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NFL Playoffs: What's At Stake For Spots, Seeding And Division Titles In Week 18? | TheSportsDay NFL Playoffs: What's At Stake For Spots, Seeding And Division Titles In Week 18? | TheSportsDay

NFL playoffs: What's at stake for spots, seeding and division titles in Week 18?

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First, let’s offer a hearty congratulations for the teams that have their playoff seed wrapped up going into Week 18.

Here are the teams whose only question is whether to rest starters in this final week of the regular season:

• AFC No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens

• AFC No. 3 seed Kansas City Chiefs

• AFC No. 5 seed Cleveland Browns

• NFC No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers

In addition, the Detroit Lions have clinched the NFC North and the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys have clinched playoff spots.

That still leaves a lot of intrigue for the rest of the NFL. There are 20 teams who have either clinched or are alive for a playoff spot going into Week 18. Half of the eight division titles are unsettled. Since only four seeds are locked up, that means 10 are not claimed yet. Here’s everything at stake in the NFL playoff race going into the finales.

Here's what at stake in NFL Week 18, from division scenarios to playoff seeding. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)Here's what at stake in NFL Week 18, from division scenarios to playoff seeding. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

Here’s what at stake in NFL Week 18, from division scenarios to playoff seeding. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

AFC East title and No. 2 seed

There’s a scenario in which the Buffalo Bills could get the No. 2 seed with a win at the Dolphins on Sunday night — and another where they’d be completely out of the playoffs with a loss.

The easy part: The winner of Bills at Dolphins is the AFC East champ and will get the No. 2 seed. The Dolphins are in the playoffs even with a loss. The Bills can get a wild-card spot with a loss — they’d need the Pittsburgh Steelers to lose Saturday at Baltimore or the Jacksonville Jaguars lose at Tennessee — but there is a doomsday scenario. If the Steelers beat the Ravens, who could be resting starters, the Jaguars beat the Titans and the Houston Texans-Indianapolis Colts doesn’t end in a tie, the Bills would be eliminated with a loss to the Dolphins. That’s drama.

AFC South title and No. 4 seed

There’s a three-way tie for first place in the AFC South. The Jacksonville Jaguars have tiebreaker edges due to having just one divisional loss, and they win the division with a victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Texans and Colts play on Saturday, and the winner will be rooting hard for the Titans because if Jacksonville loses, the Texans-Colts winner is the division champ.

AFC wild-card spots

There are two wild-card spots (the Nos. 6 and 7 seeds) that are unclaimed, and the Bills, Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans, Colts and Steelers are possibilities for those two spots.

The winner of the Texans-Colts game on Saturday gets at least a wild-card spot. The Jaguars are not guaranteed a wild-card spot with a loss. Eliminating the tie scenarios from the math (because that makes this all an advanced calculus class), the Jaguars would need the Steelers and Broncos to both lose to get a wild-card spot. The Broncos, who are eliminated, would enter the chat due to tiebreaker situations.

The Dolphins are guaranteed a wild-card spot if they lose Sunday night. The Bills are in the playoffs with a loss if the Steelers or Jaguars lose or the Texans-Colts game is a tie.

The Steelers are also in the mix but like last season, they need a lot of help. The Steelers are in with a win and Bills loss, a Jaguars loss or a Texans-Colts tie. They’re also in with a Jaguars loss and a Broncos win as long as Texans-Colts isn’t a tie.

NFC East title

The Eagles’ loss (and the officiating controversy that helped the Cowboys win last week) changed the NFC East race. The Cowboys now win the division with a victory over the Washington Commanders. They’d be the No. 2 seed with a win. The Eagles can still win the division with a victory over the New York Giants and a Cowboys loss. If the Cowboys and Eagles lose, Dallas wins the division.

NFC No. 2 seed

The Lions need a win and the Cowboys and Eagles to both lose to get the No. 2 seed. With that small chance still available, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Monday he plans to play his starters against the Vikings. If the Cowboys or Eagles win or the Lions lose, the NFC East champ will be the No. 2 seed.

NFC South title and No. 4 seed

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the division if they beat the Carolina Panthers. If the Buccaneers lose to 2-14 Carolina, then the winner of the Falcons-Saints game takes the division (again, we’re not getting into all of the scenarios with ties, but if you want to confuse yourself then they’re all on NFL.com). The NFC South champ is the No. 4 seed and will play the Cowboys or Eagles in the wild-card round.

The last NFC wild-card spot

The second-place team in the NFC East will be the No. 5 seed and play at the NFC South champ on wild-card weekend. The Rams have a wild-card spot and will likely be the No. 6 seed, though there is a chance they land in the No. 7 seed. That leaves one more spot up for grabs.

The last wild-card spot could go to the Packers, Vikings, Seahawks or Saints (Tampa Bay has a shot too but it requires a Bucs-Panthers tie). The Falcons are alive for the NFC South, but cannot get a wild-card spot.

The Packers have the easiest path. They beat the Chicago Bears and they’re in. The Seahawks need a win and a Packers loss. The Saints get the wild-card spot with a win and losses from the Packers and Seahawks (assuming the Saints don’t win the division with a win and Bucs loss). Then there’s the Vikings, who need a win, losses from the Packers and Seahawks and a loss from the Buccaneers or Saints. The Packers could also steal the spot with a loss, but they’d need losses from the Vikings, Seahawks and either Buccaneers or Saints.

There are 16 games in Week 18, and only three have absolutely no effect on the playoff bracket as we head into the final week. That’s a good setup for a dramatic Saturday and Sunday of football.

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