AFC No. 1 seed, three wild cards at stake

January 9, 2022
Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce (87) hope to get wild-card weekend off after Saturday's win.
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Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks with Week 18 underway:

AFC

yz – 1. Tennessee Titans (12-5), AFC South champions: Back-to-back division titlists also secured AFC’s bye and home-field advantage with Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans. Week 7 defeat of Chiefs gives Titans the all-important tiebreaker. Remaining schedule: TBD

y – 2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5), AFC West champions: Pulled out a win against Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon but Texans didn’t help them with an upset Sunday. K.C. will play on wild-card weekend for first time since 2017. Remaining schedule: TBD

CLINCHING SCENARIOS:What remaining teams need to do to reach postseason

MORE:What will be the biggest surprises in Week 18 of NFL’s regular season?

x – 3. Buffalo Bills (10-6), AFC East leaders: They’ll win the division with a victory because their AFC East record (4-1) trumps New England’s. Remaining schedule: vs. Jets

y – 4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7), AFC North champions: Division winners for the first time since 2015, but Kansas City’s victory Saturday meant Cincy couldn’t snag first-round bye. Bengals would be third seed if Bills and Patriots both lose. Now focus turns to winning first playoff game in three decades. Remaining schedule: TBD

x – 5. New England Patriots (10-6), wild card No. 1: Restored to postseason after one-year, post-Tom Brady hiatus. Beat the Fins in Week 18 and hope the New York Jets can ambush Buffalo, and Patriots would reclaim AFC East throne. Chiefs’ win Saturday means New England can no longer earn No. 1 seed. Remaining schedule: at Dolphins

6. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7), wild card No. 2: If they win or tie Sunday night, they clinch a wild card. Do Bolts and Raiders trade kneeldowns for 70 minutes? Remaining schedule: at Raiders

7. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7), wild card No. 3: If they win or tie Sunday night, they clinch a wild card. Do Bolts and Raiders trade kneeldowns for 70 minutes? Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1), out of playoff field: In a truly bizarre day, they likely benefit most from the Indianapolis Colts’ shocking loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittsburgh’s overtime win in Baltimore eliminated the Ravens and Colts and almost clinched a wild-card spot for the Steelers. As long as the Chargers-Raiders game doesn’t end in a tie, Pittsburgh is in. Why? If the Bolts, Raiders and Steelers are deadlocked at 9-7-1, the Chargers get a wild card by virtue of a 1-0-1 record against Las Vegas plus their Week 11 defeat of Pittsburgh. The Raiders’ Week 2 win in the Steel City would convey the final berth to the Silver and Black. Remaining schedule: TBD

NFC

yz – 1. Green Bay Packers (13-4), NFC North champions: They own league’s best record, a performance that has now brought Aaron Rodgers and Co. a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the second straight year. Remaining schedule: TBD

x – 2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4), NFC West leaders: They’re only a win (or Arizona loss) away from beginning their quest to play Super Bowl 56 at SoFi Stadium … at SoFi Stadium. Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers

y – 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4), NFC South champions: They’ve managed to climb back up to the third seed while simultaneously appearing to unravel amid Antonio Brown’s shenanigans. Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers

y – 4. Dallas Cowboys (12-5), NFC East champions: Saturday’s blowout of the Eagles didn’t improve their seeding. But Cowboys, given their 10-2 conference record, would climb to No. 2 if they wind up in a three-way tie with the Bucs and NFC West champions. Remaining schedule: TBD

x – 5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5), wild card No. 1: Will win NFC West if Rams cooperate with Week 18 loss and Cards get past Seattle. Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks

6. San Francisco 49ers (9-7), wild card No. 2: Win in Week 18 and they’re in. Saints loss also clinches spot for Niners. Remaining schedule: at Rams 

x – 7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8), wild card No. 3: Rested most of their key players in Saturday’s loss to Dallas. Will move up to No. 6 seed if New Orleans, a team Philadelphia beat this season, replaces San Francisco in NFC bracket. Remaining schedule: TBD

8. New Orleans Saints (8-8), out of playoff field: Need win and San Francisco loss to advance. Remaining schedule: at Falcons

x – clinched berth

y – clinched division

z – clinched first-round bye and home-field advantage

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.



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