Entering the final week of the regular season, five AFC teams have secured a postseason berth: the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Two playoff spots are still up for grabs and there are five remaining teams in the AFC fighting for the final spots. In order of their current rankings, the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will put their playoff hopes on the line in Week 18. Let’s take a closer look at the NFL Week 18 AFC playoff picture. Plus, check out final scores and standings from Week 18 here.
How can the Chargers make the playoffs?
The Chargers and Raiders have the potential to be part of one of the stranger playoff-clinching scenarios in recent memory when they face off on Sunday Night Football. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC with Football Night in America. The match-up will also be available via live stream on Peacock.
If the Chargers defeat the Raiders on Sunday night, they will advance to the postseason. The Chargers have posted a 3-3 record in their last six matchups while the Raiders have won three straight games since falling to the Chiefs, 48-9, in Week 14. The last time these two teams met in Week 4, the Chargers won, 28-14, in Los Angeles.
But there is also a scenario in which a tie would result in a playoff berth for both teams. If the Colts lose to the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, both the Chargers and Raiders would clinch a playoff berth with a tie and the teams could hypothetically choose to kneel on every play to run out the clock.
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley dismissed this possibility on The Rich Eisen Show earlier this week: “I think we all respect the game and the NFL shield and the integrity of this game far too much to be complicit in something like that…We’re going to do everything we can to go win this game, and play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) (at 9-7 Las Vegas Raiders)
Los Angeles Chargers clinch playoff berth with:
1. LAC win or tie
How can the Raiders make the playoffs?
For the Raiders, there are three scenarios in which they can secure a playoff berth on Sunday. Just like the Chargers, the Raiders can advance to the postseason with a win on Sunday night or a Colts loss and tie vs. the Chargers. The Raiders can also make the playoffs even if they lose to the Chargers with help from other teams. A Colts loss to the Jaguars and a Steelers loss to the Ravens would allow the Raiders to advance to the postseason.
Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) (vs. 9-7 Los Angeles Chargers)
Las Vegas clinches playoff berth with:
- LV win OR
- LV tie + IND loss OR
- IND loss + PIT loss or tie
How can the Steelers make the playoffs?
After defeating the Cleveland Browns on Monday night, the Steelers still have an outside chance to earn an AFC wild card spot in the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s chances at winning the division were extinguished when the Cincinnati Bengals upset the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-31, to win the AFC North title. Three things need to happen in order for the Steelers to advance to the postseason. First, they have to defeat the Ravens to improve to 9-7-1 on the season. Then, the Colts need to lose to the Jaguars and the Chargers-Raiders game cannot end in a tie.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) (at 8-8 Baltimore Ravens)
Pittsburgh clinches playoff berth with:
- PIT win + IND loss + LV-LAC game does not end in a tie
How can the Colts make the playoffs?
After losing to the Raiders last Sunday, the Colts fell to 9-7 on the season. There are three different ways in which the Colts can advance to the postseason. The simplest way is that they need to defeat the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. The Colts are highly favored against a 2-14 Jaguars team, but they have not won a game in Jacksonville since 2014. Jacksonville has also some recent success against Indy. In the Jaguars’ past 33 games, they are 2-2 against the Colts and 2-27 against everyone else.
If the Colts are upset by the Jaguars on Sunday, two other scenarios can give them a playoff berth: a Chargers loss and a tie between the Ravens and Steelers OR losses by both the Chargers and Steelers and a Dolphins win.
Indianapolis Colts (9-7) (at 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars)
Indianapolis clinches playoff berth with:
- IND win or tie OR
- LAC loss + BAL-PIT tie OR
- LAC loss + PIT loss + MIA win
How can the Ravens make the playoffs?
Meanwhile for the Ravens, who currently occupy the No. 10 seed in the AFC, their playoff chances are slim after losing their fifth straight game last week. In order to advance, the Ravens will be tasked with defeating the Steelers in what is expected to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s final game. Baltimore also needs three other scenarios to play out: a Chargers loss to the Raiders and a Colts loss to the Jaguars and a Dolphins loss or tie to the Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens (8-8) (vs. 8-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers)
Baltimore clinches playoff berth with:
- BAL win + LAC loss + IND loss + MIA loss or tie
Week 18 NFL Picks and Power Rankings
Mike Florio and the team at ProFootballTalk have broken down their picks and power rankings for Week 18. They have Aaron Rodgers and the 13-3 Green Bay Packers at the top of the list. Click here to see where the rest of the league falls as we enter the final week of the regular season.
Current 2021 NFL Playoff picture
2021 AFC Standings
Tennessee Titans (11-5) – clinched division title
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) – clinched division title
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) – clinched division title
Buffalo Bills (10-6) – clinched playoff berth
New England Patriots (10-6) – clinched playoff berth
Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
On the bubble:
Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)
Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
2021 NFC Standings
Green Bay Packers (13-3) – secured No. seed
Los Angeles Rams (12-4) – clinched playoff berth
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) – clinched division title
Dallas Cowboys (11-5) – clinched division title
Arizona Cardinals (11-5) – clinched playoff berth
San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – clinched playoff berth
On the bubble:
New Orleans Saints (8-8)
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