NFL Playoffs 2022: Known AFC, NFC Schedule and Updated Bracket Scenarios

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2022

THIS CORRECTS THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS PLAYER TO SEAN MANNION AND NOT NATE STANLEY AS ORIGINALLY SENT - Green Bay Packers' Preston Smith reacts after sacking Minnesota Vikings' Sean Mannion during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

The AFC is where most of the postseason drama lies for Week 18. 

The No. 1 overall seed in the conference could go to four different franchises, and five teams are still in contention for two wild-card positions. 

Pittsburgh Steelers' win on Monday ensured the five-way competition for the wild-card spots. The Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens are still in the mix as well.

Home-field advantage in the NFC was decided on Sunday night, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings. 

Only one of the seven postseason spots in the NFC is up for grabs on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers need to beat the Los Angeles Rams and see the New Orleans Saints lose to the Falcons to join the seven-team field. 

Green Bay and the No. 1 seed from the AFC will earn the only first-round byes in the postseason. The rest of the 12 participants open playoff action on wild-card weekend from January 15-17.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

2021 NFL Playoff Scenarios for Week 18: <a href="https://t.co/PqB4IDQaXv">pic.twitter.com/PqB4IDQaXv</a>

AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Tennessee (11-5)

2. Kansas City (11-5)

3. Cincinnati (10-6)

4. Buffalo (10-6)

The Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals all have the potential to secure the No. 1 seed through Week 18 results. 

Tennessee is in the driver's seat after it won and Kansas City lost in Week 17. The Titans need a win over the Houston Texans to secure home-field advantage and the first-round bye. 

Mike Vrabel's team could use an extra week off to potentially get Derrick Henry back from injury for the divisional round.

Kansas City needs to beat the Denver Broncos and receive help from the Texans to secure the top spot in the AFC.

Cincinnati needs losses by Kansas City and Tennessee plus a win over the Cleveland Browns to land the top spot. The Bengals own a better conference record than the Titans and a head-to-head win over the Chiefs from Week 17.

The Buffalo Bills can secure the AFC East title with a victory over the New York Jets, but they can't land the No. 1 seed because of their disadvantage in tiebreakers. 


Wild-Card Race

5. New England (10-6)

6. Indianapolis (9-7)

7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

8. Las Vegas (9-7)

9. Pittsburgh (8-7-1)

10. Baltimore (8-8)

The New England Patriots are already into the postseason.

Bill Belichick's team needs a win over the Miami Dolphins combined with a Buffalo loss to land the AFC East title. The Patriots have an outside shot to land the No. 1 seed, but they need all sorts of help from Cleveland, Denver and Houston.

The Indianapolis Colts need to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to lock up one of the two remaining wild-card positions. 

Carson Wentz and Co. defeated the Jaguars earlier in the season, but the Colts have had trouble recently against their AFC South rival away from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indianapolis has not beaten the Jaguars outside of its home stadium since the 2014 campaign. The Jaguars beat the Colts in Week 17 of 2019 and Week 1 of 2020 in their latest showdowns in north Florida. 

Jacksonville needs a loss to earn the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, so that streak could end on Sunday. 

The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders will likely play for the final playoff spot on Sunday night. If Indianapolis somehow loses, the Chargers and Raiders could both get in with a tie. 

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are also reliant on the Jaguars to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

Pittsburgh needs Indianapolis and one of the AFC West teams to drop to eight losses. Pittsburgh could then qualify with a victory to get it to 9-7-1.

Baltimore needs to beat Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale and then hope for losses by Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Miami to earn a postseason spot. The Ravens would be the No. 7 seed in that situation thanks to head-to-head wins over the Colts and Chargers. 


NFC Playoff Picture

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 took away the drama for the NFC's No.1 seed by securing home-field advantage on Sunday. 

Green Bay could opt to rest its starters for parts of the Week 18 clash with the Detroit Lions before it watches from the sidelines during wild-card weekend. 

The Los Angeles Rams will land on the opposite end of the NFC bracket as the Packers with a win over the San Francisco 49ers. 

Sean McVay's team needs a Week 18 win to capture the NFC West title and lock in at least one home playoff game. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit behind the Rams on conference record. They should beat the Carolina Panthers to finish either second or third in the NFC.

The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East a few weeks ago. They will most likely be the No. 4 seed in the NFC bracket. Dallas has head-to-head losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay. Arizona would leap the Rams in the NFC West if it wins against the Seattle Seahawks and the Rams lose. 


Wild-Card Race

5. Arizona (11-5)

6. San Francisco (9-7)

7. Philadelphia (9-7)

8. New Orleans (8-8)

The second-place team in the NFC West will finish as the No. 5 seed. 

Arizona will likely defeat the Seahawks on Sunday. The Cardinals need a 49ers win over the Rams to earn a home game in the wild-card round.

If the Cardinals and Rams have the same results on Sunday, Kyler Murray and Co. will most likely head to Dallas for their playoff opener. 

The 49ers need to beat the Rams to clinch their postseason spot. San Francisco could also use a New Orleans Saints loss to the Atlanta Falcons to get in.

Philadelphia secured its playoff spot in Week 17 with a win over the Washington Football Team and some help. 

The Eagles own a head-to-head victory over New Orleans, and they lost early in the regular season to the 49ers. 

San Francisco will be the No. 6 seed if it finishes with the same record as the Eagles. Philadelphia claims that spot if New Orleans qualifies for the postseason.