NFL playoff clinching scenarios for Week 18


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The NFL on Thursday announced that the Week 17 game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals will not be resumed or replayed, which will have a cascading effect on the AFC playoff picture. After franchise owners approved on Friday a modified postseason plan the NFL says will “minimize competitive inequities,” here’s a look at how the NFL intends to move forward in the AFC with teams that have not played an equal number of games, plus the rest of the clinching scenarios for the final weekend of the regular season.

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If the AFC championship game involves a lower-seeded team that could have been the No. 1 seed had it played an equal number of games, it will be played at a neutral site.

— After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, if the Buffalo Bills defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday, a matchup between Kansas City and Buffalo in the AFC championship game would be played at a neutral site.

The schedule imbalance also could affect the site of a potential first-round matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.

— If the Ravens defeat the Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers defeat the Denver Broncos in Week 18, Baltimore and Cincinnati will meet in an AFC first-round playoff game. The location of that game would be determined by a coin toss. In this scenario, Cincinnati would have a better winning percentage than Baltimore after playing one fewer game, but the Ravens would have defeated the Bengals twice this season and have the same number of wins, necessitating the unusual resolution.

— If the Bengals defeat the Ravens or the Chargers lose to the Broncos, Baltimore and Cincinnati would not meet in the first round of the playoffs and the game sites would be determined by the usual scheduling procedures.

Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

— The Chiefs clinched the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with their win Saturday over the Las Vegas Raiders.

— The Chiefs will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a Bills loss or tie against the Patriots.

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

— The Jaguars clinched the AFC South and the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs with Saturday’s win over the Tennessee Titans.

New England Patriots (8-8)

— The Patriots will clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Buffalo Bills, or with a tie plus a Miami Dolphins loss or tie against the New York Jets plus a Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Cleveland Browns, or with losses by the Dolphins and Steelers. New England can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

— The Dolphins will clinch a playoff berth with a win over the New York Jets plus a New England Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills, or with a tie plus a Patriots loss plus a Steelers loss or tie against the Cleveland Browns. Miami can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

— The Steelers will clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Cleveland Browns plus a Miami Dolphins loss or tie against the New York Jets plus a New England Patriots loss or tie against the Buffalo Bills, or with a tie plus a Dolphins loss plus a Patriots loss. Pittsburgh can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

Tennessee Titans (7-10): Eliminated

— The Titans were eliminated from playoff contention with Saturday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

— The Eagles will clinch the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win or tie against the New York Giants, or with a Dallas Cowboys loss or tie against the Washington Commanders plus a San Francisco 49ers loss or tie against the Arizona Cardinals.

— If the Eagles lose to the Giants, the Cowboys lose or tie against the Commanders and the 49ers beat the Cardinals, Philadelphia will win the NFC East and be the No. 2 seed.

— If the Eagles lose to the Giants and the Cowboys beat the Commanders, Philadelphia will be the No. 5 seed.

San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

— The 49ers will clinch the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over the Arizona Cardinals plus a Philadelphia Eagles loss to the New York Giants.

— If the 49ers beat the Cardinals and the Eagles win or tie against the Giants, San Francisco will be the No. 2 seed. The 49ers also will be the No. 2 seed with a tie plus a Minnesota Vikings loss or tie against the Chicago Bears, or with a loss plus a Vikings Loss.

— If the 49ers lose to the Cardinals and the Vikings defeat or tie the Bears, San Francisco will be the No. 3 seed. The 49ers also will be the No. 3 seed with a tie plus a Vikings win.

— The Vikings will clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over the Chicago Bears plus a San Francisco 49ers loss or tie against the Arizona Cardinals, or with a tie plus a 49ers loss.

— The Vikings will clinch the No. 3 seed with a loss, or with a 49ers win, or with a tie plus a 49ers tie.

— The Cowboys will clinch the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over the Washington Commanders plus a Philadelphia Eagles loss to the New York Giants plus a San Francisco 49ers loss or tie against the Arizona Cardinals.

— If the Cowboys beat the Commanders, the Eagles lose to the Giants and the 49ers beat the Cardinals, Dallas will win the NFC East and be the No. 2 seed.

— If the Cowboys lose or tie against the Commanders or the Eagles beat or tie the Giants, Dallas will be the No. 5 seed.

The Seahawks will clinch the No. 7 seed with a win over the Los Angeles Rams plus a Green Bay Packers loss or tie against the Detroit Lions, or with a tie plus a Packers-Lions tie plus a Washington Commanders loss or tie against the Dallas Cowboys. Seattle can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

The Lions will clinch the No. 7 seed with a win over the Green Bay Packers plus a Seattle Seahawks loss or tie against the Los Angeles Rams, or with a tie plus a Seahawks loss, or with a tie plus a Seahawks-Rams tie plus a Washington Commanders win over the Dallas Cowboys. Detroit can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

The Packers will clinch the No. 7 seed with a win over the Detroit Lions. Green Bay can do no better than the No. 7 seed.

NFL best bets for Week 18: Time for some unconventional wisdom

z-1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

y-2. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

y-3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

y-4. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

x-5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6, hold tiebreaker over Baltimore Ravens because of better conference record)

x-6. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

7. New England Patriots (8-8, hold tiebreaker over Miami Dolphins because of better division record and tiebreaker over Pittsburgh Steelers because of head-to-head victory)

Still in contention: Miami Dolphins (8-8, hold tiebreaker over Pittsburgh Steelers because of head-to-head victory), Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Eliminated: Tennessee Titans (7-10), New York Jets (7-9), Cleveland Browns (7-9), Las Vegas Raiders (6-11), Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1), Denver Broncos (4-12), Houston Texans (2-13-1)

x-1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

y-2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4, hold tiebreaker over Minnesota Vikings because of better conference record)

y-3. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

y-4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8, will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs)

x-5. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

x-6. New York Giants (9-6-1, will be the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs)

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-8, hold tiebreaker over Detroit Lions because of head-to-head victory)

Still in contention: Detroit Lions (8-8, hold tiebreaker over Green Bay Packers because of head-to-head victory), Green Bay Packers (8-8)

Eliminated: Washington Commanders (7-8-1), New Orleans Saints (7-9), Carolina Panthers (6-10), Atlanta Falcons (6-10), Los Angeles Rams (5-11), Arizona Cardinals (4-12), Chicago Bears (3-13)

x-clinched playoff berth; y-clinched division; z-clinched first-round bye



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