2018 NFL season: The playoff run-in, scenarios and what is up for grabs
Last Updated: 17/12/18 4:01pm
With just three weeks to go until the end of the regular season, the playoff picture is becoming more clear...
Another week of surprises has shaken up the standings all over the league, giving us an ever-so-slightly clearer idea of who is in and who is out.
So, who is in contention for those all-important postseason places? We have asked you to form your own playoff picture but here, we break down the run-in and the various scenarios for the teams jostling for position...
Pick YOUR AFC Playoff Picture
With the end of the NFL regular season approaching, it's over to YOU to pick your end-of-season AFC playoff line-up...
Pick YOUR NFC Playoff Picture
With the end of the NFL regular season approaching, it's over to YOU to pick your end-of-season NFC playoff line-up...
Importance of the No 1 seed
It has often been debated over how truly important the No 1 seed, and therefore home-field advantage through the playoffs, truly is. For example, between the St Louis Rams' Super Bowl win in 1999 and the Seattle Seahawks' in 2013, only one No 1 seed won the Super Bowl in the intervening years - the 2009 New Orleans Saints.
The trend has dramatically changed in recent years, however. Of the past five Super Bowls, nine of the 10 participating teams have been No 1 seeds - the 2016 Dallas Cowboys the only exception, as they made way for the No 2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC.
As one of the top two seeds from the AFC and NFC you are awarded a bye, affording your battle-weary roster an extra week's recovery from a grueling 17-week season, while the other four teams from each conference duke it out on Wild Card weekend.
Currently the Saints (11-2) and Rams (11-2) occupy those spots in the NFC - Los Angeles edged out this week by New Orleans into No 1 due to their 15-6 defeat to the Chicago Bears on Sunday night and having lost their Week Nine meeting. In the AFC, it's the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) holding the ace card, though their divisional rivals in the West, the Los Angeles Chargers (11-3), could still pip them to the top seed after winning their Thursday night matchup.
The Chiefs currently hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers, leaving them left to slide to the No 5 seed. Meanwhile, it's the New England Patriots (9-4), as they tend to, sitting pretty in the top two - just ahead of the Houston Texans (also 9-4).
Fighting for top spots
That said, it could all still change at the top. The Saints and Rams look set for the top two in the NFC, but will New Orleans hold on to the top spot?
The Rams and Saints have already secured their division titles - in the NFC West and South - guaranteeing them a playoff place and an initial home game at the very least, while the Chiefs have locked up a playoff place - be that as a top seed, or as the top Wild Card team if they do happen to be leapfrogged by the Chargers, who's postseason place is also confirmed.
The Chiefs still have work to do in the AFC West, as do the Patriots and Texans in their respective divisions after losses to chasing rivals on Sunday. However, both should still go on to top the standings - they are two games ahead of the Dolphins (7-6) and Colts (7-6), respectively.
Play the NFL Challenge
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Who are your division winners?
As well as the general jostling for position among the six seeds, there are still divisions to be won.
The Cowboys (8-5) have essentially wrapped up the NFC East with their defeat of the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) on Sunday, and with the Washington Redskins (6-7) losing to the New York Giants (5-8), pushing them even further back. But technically, it's still not over - every one of those teams can still conceivably make the playoffs!
The Bears (9-4) have also all but won the NFC North, following their win over the Rams and then a subsequent Monday Night Football loss for the Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1) to the Seahawks (8-5), who are alive and well in the Wild Card race - but more on that in a bit.
The AFC North, however, has become a whole lot more blurred over the last few weeks, with the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) gaining ground on the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1) before both teams lost this weekend. Amazingly, the Cleveland Browns (5-7-1) too still have a chance to win the division.
Wild Card chaos
The real battle to be had is over those final couple of postseason places, the wild cards, for those teams who do not win their division.
It looks like the Chargers will, at the very least, be the fifth seed in the AFC but, after Week 14, the race for the sixth spot became even more messy. There are now four teams with 7-6 records, currently in this order based on tiebreakers: Ravens, Colts, Dolphins and Tennessee Titans.
In the NFC, the Seahawks and Vikings are placed at No 5 and No 6. But Minnesota's defeat has provided an opportunity to the chasing pack.
The Carolina Panthers, Eagles and Redskins (6-7) all lost in Week 14, but are next best placed to capitalise. Behind them, the Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) should always be feared with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but they need a lot of help to get in.
Week 15 fixtures
|Chargers @ Chiefs - 1.20am, Fri|
|Texans @ Jets - 9.30pm, Sat|
|Browns @ Broncos - 1.20am, Sun|
|Cardinals @ Falcons - 6.00pm, Sun|
|Lions @ Bills|
|Packers @ Bears|
|Raiders @ Bengals|
|Cowboys @ Colts|
|Dolphins @ Vikings|
|Titans @ Giants|
|Redskins @ Jaguars|
|Buccaneers @ Ravens|
|Seahawks @ 49ers - 9.05pm, Sun|
|Patriots @ Steelers - 9.25pm, Sun|
|Eagles @ Rams - 1.20am, Mon|
|Saints @ Panthers - 1.15am, Tue|