NFL Playoff scenarios: A full look at where things stand in Week 18

NFL Playoff scenarios are aplenty with Week 18 of the schedule starting on Saturday. However, there’s a new wrinkle to this year’s scenarios with news that the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game from Monday night will not resume this week due to the medical emergency defensive back Damar Hamlin is dealing with after collapsing on the field and receiving CPR.

While what we see on the field this coming weekend is less important than Hamlin’s condition, fans are still going to be rooting on their teams come Week 17.

From an on-field standpoint, there are five teams that clinched division title. Six others have guaranteed themselves spots in the postseason.

Here’s a full look at the NFL Playoff scenarios in Week 18 and heading into the final week of the regular season. We will revert back to Week 17 when focusing on the AFC until there’s further information on the status of the Bills-Bengals game.

Related: Week 18 NFL standings

NFC Playoff clinching scenarios

nfl playoff scenarios: philadelphia eagles clinch nfc east
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Philadelphia Eagles clinch NFC East

  • With Week 18 win or tie against the New York Giants


  • With Dallas Cowboys Week 18 loss/tie to the Washington Commanders

Without Jalen Hurts for a second consecutive game, Philadelphia fell to the New Orleans Saints, 20-10, on the road on New Year’s Day. This now sets up a rather interesting scenario in which Dallas can grab the NFC East title.

Philly can take care of things with a win against the Giants on Sunday (4:25 PM ET). If not, a Cowboys victory over Washington would give Dallas the NFC East title and push Philadelphia into a road wild card game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Philadelphia Eagles clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

  • With win/tie against the New York Giants


  • San Francisco 49ers AND Dallas Cowboys losses/ties

This is pretty much the same scenario. Philadelphia can clinch both the NFC East title and home-field advantage with a win over the Giants. A loss would set things up for Dallas to win the NFC East or San Francisco to nab the No. 1 seed.

San Francisco 49ers clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

nfl playoff scenarios: san francisco 49ers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • With win over the Arizona Cardinals and Eagles loss to the New York Giants

Winners of nine consecutive games, San Francisco has a real shot to earn home-field advantage and a first-round bye. It is set to host the hapless Arizona Cardinals at 4:25 PM ET on Sunday. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC could very well go through Santa Clara.

Dallas Cowboys clinch NFC East

  • With win over the Commanders and Eagles loss to the Giants

It’s pretty clear-cut for Mike McCarthy’s squad. Dallas will earn the NFC East title if it takes out the Commanders on the road on Sunday. Kicking off at the same time, Dallas also needs Philadelphia to lose to New York on the road.

Dallas Cowboys clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

  • With win over Commanders and losses by the 49ers and Eagles

At this point, it’s seems a stretch to believe the Cardinals will head into Santa Clara and defeat the 49ers. But there’s always a chance. From Dallas’ perspective, all it can do it take care of business against Washington while hoping both Philadelphia and San Francisco lose.

Green Bay Packers clinch NFL Playoff spot

  • With win over the Detroit Lions

It’s simple: Green Bay now controls its own destiny to earn the final playoff spot in the NFC after handing the division-rival Minnesota Vikings a blowout loss on Sunday. If they take out Detroit in Week 18, the Packers will face either the Eagles, Cowboys or 49ers in the first round.

Detroit Lions clinch NFL Playoff spot

nfl playoff scenarios: detroit lions
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
  • With win over Green Bay Packers


  • Seattle Seahawks loss/tie to the Los Angeles Rams

By virtue of their dominating win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Lions are still alive for what would be a surprise playoff appearance. Jared Goff and Co. need to take care of business on the road against Green Bay in Week 18 on Sunday Night Football.

The Lions also need an injury-plagued Rams squad to beat the Seahawks on the road (4:25 PM ET). It’s not a great scenario. But at the very least, Dan Campbell’s squad remains alive.

Seattle Seahawks NFL Playoff scenarios

  • With win over the Rams


  • Packers loss/tie to the Lions

It’s rather simple for Seattle. Pete Carroll and Co. must take out the Rams at home come Sunday. It also needs Green Bay to lose at home against Detroit. If this comes to fruition, the Seahawks would be looking at a wild card game on the road.

Current NFC standings and wild card matchups

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
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  1. Philadelphia Eagles: 13-3 (first-round bye)
  2. San Francisco 49ers: 12-4
  3. Minnesota Vikings: 12-4
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-8
  5. Dallas Cowboys: 12-4
  6. New York Giants: 9-6-1
  7. Seattle Seahawks: 8-8
  • 7. Seahawks @ 2. 49ers
  • 6. Giants @ 3. Vikings
  • 5. Cowboys @ 4. Buccaneers

* Note: NFC South winner automatically gets home-field in first-round

AFC Playoff clinching scenarios

nfl playoff scenarios; buffalo bills clinch home-field
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

  • With wins over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday and New England Patriots on Sunday


  • Win over the Bengals and a Kansas City Chiefs loss to Las Vegas Raiders


  • Win over the Patriots coupled with both the Chiefs and Bengals losing in Week 18

Buffalo controls its own destiny in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. With wins over the Bengals and Patriots, the postseason will go through Western New York. Even if the Bills lose on Monday Night Football, they can grab the top seed with Cincinnati losing to Baltimore and the Chiefs falling to Vegas in Week 18.

