Week 18. For some teams, the week will mean go big or go home. For others jockeying for better seeding, it’ll determine what their path is to the Super Bowl. There are a lot of crucial matchups involving playoff-hopeful teams that are sure to bring plenty of drama, and a breakdown of each possible scenario is needed.
Let’s start with the NFC. We’ll start at the top where four teams still have a shot at the #1 overall seed and the coveted first round bye. The simplest solution to this matter is simple; the Eagles finally get their clinching win and eliminate any other scenario. However, if they lose, the door is open for the Cowboys, 49ers, and Vikings. If all three of these teams were to win and everybody ends up at 13-4, the 49ers would own the tiebreaker and become the #1 overall seed. However, if they lose, the door opens up for the Vikings. If they also then lose, the Cowboys winning would get them not only the NFC East division crown, but also the #1 overall seed, sending the Eagles all the way down to the 5 seed and on the road for the first round of the playoffs.
We then look down the playoff picture and see the Giants at the 6 seed, locked to their place, which brings up the 7 seed which is a 3 team race between the Packers, Lions, and Seahawks. Similar to the Eagles, if the Packers win next week against Detroit, they are in and there’s nothing else to it. However, if the Lions beat the Packers, the Packers are eliminated. Then, combining that Lions win with a Seahawks loss, would mean the Lions are in. Add the Lions win with a Seahawks win, however, and the Seahawks get the final spot. Expect the Packers-Lions game to be Sunday afternoon or night in order to add to the suspense even more.
How I predict the NFC playoff bracket will look like in seeding order is: 49ers, Cowboys, Vikings, Buccaneers, Eagles, Giants, Packers:
Moving on to the AFC, where’s there’s also traffic at the #1 spot. At the time I’m writing this article, the Bills and Bengals have not yet played their Week 17 Monday night game: However, no matter the result of that game, the Bills only need to finish with the same record as the Chiefs or better to become the #1 seed, as they own the tiebreaker. If the Bengals lose to the Bills, their 1 seed hopes are dead. However, if they win, they’d need another win in Week 18, as well as for the Chiefs to lose in Vegas, to secure the spot. Those are the only 3 teams in play for the #1 spot.
Moving down to the battle for the #4 seed and the AFC South, the Titans and Jaguars will face off in basically a play-in game. Whoever wins goes to the playoffs and whoever loses is out, very similar to the Chargers vs Raiders Sunday night clash last year. In the event of an unlikely tie in that game, the Jaguars would go through.
As for the 5 seed, the Chargers can clinch that with a win in their week 18 game. If they lose, however, the Ravens can snatch it with a win in their game. This 5 seed is crucial, as whoever earns it will most likely be favored to beat the winner of Jags vs Titans.
Now, let’s talk about the 7 seed, which is down to the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers, and the Jaguars if they do not secure the division title. The Patriots can end the chaos with a win against the Bills, but given the circumstances, that seems unlikely, so let’s once again address the other scenarios. The first team to have dibs on #7 if the Patriots lose is the Dolphins, who can clinch with a win. If they both lose, the Steelers are up next, and a win would put them in. Lastly, if the Jags lose vs the Titans, losses from all the aforementioned teams would miraculously get them through.
How I predict the AFC playoff bracket will look like in seeding order is: Chiefs, Bengals, Bills, Jaguars, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers.
This week 18 is sure to be full of games to remember, and fans across the nation will surely grow some grey hairs watching their team play for possibly the last time this season. I’ll be back next week after all the chaos with my full playoff preview and my predictions.