NFL playoff scenarios for Week 18: Colts, Chargers, Raiders, 49ers, Saints all looking to book their place in the postseason
Watch the final NFL Sunday of the season, featuring Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders, live on Sky Sports NFL from 5pm
Last Updated: 09/01/22 8:09am
The 2021 NFL regular season draws to a close this weekend, with plenty still to play for, playoff places on the line, and seedings still to be determined; but what exactly are the storylines to watch out for?
Who gets final AFC Wild Card?
Now bear with us, because this could get complicated…
Right now, only the Indianapolis Colts (9-7) and the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) from the AFC playoff picture aren't assured of postseason berths - but they both currently occupy the final two spots as the No 6 and 7 seeds, respectively.
A win for Indianapolis at the NFL-worst Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) on Sunday - live on Sky Sports NFL from 6pm - and they're in. As simple as that. Although, incredibly, the Colts are winless on their last six visits to Jacksonville, including last year's season-opener which proved to be the Jags' only win in 2020.
Should the Colts lose, it opens the door to both the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) and Baltimore Ravens (8-8), who face-off in Baltimore at the same time. The Steelers have the more simple equation, needing to win and just hope the later meeting between the Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) doesn't end in a tie. A Ravens victory, meanwhile, would require a Chargers loss, as well as a Miami Dolphins (8-8) loss or tie at home against the New England Patriots (10-6) - added to the Colts loss - for them to progress.
Then to wrap up the final weekend of the regular season, there's a mouth-watering win-and-in clash between the Chargers and Raiders in Vegas - live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am, Monday.
A playoff spot guaranteed for the victor, the loser goes home. With the exception of one scenario for the Raiders, who can actually afford a loss and still qualify, only if Indianapolis lose AND Pittsburgh lose or tie in their earlier games. It's must-win for the Chargers though, who aren't afforded that luxury.
Week 18 NFL fixtures
|Saturday night NFL on Sky||NFL Sunday on Sky|
|Chiefs @ Broncos, 9.30pm||Colts @ Jaguars, 6pm|
|Cowboys @ Eagles, 1.15am||49ers @ Rams, 9.25pm|
|Chargers @ Raiders, 1.20am|
|NFL Sunday - 6pm|
|Bears @ Vikings||NFL Sunday - 9.25pm|
|Packers @ Lions||Jets @ Bills|
|Washington @ Giants||Panthers @ Buccaneers|
|Titans @ Texans||Seahawks @ Cardinals|
|Steelers @ Ravens||Patriots @ Dolphins|
|Bengals @ Browns||Saints @ Falcons|
Saints or Niners from NFC?
The NFC playoff picture isn't quite so muddled. There is only one space left up for grabs, and it's between the San Francisco 49ers (9-7) and New Orleans Saints (8-8) as to who claims it.
The 49ers are in prime position, but they face a tricky trip to the Los Angeles Rams (12-4) - live on Sky Sports NFL, 9.25pm - who still have an NFC West division title they're trying to win. If the 49ers win, or tie that game, they're in. But a defeat will see the Saints snatch it with a victory at the Atlanta Falcons (7-9).
The Philadelphia Eagles (9-8), despite suffering a heavy defeat to the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) on Saturday night and although they currently sit below San Francisco as the No 7 seed in the conference, are assured of keeping their playoff spot, regardless of results on Sunday by virtue of owning the superior record against NFC opponents.
Who gets the No 1 seed in AFC?
The Green Bay Packers (13-3) already have the No 1 seed sewn up in the NFC, earning them a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the playoffs, but in the AFC there are as many as four teams still staking a claim for top spot.
The Tennessee Titans (11-5) need just to win at the lowly Houston Texans (4-12) on Sunday and it's all sewn up. However, one of those four wins for Houston this season was a Week 11 upset road win in Tennessee. Titans, you've been warned.
Should Tennessee stub their toe again, then the Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) would be set to capitalise after their victory at the Denver Broncos (7-9) on Saturday night. reclaiming their place atop the AFC one week on from relinquishing it with a Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6).
What else is there left to play for?
Plenty. Starting with the fact that there's still two division titles up for grabs, with the Buffalo Bills (10-6) and New England Patriots (10-6) fighting for supremacy in the AFC East, while the Rams (12-4) and Arizona Cardinals (11-5) do battle for the NFC West.
The Bills and Rams have the advantage heading into Sunday, each claiming the crown with victory in their respective games at homes against the New York Jets (4-12) and 49ers, respectively - a tie would also be good enough for L.A.
Beyond that, there's still plenty of movement possible with the current playoff seedings. New England could, for example, depending on results, end up as high as No 2 in the AFC or as low as 7 once the day is done.
It's all a little less volatile in the NFC. The defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) and the Cowboys have already both clinched their respective divisions and so are guaranteed to play at home on Super Wild Card Weekend, but can they pinch the No 2 seed away from the eventual winners of the West in either Arizona or L.A?
Though a second-place finish in either conference no longer earns you a first-round bye, it's still a much-coveted spot as, should the No 1 seed lose in the divisional round of the playoffs, it would see you assume hosting duties for the Conference Championship game.
There are a couple of scenarios in which second spot could still be stolen away from the West; Tampa will take it provided that they win at home against the Carolina Panthers (5-11), and the 49ers beat the Rams. The Cowboys, meanwhile, swoop in if L.A., Arizona and the Bucs all lose.
Dallas' fate is otherwise pretty much already determined heading into the final weekend. They're practically nailed on to be the NFC No 4 seed - and host the runners-up in the West - with the exception of the above scenario, or in the instance that the Rams and Cardinals were both to lose but Tampa win, in which case they'd assume the No 3 seeding.
And finally, the only other thing to be decided on Sunday, is who out of the Jaguars (2-14) and Detroit Lions (2-13-1) - who host the Packers - come away with the wooden spoon, and as such will hold the No 1 pick for the 2022 NFL Draft?
All will be revealed as the 2021 NFL regular season comes to a close on Sunday.
Watch the final NFL Sunday of the season, featuring Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders, live on Sky Sports NFL from 5pm.