Cincinnati Bengals clinch AFC North

  • With win/tie against the Bills on Monday night


  • Week 18 win against the Baltimore Ravens

This one is self-explanatory.

Bengals clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
  • With two wins and another Chiefs loss

That’s pretty much it for Cincinnati’s NFL Playoff scenarios. It can clinch home-field advantage in an attempt to repeat as AFC Champs with wins against the Bills and Ravens coupled with Kansas City falling to Las Vegas in Week 18.

Chiefs clinch first-round bye, home-field advantage

  • With a win over the Raiders and one more Bills loss


  • Two Bills losses and a Bengals loss

Kansas City has a vested interest in the outcome of the Bills-Bengals game. The team will be rooting for Cincinnati to come out on top here. Should that happen, a win over the Raiders on the road Saturday would give Patrick Mahomes and Co. the No. 1 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.

The Chiefs can also clinch the top spot with two Bills losses as well as Cincinnati losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18.

Cincinnati Bengals clinch AFC North title

  • With win/tie against the Bills

Winners of seven consecutive games, Cincinnati heads into Monday night’s matchup with a chance to clinch the AFC North. Following Baltimore’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, it simply needs to win or tie at home. Will Joe Burrow be up to the task?

Jacksonville Jaguars clinch AFC South title

  • With win/tie against the Tennessee Titans in Week 18

Jacksonville now has a do-or-die game set for home on primetime Saturday night. Winners of four consecutive games, a victory in Duval would send Doug Pederson’s squad to a surprise playoff appearance. On the off chance it ends in a tie, Jacksonville will be playing postseason football.

Titans clinch AFC South title

  • With win over the Jaguars in Week 18

Losers of six consecutive games, Tennessee will be relying on Joshua Dobbs to do his thing under center Saturday night in Jacksonville. A win here would send the injury-plagued Titans to postseason football for the fourth consecutive year.

Ravens clinch AFC North title

  • With win over the Bengals in Week 18 AND Buffalo win over Cincinnati Monday night

Despite falling to Pittsburgh in Week 17, Baltimore still has a chance to earn the AFC North title and host a playoff game. However, it’s rooting for Buffalo to take out Cincinnati on the road to set up a chance to win the division against Cincinnati in Week 18.

NFL Playoff scenarios: New England Patriots clinch seventh seed

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
  • With Week 18 win over the Bills


  • Losses by the Dolphins, Steelers and Titans

It’s pretty simple for Bill Belichick’s squad. The team will earn a second consecutive playoff appearance if it takes out Buffalo at home in Week 18. With the Bills likely to play their starters, that’s going to be a difficult task.

New England can also clinch if three different AFC Playoff contenders lose this coming weekend. It’s not a great bet. But it keeps things alive should New England lose Sunday afternoon.

Miami Dolphins clinch seventh seed

  • With Week 18 win over the New York Jets AND Patriots loss to the Bills

It’s going to be either Skylar Thompson or Teddy Bridgewater under center for Miami in Week 18 as the team looks to overcome a five-game losing streak and earn a rare playoff appearance. Even if the Dolphins beat the Jets, they’ll need Buffalo to take out New England.

Steelers NFL Playoff scenarios

  • With Week 18 win over the Browns as well as losses by both the Dolphins and Patriots

Stunning. It’s simply incredible that Pittsburgh has an opportunity to earn the final playoff spot in the AFC. The team stood at 2-6 heading into its Week 9 bye. Since then, the Steelers have won six of eight.

By virtue of Kenny Pickett’s clutch gene, Mike Tomlin’s squad actually has a good chance of earning that final playoff spot. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both the Dolphins and Pats lost in Week 18. If so, a win against Cleveland would send the Steelers to a surprise playoff appearance.

Jaguars clinch No. 7 seed

  • With a loss to the Titans as well as losses by the Dolphins, Patriots and Steelers

As noted above, Jacksonville’s best hope of earning a playoff spot is actually winning at home. The team would clinch the AFC South in that scenario. A tie would do it, too. However, there’s a scenario in which Jacksonville sneaks in as a wild card team with losses by the Dolphins, Patriots and Steelers.

Current AFC standings and wild card matchups

nfl playoff scenarios: dolphins-chiefs
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-3 (first-round bye)
  2. Buffalo Bills: 12-3
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: 11-4
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8
  5. Los Angeles Chargers: 10-6
  6. Baltimore Ravens: 10-6
  7. New England Patriots: 8-8
  • 7. Patriots at 2. Bills
  • 6. Ravens at 3. Bengals
  • 5. Chargers at 4. Jaguars

* Note: AFC South winner automatically gets home-field in first-round

* Note: Chargers hold tiebreaker over the Ravens due to winning percentage in conference games

This article was originally published on and is republished here with permission.

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