NFL Playoff Picture 2022: Official AFC, NFC Clinching Scenarios Released for Week 18

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: A detail view of the NFL logo crest is seen on a football on the field during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Plenty is at stake in the first Week 18 in NFL history.

On Tuesday, the league announced the scenarios for teams to clinch playoff berths heading into the final slate of regular-season games.


Baltimore Ravens

Clinch playoffs with win + LAC loss + IND loss + MIA loss or tie

Buffalo Bills

Clinch AFC East with:

  1. Win OR
  2. NE loss OR
  3. Tie plus NE tie

Cincinnati Bengals

Clinch No. 1 seed with:

  1. Win + TEN loss + KC loss + NE loss or tie OR
  2. Win + TEN loss + KC loss + BUF win

Indianapolis Colts

Clinch playoffs with:

  1. Win or tie OR
  2. LAC loss + PIT-BAL tie OR
  3. LAC loss + PIT loss + MIA win

Kansas City Chiefs

Clinch No. 1 seed with:

  1. Win + TEN loss or tie OR
  2. Tie + TEN loss

Las Vegas Raiders

Clinch playoffs with:

  1. Win OR
  2. Tie + IND loss OR
  3. IND loss + PIT loss or tie

Los Angeles Chargers

Clinch playoffs with win or tie

New England Patriots

Clinch No. 1 seed with win + BUF loss or tie + KC loss + TEN loss

Clinch AFC East with:

  1. Win + BUF loss or tie OR
  2. Tie + BUF loss

Pittsburgh Steelers

Clinch playoffs with win + IND loss + LAC-LV game does not end in a tie

Tennessee Titans

Clinch No. 1 seed with:

  1. Win OR
  2. Tie + KC loss or tie OR
  3. KC loss + CIN loss or tie + NE loss or tie OR 
  4. KC loss + CIN loss or tie + BUF win


Arizona Cardinals

Clinch NFC West with win + LAR loss

Los Angeles Rams

Clinch NFC West with:

  1. Win or tie OR
  2. ARI loss or tie

New Orleans Saints

Clinch playoffs with win + SF loss

San Francisco 49ers

Clinch playoffs with:

  1. Win or tie OR
  2. NO loss or tie

The AFC's No. 1 seed, the AFC East title and the NFC West title are up for grabs. However, the teams in contention for those accomplishments will make the playoffs even if they don't land the top seed or a division crown.

Do-or-die scenarios featuring the Colts, Chargers, Raiders, Ravens and Steelers stand out in the AFC, while the Saints and 49ers jump out in the NFC.

The NFC is straightforward, as six of the seven playoff spots have been clinched by the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cardinals and Rams.

The 49ers and Saints are fighting for the final spot, and San Francisco appears to have the advantage since it can make the playoffs with a win.

However, the Saints may be in better position since the 49ers have to go on the road to play a Rams team that is fighting for the NFC West crown. If Los Angeles defeats San Francisco, all New Orleans has to do is beat a 7-9 Atlanta Falcons squad that has not beaten a team above .500—though it did beat the Saints in Week 9.

The prediction is the Saints get the final NFC spot.

As for the AFC, should Indianapolis handle the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, it would eliminate the Steelers and clinch a playoff spot for the Colts.

That would leave the final wild-card slot for the winner of the game between the Chargers and Raiders, which the NFL flexed to the Sunday night slot. Los Angeles won the first matchup by 14 points in Week 4, but the rematch is in Las Vegas.

A win for the Raiders would earn the franchise just its second playoff appearance since 2002 and first since 2016. A Chargers victory would give them their second playoff berth since 2013.