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NFL Playoff Picture | Week 18

Sports

Rows of NFL Footballs | Image by Alena Veasey/Shutterstock

The 2022 NFL season is just one week from officially ending, and the roster of 14 teams who will play in the postseason is still up in the air.

Three playoff spots are yet to be claimed, and several teams in both divisions stand a chance to move up in the final standings following Week 18.

Currently, the Buffalo Bills hold the AFC’s No.2 seed, while the Cincinnati Bengals are still fighting for the No.3 seed. The Bills have clinched the AFC East but could still overtake the Kansas City Chiefs for the No.1 seed.

The Monday Night Football matchup between the Bengals and Bills was pivotal to the AFC playoff standings, as a Buffalo win would have put them just one win from the No.1 seed.

The Bengals are in a similar situation as they are still in competition for the No.1 seed but would need a Week 18 win, a win against Buffalo, and a loss by the Chiefs.

The NFL has yet to announce when — or if — the Bills-Bengals game will resume following the tragic injury to Damar Hamlin on Monday Night Football that led to the game being postponed.

The winner of the Week 18 match between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans will decide the No.4 seed. Tennessee is currently out of the playoffs and must beat the Jaguars to qualify.

The Los Angeles Chargers will be the No.5 seed with a win against Denver in Week 18. A loss and a win by the Baltimore Ravens over Cincinnati would send the Chargers to the sixth seed to face the No.3 seed.

The AFC’s No.7 seed is the most up in the air. Four teams are competing for the last playoff spot, and there is no direct path to earning the spot for any of the teams.

The Jaguars, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Miami Dolphins all have a shot at the last playoff seed, depending on the outcome of several games.

In the NFC, things are just as confusing. The Philadelphia Eagles continue to hold the No.1 seed but are just a loss and a Cowboys win from slipping to the No.5 seed.

The Eagles have lost two games in a row with quarterback Jalen Hurts on the sideline due to a shoulder strain. Hurts is expected to be available on Sunday against the New York Giants.

The San Francisco 49ers are also in the mix to overtake the Eagles for the No.1 spot. A 49ers win, coupled with a loss by the Eagles and a Cowboys loss, gives San Francisco the top seed, drops Philadelphia to No.2, and locks Dallas in at No.5.

The Minnesota Vikings are the current No.3 seed, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wrapped up the NFC South and are assured of being the No.4 seed.

The New York Giants are locked in as the No.6 seed after securing a playoff berth in Week 17.

Three teams are alive for the No.7 seed in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers are in a win-and-get-in situation, as they could clinch the No.7 seed with a win over the Detroit Lions.

The Lions can take the No.7 seed with a win over the Packers and a loss by the Seattle Seahawks against the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks clinch the last playoff spot with a win and a Packers loss.

The final week of the NFL season should offer plenty of drama, but it is possible that there will not be clear winners across the AFC even after the last game is played.

The injury to Hamlin that caused the MNF game to be postponed has significant implications for how the division falls out. The NFL will need to determine how to handle this unprecedented situation before there will be absolute clarity for the playoffs.

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