NFL Clinching Scenarios: What’s At Stake In Week 18?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
NFL clinching scenarios

Week 18 of the NFL season always brings weirdness. Some teams have nothing to play for because they stunk. Others have nothing to play for because they were so good that they’ve lapped the field. But for a whole lot of teams in the middle, the season comes down to this week. What NFL clinching scenarios are in play for each team in Week 18? Knowing this is critical before going to wager on sports betting apps.

Let’s take a look at the ways each team’s season could continue or end, as the case may be. You can use this information to help plan out any NFL futures bets you may make prior to the playoffs. Scroll to the bottom of this post for odds on every game.

NFL Clinching Scenarios: AFC Teams

Buffalo Bills

If the Bills beat the Dolphins as favorites:

  • They’ll earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC. In the first round, they’d likely host one of the AFC South teams, although there’s a chance that it could be Pittsburgh as well.

If the Bills lose to the Dolphins:

  • They would still be favored in odds to make the NFL playoffs; however, they need one of the following scenarios to play out: Steelers loss/tie OR Jaguars loss/tie OR Texans/Colts tie.

Note that a Bills/Dolphins tie would also assure the Bills of a playoff spot.

Miami Dolphins

If the Dolphins beat the Bills as underdogs:

  • They’ll earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC. In the first round, they’d likely host one of the AFC South teams, although there’s a chance that it could be Pittsburgh as well.

If the Dolphins lose to the Bills:

  • They’d fall to 11-6. With a worse conference record than the Browns, they’d have the No. 6 seed and play in Kansas City for the wild card round.

Houston Texans

If the Texans beat the Colts as favorites:

  • If the Jaguars beat the Titans, the Texans earn either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed, depending on whether the Bills win (No. 6 if the Bills lose, No. 7 if the Bills win). As the No. 6 seed, they would play in Kansas City. As the No. 7 seed, they would play at the AFC East champion.
  • If the Jaguars lose to the Titans, the Texans earn the No. 4 seed and host the Cleveland Browns.

The Texans could also get in with a tie, provided the Jags lost and the Steelers did not win. A loss eliminates Houston.

Indianapolis Colts

Essentially, everything above applies to the Colts as well. There are small differences in the event of a tie — the Colts could still win the division (they have the tiebreak over Houston), and the Colts would only need a Steelers loss or tie rather than also needing a Jaguars loss.

Jacksonville Jaguars

If the Jaguars beat the Titans as favorites:

  • They win the division, earn the No. 4 seed and host the Cleveland Browns.

If the Jaguars lose to the Titans:

  • They could still earn the No. 7 seed, however they would need a lot to go right. Provided a winner emerged from Colts/Texans, the Jags would also need the Steelers to lose AND the Broncos to lose. Bizarrely, a Broncos would win would force a three-way tie, from which the Steelers would emerge.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ situation is dependent on several factors. First, they very likely need to win against the Ravens as favorites. Provided they do:

  • They earn the No. 7 seed and play at the AFC East champion if EITHER the Dolphins win or the Titans win. A Colts/Texans tie would also do it.
  • If the Steelers win and BOTH the Titans and Dolphins win, the Steelers earn the No. 6 seed and play in Kansas City.

If the Steelers lose to the Ravens AND the Broncos win AND the Titans win, the Steelers would emerge from the three-way tiebreak described above.

NFL Clinching Scenarios: NFC Teams

Dallas Cowboys

If the Cowboys beat the Commanders as favorites:

  • They’ll earn the No. 2 seed. They’ll host the No. 7 seed in the opening round, which could be either the Rams, Packers, Seahawks, Saints or Vikings.

If the Cowboys lose to the Commanders:

  • Their seeding depends on the results in Eagles/Giants and Lions/Vikings. An Eagles victory would relegate the Cowboys to the No. 5 seed. They’d begin the playoffs on the road against the NFC South winner.
  • An Eagles loss and a Lions win would leave the Cowboys as the No. 3 seed. They’d host the No. 6 seed, which could be any number of teams but is currently the L.A. Rams.
  • If the Eagles and Lions BOTH lose, everything remains as it is, with the Cowboys as No. 2.

