NFL Playoff Scenarios 2022 Week 18: Updated Standings, Projected Postseason MatchupsJanuary 4, 2022
With just one week left in the NFL regular season, there's no shortage of excitement surrounding the playoff races in both conferences.
The Green Bay Packers wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but things are still fluid with the teams vying to improve their positioning. In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans overtook the Kansas City Chiefs for the top spot. But home-field advantage is still there for the taking, with multiple teams having a chance to move up to No. 1.
Here's a look at where things stand after all the action in Week 17, as well as a look ahead to the projected matchups in this year's playoffs.
1. Tennessee Titans (11-5) - clinched AFC South
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) - clinched AFC West
3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) - clinched AFC North
4. Buffalo Bills (10-6) - clinched playoff spot
5. New England Patriots (10-6) - clinched playoff spot
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
8. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)
10. Miami Dolphins (8-8) - eliminated from playoff contention
11. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
12. Cleveland Browns (7-9) - eliminated from playoff contention
13. Denver Broncos (7-9) - eliminated from playoff contention
14. New York Jets (4-12) - eliminated from playoff contention
15. Houston Texans (4-12) - eliminated from playoff contention
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) - eliminated from playoff contention
1. Green Bay Packers (13-3) - clinched first-round bye
2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4) - clinched playoff spot
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) - clinched NFC South
4. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) - clinched NFC East
5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5) - clinched playoff spot
6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) - clinched playoff spot
7. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
8. New Orleans Saints (8-8)
9. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) - eliminated from playoff contention
10. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) - eliminated from playoff contention
11. Washington Football Team (6-10) - eliminated from playoff contention
12. Chicago Bears (6-10) - eliminated from playoff contention
13. Seattle Seahawks (6-10) - eliminated from playoff contention
14. Carolina Panthers (5-11) - eliminated from playoff contention
15. New York Giants (4-12) - eliminated from playoff contention
16. Detroit Lions (2-11-1) - eliminated from playoff contention
If the season ended today, here's what Wild Card weekend would look like:
- Bye: No. 1. Tennessee Titans
- No. 7 Los Angeles Chargers at No. 2 Kansas City chiefs
- No. 6 Indianapolis Colts at No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals
- No. 5 New England Patriots at No. 4 Buffalo Bills
- Bye: No. 1 Green Bay Packers
- No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams
- No. 6 San Francisco 49ers at No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 Dallas Cowboys
The Packers have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Their first opponent would be determined in a matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, in what would be a rematch from this past Sunday.
The Cardinals escaped AT&T Stadium with a 25-22 win, so the Cowboys would want to avoid a similar result if the two were matched up again in the postseason. Green Bay did not play against Dallas this season, but it did hand Arizona its first loss of the year in Week 8.
But the Cardinals can avoid the Packers if they manage to clinch the NFC West on Sunday. The Los Angeles Rams would need to lose to the San Francisco 49ers for that to happen.
If the Rams take care of business, they will be matched up against the Philadelphia Eagles. But it's hardly a given, considering Los Angeles will be playing against an amped-up 49ers team that can clinch a playoff berth with a win. A San Francisco loss would open the door for the New Orleans Saints to earn a spot.
There's a bit more excitement in the AFC heading into Week 18, considering that the first-round bye is still up for grabs and four teams have legitimate chances of taking it.
Let's start with the Titans, who just have to win against the Houston Texans to earn home-field advantage. The extra week of rest for Tennessee would work wonders towards facilitating the potential return of star running back Derrick Henry, who hasn't played since Week 8 due to a foot surgery.
A loss by the Titans would open up the door for the Chiefs, Bengals, and New England Patriots. But assuming Tennessee gets past the second-to-last ranked team in the AFC, the current set of playoff matchups are very intriguing.
The Chiefs are slated to face the AFC West-rival Los Angeles Chargers, who need to get past the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth. Kansas City split the regular-season series against Los Angeles, bouncing back from a Week 3 loss at Arrowhead Stadium with an overtime win on the road in Week 15.
A loss by the Chargers would lead to the Raiders getting in, but the Chiefs swept the season series against Las Vegas 2-0. Kansas City scored over 40 points in both those victories.
The Bengals' potential matchup against the Indianapolis Colts would be a fun pairing between two rising teams that have not faced each other this season. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow and Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor have established themselves as must-see players who can produce offensive fireworks. It could be a high-scoring affair if the game comes to fruition.
Lastly, the Bills and Patriots could go up against each other for the third time this season. The two teams split the season series, both of them losing in their home stadiums.
Buffalo doesn't have a shot at the No. 1 seed but can clinch the AFC East with a win over the New York Jets. The Patriots can take the division title with a win against the Miami Dolphins if the Bills lose to New York. Another Buffalo-New England matchup would be quintessential playoff football with likely wintry conditions in either city making for a gritty game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt after defeating the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. The Baltimore Ravens' chances of getting in are slim, but they also still have a slight chance in the final week of the regular season.