NFL Playoff Picture 2022: Week 18 Standings, AFC and NFC Wild-Card Hunt

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2022

NFL Playoff Picture 2022: Week 18 Standings, AFC and NFC Wild-Card Hunt

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The final three NFL postseason berths will be decided on the last day of the regular season. 

    The AFC wild-card race will have to wait until the final game of the season to be sorted out. The Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders clash was flexed into the Sunday night spot. 

    Las Vegas and Los Angeles are two of five teams left in the AFC wild-card hunt. That list could be trimmed to four if the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. 

    The top half of the AFC standings will be sorted out in Week 18 as well. The Tennessee Titans need a victory to secure the No. 1 seed, and the Buffalo Bills must win to lock up the AFC East title. 

    In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are fighting for the final playoff berth. San Francisco is in with a victory, while the Saints need a win and a 49ers loss to claim their postseason spot. 

AFC Playoff Picture

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Division Leaders

    1. Tennessee (11-5)

    2. Kansas City (11-5)

    3. Cincinnati (10-6)

    4. Buffalo (10-6) 

    The Tennessee Titans will clinch home-field advantage and the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win at the Houston Texans. Tennessee moved into first place after the Kansas City Chiefs lost a thrilling game to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.

    Cincinnati won the AFC North with its Sunday victory and moved ahead of the Buffalo Bills based off the conference-record tiebreaker. 

    The Bills are the only AFC division leader that has not clinched a title yet. Buffalo can do so Sunday with a home win over the New York Jets. It leads the New England Patriots thanks to the division-record tiebreaker. 

    The top four teams in the AFC could remain in that order going into the postseason since they all face eliminated squads in Week 18.


    Wild-Card Race

    5. New England (10-6)

    6. Indianapolis (9-7)

    7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

    8. Las Vegas (9-7)

    9. Miami (8-8; eliminated)

    10. Baltimore (8-8)

    11. Pittsburgh (7-7-1)

    New England is the only AFC team in a wild-card position that is guaranteed to enter the postseason. 

    Bill Belichick's team should beat the already-eliminated Miami Dolphins in Week 18 to hold on to the No. 5 seed, which could result in a rematch against the Bills. 

    The host Dolphins are ninth in the AFC standings, but they were knocked out of contention Sunday. They have head-to-head losses to the Colts and Raiders. They would not be able to get into the postseason if all three franchises finished at 9-8. 

    Indianapolis needs a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars to qualify for the postseason. That will likely happen because a loss would confirm the Jaguars as the owner of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft.

    The winner of the Chargers-Raiders game will secure the 14th and final playoff berth. The Chargers won the first meeting in Week 4 by a 28-14 score. 

    Pittsburgh can remain alive with a home win over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night, but it needs help in a few different spots to get into the postseason.

    Baltimore needs to beat Pittsburgh at home in Week 18 and receive help from Jacksonville to have a shot at making the seven-team AFC field. 

NFC Playoff Picture

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Division Leaders

    1. Green Bay (13-3)

    2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

    3. Tampa Bay (12-4)

    4. Dallas (11-5)

    The Green Bay Packers locked up home-field advantage in the NFC with their win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night. The team has the two-win Lions in Week 18 and the first-round bye to rest up its players before it embarks on a Super Bowl run. 

    The Los Angeles Rams can confirm their spot on the opposite side of Green Bay in the NFC playoff bracket with a win at home over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. 

    L.A. needs one more victory to wrap up the NFC West. The Rams could also secure the division title by way of an Arizona Cardinals loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks. 

    The Dallas Cowboys will likely be the first-round opponent for the second-place team in the NFC West, which means we could see a rematch of Sunday's clash between the NFC East winner and the Cardinals, who won 25-22 in Dallas. 


    Wild-Card Race

    5. Arizona (11-5)

    6. San Francisco (9-7)

    7. Philadelphia (9-7)

    8. New Orleans (8-8)

    The NFC wild-card scenarios are very simple to follow.

    San Francisco gets in with a win over the Rams or a New Orleans Saints loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

    New Orleans makes the seven-team field through a win combined with a 49ers loss. 

    Philadelphia would be the No. 7 seed if the 49ers advance, and it would become the No. 6 seed if the Saints get through. The Eagles have a head-to-head loss to San Francisco and a win over the Saints. 

    Arizona is locked into the No. 5 seed as long as the Rams beat the 49ers. The Cardinals can win the division and flip the Rams into a wild-card spot through a win over Seattle and a 49ers victory. 

    Los Angeles is on a five-game losing streak against the 49ers, so there is a chance the Cardinals and Rams flip spots and the Rams head to Dallas for the wild-card round.