NFL Playoffs: Week 18 Scenarios

Week 18 of the NFL regular season is finally here and 20 teams are still in contention to make the playoffs. Seven teams from each conference will qualify, the winner of each division and three wildcards. 

Currently, nine teams have clinched postseason berths, including five in the NFC: the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs are also in. This means there are a total of five spots up for grabs in Week 18.

AFC Playoff Picture

1Ravens13-3AFC North, No. 1 seed
2Dolphins11-5Playoff Position
3Chiefs10-6AFC West
5Browns 11-5Playoff Position
6Bills 10-6 

Still in the hunt: Texans (9-7), Colts (9-7)

Qualifying Scenarios

Entering Week 18, there are three playoff spots up for grabs in the AFC and five teams in contention for them.

The Colts and Texans have the simplest elimination scenarios. If either of them loses, they are eliminated. Indianapolis also has the chance of being eliminated with a tie, a Steelers win and a Jaguars win or tie. Houston will be out in the case of a tie if either the Steelers win or the Jaguars win or tie.

While the Bills are playing for the AFC’s No. 2 seed they could be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss. Buffalo would have to lose and both the Jaguars and Steelers would need to win and have the Colts-Texans game not end in a tie to be eliminated.

The Jaguars need to beat the Titans and they will win the AFC South. If they lose, they could be eliminated with a Steelers win or tie and a Broncos win or a Colts tie. 

Lastly, the Steelers will be eliminated from playoff contention if the Jaguars win, the Bills win or tie and the Colts-Texans game doesn’t end in a tie.


NFC playoff picture

149ers12-4NFC West, No. 1 seed
2Cowboys11-5Playoff Position
3Lions11-5NFC North
5Eagles 11-5Playoff Position
6Rams 9-7Playoff Position

Still in the hunt: Seahawks (8-8), Saints (8-8), Vikings (7-9), Falcons (7-9)

In the NFC, six teams are playing for two spots in Week 18 with all six facing elimination scenarios. 

The Falcons need to win but if they lose and the Buccaneers win or either game ends in a tie, they will be out. That’s the team’s only potential way into the postseason. 

Similarly, the Saints have the potential to sneak into the No. 7 seed but need some help. New Orleans needs a win but would also be eliminated by a Buccaneers win coupled with wins by either the Packers or Seahawks. 

The Buccaneers have an easier path as a win would secure their qualification for the postseason. Going up against the Carolina Panthers the team will definitely be in the best sport to win the NFC South. They can however be eliminated with a tie as well as a win by the Saints or tie by the Seahawks or a Packers win. 

The Packers need to win their final game to ensure their spot in the playoffs. If they lose, the equation becomes very complicated. To be eliminated from the playoffs one of the follow would need to occur:

  • Vikings win or tie
  • Seahawks win or tie
  • Buccaneers win or tie AND Saints win or tie

The most difficult path to the playoffs is definitely the Vikings’, as the team doesn’t have control over their playoff hopes. The Vikings will miss the playoffs with a loss or tie against the Lions or wins or ties from the Seahawks or Packers. 

The Seahawks can be eliminated with a loss or a Packers win. They will also be eliminated if both them and the Packers end up with a tie or if Seattle ties and both New Orleans and Tampa Bay win.