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Week 18 NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios

It’s come down to this. 11 teams are headed to the NFL postseason, which leaves just three spots up for grabs. Let’s establish the stakes heading into football’s first-ever Week 18.

And here we are. For the first time in NFL history, we’ve hit Week 18. And if the postseason is as deliciously chaotic as these past few months, we’re in for something special as 2022 revs up.

There are three playoff spots still up for grabs, and the witching hour is here.

To cap off an unprecedented regular season of football — how are two 10-6 teams still alive for the No. 1 seed in the AFC??? — we break down what each eligible team has to do to clinch not just playoff berths, but division titles and first-round byes.

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Can Clinch Wild Card Berth at Best in Week 18

The following seven teams have yet to clinch playoff berths and have been eliminated from division title contention.

Baltimore Ravens

Record: 8-8
Seed: AFC No. 11
Can Clinch: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Steelers AND Patriots win or tie vs. Dolphins AND Colts loss vs. Jaguars

Wait, the No. 11 seed is still alive but the 10th-seeded Dolphins are already eliminated? Yes, welcome to the NFL. Lamar Jackson and Co. need a victory over Pittsburgh in Week 18 in addition to a couple other major assists.

Indianapolis Colts

Record: 9-7
Seed: AFC No. 6
Can Clinch: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win or tie vs. Jaguars; OR loss vs. Jaguars AND Chargers loss vs. Raiders AND Steelers tie vs. Ravens

At the top of the list of 9-7 AFC teams are the Colts, who own handy tiebreakers over the Raiders and Chargers. Naturally, they have the easiest path of the AFC teams already out of their respective divisional races.

New Orleans Saints

Record: 8-8
Seed: NFC No. 8
Can Clinch: NFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Falcons AND 49ers loss vs. Rams

It’s been a strange season in New Orleans, from their quarterback situation to COVID challenges to somehow shutting out the defending champion Bucs without scoring a single touchdown. They need help to clinch, but it’s anything but out of the question.

Las Vegas Raiders

Record: 9-7
Seed: AFC No. 8
Can Clinch: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs Chargers; OR tie vs. Chargers AND Colts loss vs. Jaguars

If the Raiders beat the division rival Chargers, they’re in. And fortunately, they’re at home for this one.

Los Angeles Chargers

Record: 9-7
Seed: AFC No. 7
Can Clinch: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win or tie vs. Raiders

On the other side of the coin-flip game in Vegas: the LA Chargers. Just how they drew it up — all or nothing out in the AFC West on the final day of the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 8-7-1
Seed: AFC No. 9
Can Clinch: AFC Wild Card
Condition: Win vs. Ravens AND Colts loss vs. Jaguars AND Chargers win or loss vs. Raiders

Ben Roethlisberger getting the W in his final game at Heinz Field as a Steeler — and keeping the team clinging to life in the playoff hunt — was a bittersweet Monday night moment. Now, Pittsburgh needs some serious help from the Jaguars.

San Francisco 49ers

Record: 9-7
Seed: NFC No. 6
Can Clinch: NFC Wild Card
Condition: Win or tie vs. Rams; OR loss vs. Rams AND Saints loss or tie vs. Falcons

As the AFC’s highest-seeded team that hasn’t already clinched a playoff berth, the Niners have their work cut out for them against the high-flying Rams. Fortunately, even a loss still doesn’t rule them out of the hunt.

Can Clinch Division Title at Best in Week 18

The following three teams have already clinched playoff berths, but can still clinch division titles. Each has been eliminated from contention for a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.

Arizona Cardinals

Record: 11-5
Seed: NFC No. 5
Can Clinch: NFC West
Condition: Win vs. Seahawks AND Rams loss vs. 49ers

They need the Rams to lose if they want to take the division, but it could happen. What a way for the Redbirds to erase a 4-5 run over their last nine games that included three straight Ls.

Buffalo Bills

Record: 10-6
Seed: No. 4
Can Clinch: AFC East
Condition: Win vs. Jets; OR tie vs. Jets AND Patriots loss or tie vs. Dolphins; OR loss vs. Jets AND Patriots loss vs. Dolphins

They own a divisional tiebreaker over the Patriots thanks to their AFC East winning percentage — but interestingly enough, New England is still technically in the running for the conference’s No. 1 seed, while Buffalo is not.

Los Angeles Rams

Record: 12-4
Seed: No. 3
Can Clinch: NFC West
Condition: Win or tie vs. 49ers; OR loss vs. 49ers and Cardinals loss vs. Seahawks

For the Rams, it’s not even “win and you’re in” as champions of the NFC West. They still control their destiny with a hypothetical tie, and even a loss is surmountable as long as the Cardinals don’t end up taking care of business against Seattle.

Can Clinch No. 1 Seed / First-round Bye in Week 18

Cincinnati Bengals(AFC North champs)

Record: 10-6
Seed: No. 3
Can Clinch:AFC No. 1 seed
Condition: Win vs. Browns AND Chiefs loss vs. Broncos AND Titans loss vs. Texans AND Bills win vs. Jets

The Bengals have been one of the best stories in football this season. A division title is sweet; the top spot in the entire AFC would be an otherworldly delight.

New England Patriots (Clinched playoff berth)

Record: 10-6
Seed: No. 5
Can Clinch:AFC No. 1 seed
Condition: Win vs. Dolphins AND Chiefs loss vs. Broncos AND Titans loss vs. Texans AND Bills loss vs. Jets; ORWin vs. Dolphins AND Chiefs loss vs. Broncos AND Titans loss vs. Texans AND Bills loss or tie vs. Jets

They need an absolute ton of help to smash-and-grab their way to the No. 1 seed, but they’ll gladly settle for an unlikely AFC East title. All it takes is a better Week 18 result than the Bills thanks to the latter’s divisional tiebreaker.

Kansas City Chiefs(AFC West champs)

Record: 11-5
Seed: No. 2
Can Clinch: AFC No. 1 seed
Condition: Win vs. Broncos AND Titans loss or tie vs. Texans; OR tie vs. Broncos AND Titans loss vs. Texans

The Chiefs aren’t going to fumble this, are they? The defending AFC champs no longer control their destiny for the conference’s top spot heading into the final week.

Tennessee Titans (AFC South champs)

Record: 11-5
Seed: No. 1
Can Clinch: AFC No. 1 seed
Condition: Win vs. Texans; OR tie vs. Texans AND Chiefs loss or tie vs. Broncos; OR loss vs. Texans AND Chiefs loss vs. Broncos

That’s right, your Tennessee Titans have placed themselves in pole position for home field throughout the AFC playoffs despite going weeks and weeks without franchise superstar Derrick Henry.

And the big guy actually has a chance to return from IR this week, believe it or not.

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Already Clinched Playoff Berths

Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kansas City Chiefs
Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers

New England Patriots
Los Angeles Rams
Tennessee Titans

Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns
Denver Broncos
Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars
Minnesota Vikings
New York Giants
New York Jets
Seattle Seahawks
Washington Football Team