NFL playoff scenarios: Breaking down which Week 18 games actually matter from Vikings-Lions to Bills-Dolphins

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NFL Week 18: Playoff Scenarios and Must-Watch Games

In a thrilling culmination of the NFL regular season, Week 18 promises high stakes, intense matchups, and playoff scenarios that will determine the fate of several teams. As the final Sunday approaches, division titles hang in the balance, and coveted playoff spots are up for grabs, making it a must-watch spectacle for football enthusiasts.

Historic Playoff Race

Week 18 enters the annals of NFL history with twenty teams vying for a spot in the Super Bowl, matching the record set in 2006 for the most teams in contention with one week remaining in a full season. Compellingly, five playoff berths remain unclaimed, marking the highest number of undecided spots entering the final week since 2020. Additionally, four division titles remain up for grabs, mirroring the level of uncertainty seen in the 2014 season finale.

Key Matchups with Playoff Implications

Buccaneers at Panthers, 1 p.m. (ET), Fox

Significance: Yes (for the Buccaneers)

The Buccaneers aim to secure the NFC South title in a “win-and-in” scenario. A loss would open the door for the New Orleans and Atlanta winner to claim the division.

Browns at Bengals, 1 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: No

With the Browns locked into the AFC’s No. 5 seed and resting starters, the Bengals, eliminated from the playoffs, play for pride.

Vikings at Lions, 1 p.m. (ET), Fox

Significance: Yes

The Vikings cling to playoff hopes, needing a win and specific outcomes to clinch a spot. The Lions eye the No. 2 seed with a victory, Cowboys loss, and Eagles loss.

Jets at Patriots, 1 p.m. (ET), Fox

Significance: No

Both the Jets and Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs, with minimal impact on the postseason picture.

Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: Yes

The NFC South title is on the line for both teams. If the Buccaneers lose, the winner of this game claims the division.

Jaguars at Titans, 1 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: Yes (for the Jaguars)

The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South with a win, eliminating the Steelers’ playoff hopes.

Seahawks at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. (ET), Fox

Significance: Yes (for the Seahawks)

The Seahawks need a win and a Packers loss to secure a playoff spot, with other teams closely watching the outcome.

Bears at Packers, 4:25 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: Yes (for the Packers)

The Packers seek a victory to secure the final NFC playoff berth, with multiple scenarios in play.

Chiefs at Chargers, 4:25 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: No

With the Chiefs locked into the No. 3 seed, key players will rest, and the Chargers are eliminated from playoff contention.

Eagles at Giants, 4:25 p.m. (ET), CBS, Paramount+

Significance: Yes (for the Eagles)

The Eagles aim to clinch the NFC East with a win and Cowboys loss, impacting their seeding.

Rams at 49ers, 4:25 p.m (ET), Fox

Significance: No

With both teams starting backup quarterbacks, this matchup has limited playoff implications.

Cowboys at Commanders, 4:25 p.m. (ET), Fox

Significance: Yes (for the Cowboys)

The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win, while the Lions also hope for a Cowboys loss.

Bills at Dolphins, 8:20 p.m. (ET), NBC

Significance: Yes

A showdown with the AFC East title at stake, the Bills aim for the No. 2 seed, contingent on other outcomes.

In a season finale laden with drama, NFL fans are in for a treat as teams vie for postseason glory in this thrilling Week 18. Stay tuned for live updates and pivotal moments as the playoff landscape unfolds.

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