Updated NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 18

Updated NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 18

The final weekend of the NFL regular season is upon and 11 playoff berths have been clinched: Six in the NFC and five in the AFC. The Green Bay Packers have clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs and thus won’t have to leave Lambeau Field again until the Super Bowl if they make it that far. let’s take a look at the following analysis to help you place your odds on the NFL.

What to expect from the playoffs in NFL Week 18?

Of course, the Packers also had home-field advantage last year and lost in the NFC title game to Tampa Bay. However, colder weather this time should work in Green Bay’s favor much more than the pandemic-limited crowds of 8,000 and 30-ish temperatures that made the 2020 postseason greatly atypical for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers had won four straight home playoff games before last year’s loss to Tampa Bay.

“Last year, we didn’t get that good Green Bay weather,” Rodgers said. “It’s a different ballgame when it’s cold at home and we’ve handled the cold pretty well over the years. So that’s what we’re hoping for in the playoffs.”

The Packers have no reason to care this Sunday in Detroit but may play their starters for a series or two: “Right now the mindset is going into this is we’re going to play our guys and we’re going to approach it like every other game,” Coach Matt LaFleur said.

He couched it a little by suggesting some players wouldn’t play the whole game. But he stressed he’s not comfortable giving healthy players the week off heading into a playoff bye and setting up a three-week layoff between games heading into the NFC Divisional round.

The lone spot left in the NFC will belong to the 49ers if they are able to beat the Rams for the sixth straight time in Week 18. If they don’t, the Saints will be in with a win over the Falcons. Should the 49ers prevail, the Cardinals can leapfrog the Rams for the NFC West title with a win over the Seahawks so that 49ers-Rams game is easily the most consequential matchup in the conference in the final week.

The Cincinnati Bengals overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Kansas City, 34-31, in Week 17 and clinched the AFC North division title for the first time since 2015. Cincinnati completed a worst-to-first turnaround, winning its division the year after finishing in last place. It marks 17 of the past 19 seasons in which at least one team finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last place (2003-21).

Cincinnati and Dallas have each clinched division titles after missing the postseason in 2020. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years. Four teams have clinched playoff berths after missing the postseason in 2020 – Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas and New England. Since 1990 – a streak of 32 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Tennessee would clinch the AFC’s top seed with a win in Houston on Sunday. With last week’s 34-3 win over the Miami Dolphins that improved their record to 11-5, the Titans captured their second consecutive AFC South title and their third consecutive postseason berth. They are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC’s best record, but they currently hold the conference’s top playoff seed based on their head-to-head victory over the Chiefs (27-3 on Oct. 24).

This is the third consecutive year in which the Titans will conclude the regular season at Houston. They prevailed on the previous two occasions, winning 35-14 in 2019 and 41-38 in the 2020 finale.

The lone win-or-go-home game in Week 18 is Chargers at Raiders. The winner is a wild-card team and the loser’s season is over. Los Angeles will need to get the job done on the road, where they are 4-3 this year. The Chargers haven’t made the playoffs since 2018 but opened as 2.5-point favorites.

AFC

  1. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
  4. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
  5. New England Patriots (10-6)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
  7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
__________
  1. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
  3. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Note: Dolphins have been eliminated from playoff contention.

NFC

  1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
  5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
__________
  1. New Orleans Saints (8-8)
 
 

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