With Week 17 coming up, two AFC and three NFC playoff spots are still up for grabs. NFL playoff clinching scenarios are still up in the air with two weeks left. Those scenarios are important to know if you’re betting futures or handicapping motivation for a Week 17 wager.
Let’s take a look at which teams can lock up playoff berths, and which teams will have to wait until the final week of the regular season.
NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios: Division Championships
Cincinnati Bengals Can Win AFC North
Both Cincinnati and Baltimore have clinched playoff berths, and the two teams play in Week 18. That Week 18 matchup in Cincinnati will be for the division unless the Bengals beat the Bills and the Ravens lose to Pittsburgh. If that happens, the Bengals will clinch the AFC North this week.
Baltimore is to beat the suddenly surging Steelers on Sunday Night Football, and presume to be underdogs against the Bengals in Week 18 in Cincinnati. With the Bengals a near coin flip to win this week per implied win probability, and Baltimore by no means a lock to beat Pittsburgh, the implied odds suggest a 18% chance the Bengals win the division this week. With the Bengals likely favored against Baltimore in Week 18, the Bengals are correctly around a 70-75% implied chance of winning the division – which is right in line with current market pricing.
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Neither Jaguars Nor Titans Can Clinch AFC South This Week
Unlike in the other divisions, what happens this week doesn’t make a lick of difference for the AFC South. The Jaguars and the Titans will play in Week 18, and the winner of that matchup will win the AFC South and become the 4-seed.
With no clinching scenarios this week and nothing else that can impact this, this is going to come down to how big of favorites the Jaguars are going into that Week 18 contest in Duval. With the Jaguars having won 4 of 5 coming into this game and having caught their stride, they are seen as substantially better than a Titans team that’s on a five game losing streak.
Assuming the Week 17 games go according to betting markets projections – Tennessee losing to Dallas, Jacksonville beating Houston – then the only intrigue in the futures market is whether or not the Jaguars might be bigger favorites when the Week 18 lines are adjusted.
Buccaneers Can Win NFC South
Here, the matchup of the two contenders is not a lock to determine the division winner, but it will go a long way.
If the Buccaneers beat the Panthers, they win the NFC South. If the Panthers win, the Panthers do not clinch, and will need Week 18. The Bucs are about a 60% implied favorite to win this game, which means that, by those numbers, 60% of the time, Week 18 is an irrelevance.
The Saints also still win the division if they win their last two games and the Bucs lose their last two games. With how Atlanta has played in recent weeks, it seems unlikely that they would beat Tampa Bay, but the Bucs haven’t exactly been world beaters.
If Carolina beats Tampa Bay, it needs to also beat New Orleans in Week 18. But a Carolina team that just dominated the Lions and then beat the Bucs in Tampa Bay would be decent favorites against a Saints team that could be out of it if New Orleans loses to Philadelphia as touchdown underdogs.
The Bucs should treat this as a win or go home game, because leaving it to chance in Week 18 is bad. Conversely, betting Carolina to win the division if you think they beat Tampa Bay this week seems a value, given that betting them straight up in Week 17 and Week 18 is likely to pay less once a victorious Carolina team has their odds corrected after beating a Tampa team that the market thinks is still good.
NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios: Wild Card Spots
Dolphins Can Clinch A Playoff Berth
Miami can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Patriots in Foxborough and a loss by the New York Jets at Seattle. With Tua’s injury status unclear after being put in concussion protocol, the Dolphins are currently underdogs in New England, while the Jets are in Seattle.
Giants Can Clinch A Playoff Berth
The Giants can clinch a playoff spot this week with a win against the Colts. They have these other paths as well:
- SEA loss + WAS loss OR
- SEA loss + DET loss + GB loss OR
- WAS loss + DET loss + GB loss
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NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios: Home Field Advantage
Bills Can Lock Up AFC 1-Seed
The Bills can clinch the 1-seed this week with a victory over the Bengals on Monday Night Football and a Chiefs loss at home against the Broncos. Given that Kansas City are two-touchdown favorites this week, that seems unlikely. More likely, Buffalo will need to win against New England in Week 18 to clinch the 1-seed, if they beat Cincinnati which is by no means assured, with the Bengals on the spread.
Eagles Can Lock Up NFC 1-Seed
An Eagles win against the Saints this week clinches both the NFC East and the 1-seed for Philly, which would allow them to rest everybody against the Giants in Week 18. If Dallas loses on Thursday to Tennessee, they will clinch the Division, but they need Dallas, Minnesota, and San Francisco to all lose to clinch the 1-seed this week if they lose.