NFL Playoff Permutations For Week 18: Packers And Patriots To Win Wild Card Spots? Eagles And Chiefs To Clinch No 1 Seeds?

Can Trevor Lawrence lead the Jaguars to the AFC South title? Will the Packers and the Patriots claim the final two wild card places?
From left to right: Trevor Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers and Mac Jones

The 2022 NFL regular season draws to a close this weekend, with plenty to play for, playoff places on the line, and seedings still to be determined. Here we take a look at precisely what’s at stake in Week 18…

Who will claim two final wild card spots?

There are three remaining playoff places to be claimed this weekend, with one coming via the AFC South division winners. The other two are the final wild card berths in both the AFC and NFC.

Current NFL playoff picture

AFC Seeding NFC
Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) 1 (division winners) Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Buffalo Bills (12-3) 2 (division winners) San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) 3 (division winners) Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) 4 (division winners) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) 5 (wild card) Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 6 (wild card) New York Giants (9-6-1)
New England Patriots (8-8) 7 (wild card) Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
*confirmed playoff teams in bold
In the hunt: In the hunt:
Miami Dolphins (8-8) Detroit Lions (8-8)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) Green Bay Packers (8-8)
Tennessee Titans (7-9)

At the moment, the New England Patriots (8-8) hold their fate in their own hands in the AFC. Win at the Buffalo Bills (12-3) on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 6pm – and they’re in, regardless of results elsewhere.

Can Mac Jones lead the New England Patriots to victory on Sunday to see them clinch the final wild card place in the AFC?

Can Mac Jones lead the New England Patriots to victory on Sunday to see them clinch the final wild card place in the AFC?

The Miami Dolphins (8-8) will profit from a Patriots loss or tie, so long as they beat the New York Jets (7-9) at home, while if they were also to slip up then the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) are the next cab off the rank and would sneak in with a home win over the Cleveland Browns (7-9).

There is a way the Patriots can still qualify for the postseason in defeat, so long as the Dolphins, Steelers AND the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) all lose.

NFL Week 18 games live on Sky Sports

NFL on Saturday night Kansas City Chiefs @ Las Vegas Raiders Saturday, 9.30pm, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, 1.15am, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event
NFL Sunday New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills Sunday, 6pm, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, 9.25pm, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event
NFL RedZone Week 18 Sunday, 6pm, Sky Sports Mix
Sunday Night Football Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers Monday, 1.20am, Sky Sports NFL & Main Event

As for the final NFC wild card spot, the Seattle Seahawks (8-8) are currently in possession of the seventh and final seed, but it doesn’t see them hold all the cards heading into the final weekend.

Win on Sunday versus the Los Angeles Rams (5-11) and they will still be edged out of the playoff picture by the Green Bay Packers (8-8) were they to be victorious on Sunday Night Football against the Detroit Lions (8-8) – live on Sky Sports NFL, 1.20am, Monday.

A look at the Green Bay Packers' four-game winning streak, which set up a potential winner-takes-all game against the Detroit Lions

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A look at the Green Bay Packers’ four-game winning streak, which set up a potential winner-takes-all game against the Detroit Lions

A look at the Green Bay Packers’ four-game winning streak, which set up a potential winner-takes-all game against the Detroit Lions

Were the Lions to win, then the Seahawks would progress… UNLESS they lose to the Rams, in which case it would be Detroit who would clinch a postseason place with victory. The Lions would also edge out the Packers in the event of a tie and a Seahawks loss.

Who will win the No 1 seeds in each conference?

The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) currently hold the No 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively, in their possession but both need to win this weekend to ensure it’s they who gain the benefit of an extra week’s rest with a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A look at some of the best plays from Patrick Mahomes this season, in his bid to grab a second league MVP award

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A look at some of the best plays from Patrick Mahomes this season, in his bid to grab a second league MVP award

A look at some of the best plays from Patrick Mahomes this season, in his bid to grab a second league MVP award

The Eagles would also earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a victory over the New York Giants (9-6-1) at home on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 9.25pm. But the Chiefs aren’t assured of that luxury, even if they were to secure a road win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 9.30pm – due to the cancelled Week 17 game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

A look back at how first-year head coach Brian Daboll and his New York Giants reached their first NFL playoffs since 2016

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A look back at how first-year head coach Brian Daboll and his New York Giants reached their first NFL playoffs since 2016

A look back at how first-year head coach Brian Daboll and his New York Giants reached their first NFL playoffs since 2016

The NFL confirmed on Friday three scenarios in which an AFC Championship game between Kansas City and either the Bills or Bengals would be played at a neutral site.

  • 1) If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or tie this weekend, a Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site.
  • 2) If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, a Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site.
  • 3) If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins, Bills or Bengals against Kansas City in the AFC title game would be at a neutral site.

The Bills (12-3) can still claim the No 1 seed in the AFC, despite having played a game fewer than the Chiefs, based on win percentage IF they were to better Kansas City’s result at the weekend.

Meanwhile, in the NFC, should the Eagles slip up, the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) and their seventh-round rookie quarterback sensation, Brock Purdy, are poised to take advantage and steal the No 1 seed with a home win over the lowly Arizona Cardinals (4-12).

Rookie seventh-round quarterback Brock Purdy could still lead the San Francisco 49ers to the No 1 seed in the NFC

Rookie seventh-round quarterback Brock Purdy could still lead the San Francisco 49ers to the No 1 seed in the NFC

The Dallas Cowboys (12-4), who would see themselves pinch the NFC East division from the Eagles with a win at the Washington Commanders (7-8-1) on Sunday plus a Philadelphia defeat, could also catapult themselves into the No 1 spot if the 49ers were also to lose.

