalo
- the Jets beat the Dolphins, the Browns beat the Steelers, and the Jaguars beat or tie the Titans
There are two scenarios where the Dolphins make the playoffs, and these are:
- Miami beats the Jets, and the Bills beat or tie the Patriots
- The Dolphins tie the Jets, the Bills defeat the Patriots, and the Browns beat or tie the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a 19 percent chance of advancing to the playoffs; they would need:
- To beat the Browns, while the Jets defeat or tie the Dolphins, and the Bills beat or tie the Patriots
- The Jets to beat the Dolphins, and the Bills to beat the Patriots, provided Pittsburgh at least ties the Browns
NFL playoff scenarios: AFC South
Unlike the other divisions in the conference, the AFC South winner will be decided in week 18. The division title will go down to either the Tennessee Titans or the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s pretty straightforward for the Titans: win and they’re in, lose and they’re out. On the other hand, the Jaguars will win the division if this match ends in a tie. Also, even if they lose, Jacksonville can take the number 7 seed if the Dolphins, Patriots and Steelers all lose this weekend.
NFL playoff scenarios: NFC East
Although these teams have already made the playoffs, the AFC East winner will be decided this weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles will take the division with a win or tie. Even if they lose, Philly can still win the division provided the Dallas Cowboys don’t beat the Washington Commanders. On the other hand, Dallas can only win the division title if they beat the Commanders, and the Eagles lose to the Giants.
There are some wild NFL playoff scenarios this weekend, and we would like to see how some of them will pan out. That said, it’ll be interesting to see which teams will take the three remaining playoff spots at the end of the regular season.