Philadelphia Eagles

NFL clinching scenarios in the NFC East have been flipped upside down. The Eagles have to beat the Giants as favorites to have a chance at the NFC East title. If that happens:

  • and the Cowboys lose, the Eagles earn the No. 2 seed and host the No. 7 seed in the opening round, which could be either the Rams, Packers, Seahawks, Saints or Vikings.
  • and the Cowboys win, the Eagles earn the No. 5 seed and play on the road against the NFC South winner.

Note that there’s a small chance the Eagles could earn the No. 3 seed, but they’d need to tie the Giants.

Detroit Lions

If the Lions beat the Vikings as favorites:

  • If the Cowboys and Eagles both lose or tie, the Lions earn the No. 2 seed and host the No. 7 seed in the opening round, which could be either the Rams, Packers, Seahawks, Saints or Vikings.
  • In any other scenario, the Lions earn the No. 3 seed and host the No. 6 seed, which could be any number of teams but is currently the L.A. Rams.

If the Lions lose to the Vikings, they’re locked into No. 3 seed and the immediately above scenario applies.

Green Bay Packers

If the Packers beat the Bears as favorites:

  • If the Rams beat the 49ers, then the Packers earn the No. 7 seed. They play on the road, very likely against the NFC East champion.
  • If the Rams lose to the 49ers, then the Packers earn the No. 6 seed. They play on the road, very likely against the Lions.

If the Packers lose to the Bears:

  • The Packers could still earn the No. 7 seed but they need a trifecta of results. Seattle must always lose, in addition to Minnesota losing (or tying) AND either Tampa Bay or New Orleans losing.

Minnesota Vikings

If the Vikings beat the Lions as underdogs:

  • The Vikings have a path to the No. 7 seed and a road playoff game, very likely against the NFC East winner. However, they need the Packers AND the Seahawks to lose, as well as EITHER Tampa Bay or New Orleans losing.

A loss eliminates Minnesota.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If the Buccaneers beat the Panthers as favorites:

  • The Bucs win the division and earn the No. 4 seed. They’ll host the No. 5 seed, most likely the Eagles but possibly the Cowboys.

If the Bucs tie, they still have a couple of paths to the playoffs. A Saints loss or tie would leave them as the backdoor division winners, and the above scenario would hold. A Seattle loss AND a Green Bay loss or tie would give them a wild card spot as the No. 7 seed.

The downside here is the simplest of NFL clinching scenarios. A loss eliminates Tampa Bay.

Atlanta Falcons

If the Falcons beat the Saints as underdogs:

  • The Falcons’ fate rests in the hands of the Panthers. If they beat the Bucs, the Falcons win the division, earn the No. 4 seed, and host the No. 5 seed, either the Eagles (more likely) or the Cowboys.

Any scenario other than these two results eliminates Atlanta.

New Orleans Saints

If the Saints beat the Falcons as favorites:

  • If the Panthers beat the Bucs, then the Saints win the division, earn the No. 4 seed, and host the No. 5 seed, either the Eagles (more likely) or the Cowboys.
  • If the Bucs beat the Panthers, the Saints have a path to a wild card berth. They need the Packers AND the Seahawks to each lose or tie (or both lose and Bucs tie). The Saints would earn the No. 7 seed and play on the road, very likely against the NFC East winner.

A loss eliminates New Orleans.

L.A. Rams

The Rams have clinched the playoffs but not their seed. If the Rams lose to the 49ers AND the Packers beat the Bears, then the Rams earn the No. 7 seed and play on the road, very likely against the NFC East winner.

Any other scenario will result in the Rams earning the No. 6 seed and very likely playing at No. 3 seed Detroit. That means the Matt Stafford Bowl is the most likely result.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks can only earn the No. 7 seed and a road game, likely against the NFC East winner. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals as favorites:

  • The Seahawks’ fate rests in the hands of the Bears. If the Bears win or tie, the Seahawks earn the No. 7 seed.

If the Packers win, the Seahawks’ result becomes irrelevant. The Seahawks can also sneak in with a tie, but they need a Packers loss AND one of the Bucs OR Saints to lose or tie.

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