Jaguars or Titans to clinch the AFC South?

Along with the NFC East, there is one further division title that is still, as yet, undecided. The AFC South crown comes down to a ‘winner-takes-all’ showdown between the Jaguars (8-8) and Tennessee Titans (8-8) in Florida on Saturday night – live on Sky Sports NFL, 1.15am, Sunday.

Check out the best plays from Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback Trevor Lawrence from the 2022 season

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Check out the best plays from Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence from the 2022 season

Check out the best plays from Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence from the 2022 season

The Jaguars are, undoubtedly, the form horse coming into the contest, having won five of their last six, and with the Titans winless over the same stretch.

The winner on Saturday – or the Jaguars, in the event of a tie – will host a home playoff game on Super Wild Card Weekend against the No 5 seed in the AFC, which is guaranteed to be either the Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) or Baltimore Ravens (10-6), depending on their results of their respective games on Sunday.

Check out the top plays of 2022 from Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry

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Check out the top plays of 2022 from Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry

Check out the top plays of 2022 from Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry

Even in defeat, there is still a way in which the Jaguars can qualify for the playoffs as a wild card. But they’d need all of the Patriots, Dolphins and Steelers to lose on Sunday in that scenario.

The same luxury isn’t extended to the Titans. Their exit is 100 per cent confirmed with a loss on Saturday night.

What else is there to play for in Week 18?

Still a fair bit. Specifically, a lot of jockeying for seeding in each conference.

In the AFC, the Bills (12-3) could finish the weekend as high as the No 1 seed or as low as the No 3, depending on what the outcome of the respective results for the Chiefs (13-3) and Bengals (11-4).

The Buffalo Bills practiced on Thursday for the first time since team-mate Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals

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The Buffalo Bills practiced on Thursday for the first time since team-mate Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals

The Buffalo Bills practiced on Thursday for the first time since team-mate Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals

Kansas City can’t drop any lower than the No 2 seed, no matter their result, while Cincinnati can’t climb any higher than that second spot. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo, so a win at home to the Ravens (10-6) and a Bills loss versus the Patriots (8-8) would see them sneak a spot up the postseason standings.

Other than the aforementioned battles for the AFC South crown and the final wild card spot, the only other seeding undecided in the conference comes down to who out of the Ravens and the Chargers (10-6) lands the No 5 spot and would therefore travel to either Jacksonville or Tennessee on Super Wild Card Weekend.

At the moment that figures to be the Chargers, unless the Ravens were to better their result of their road game against the Denver Broncos (4-12) on Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys could yet win the NFC East division and possibly even claim the No 1 seed in the conference

The Dallas Cowboys could yet win the NFC East division and possibly even claim the No 1 seed in the conference

In the NFC, it’s all a bit more set in stone. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) are locked in as the No 4 seed and will most likely host the Cowboys (12-4) in the first round of the playoffs, unless there’s any Eagles (13-3) collapse on Sunday to see them steal the division, or possibly even the No 1 seed, with a win over Washington (7-8-1).

The 49ers (12-4) are first in line for that No 1 spot should there be any Philadelphia fumble, but they could themselves stumble back to the No 3 seed should they lose to the Cardinals (4-12) and the Minnesota Vikings (12-4) capitalise and jump up to No 2 by bettering their result on their road at the Chicago Bears (3-13).

A look at the best catches from Justin Jefferson this season, arguably the only wide receiver in with a shout of winning the MVP award

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A look at the best catches from Justin Jefferson this season, arguably the only wide receiver in with a shout of winning the MVP award

A look at the best catches from Justin Jefferson this season, arguably the only wide receiver in with a shout of winning the MVP award

The Vikings can’t, however, claim the No 1 seed, even if they were to win and all of the Eagles, 49ers and Cowboys were to lose. In that scenario, though they’d match Philadelphia on record, the Eagles would hang on to top spot due to having the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams.

The Giants (9-6-1) are another team locked in, at No 6, regardless of their result at Philadelphia on Sunday, while the Seahawks (8-8), Packers (8-8) and Lions (8-8) are left slugging it out for that final wild card place.

What does the unplayed Bengals-Bills game mean for the playoffs?

The Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals game that was halted Monday when Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin experienced a cardiac arrest on the field will not be resumed or replayed, the NFL announced on Thursday night.

NFL owners then approved a resolution to the AFC playoff picture in a special meeting on Friday, which will see the AFC Championship game played at a neutral site if any of three possibilities occur:

1) If Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both win or draw this weekend, a Bills vs Chiefs Championship Game would be held at a neutral site.

2) If the Bills and Chiefs both lose this weekend and the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) win or draw, a Buffalo vs Kansas City Championship Game would be played at a neutral site.

3) If the Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Bengals win, Buffalo vs Kansas City or Cincinnati vs Kansas City AFC title game would be held at a neutral site.

In addition, if the Ravens (10-6) were to defeat the Bengals (11-4) on Sunday, giving Baltimore a season sweep of Cincinnati, the teams would end with the same number of wins, but the Bengals would win the division due to having fewer losses.

Should those teams wind up facing off in a wild card game, the NFL have decided that a coin toss will take place to determine the designated home team for that game, despite Cincinnati being the higher seed. This is due to the fact that Baltimore could possibly have won the division if the Bengals had gone on to also lose the Week 17 game against Buffalo.

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