Week 18 NFL playoff picture: The AFC is set to go through Nashville

Miami Dolphins v Tennessee Titans
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The AFC playoffs have gone through Kansas City the last two seasons, but we’re on track for a new No. 1 seed this time around.

With the Titans beating the Dolphins and the Chiefs losing to the Bengals, Week 18 opens up with the Titans holding the top spot in the conference and they’ll stay there into the postseason as long as they beat the Texans this Sunday. A look at the standings makes it clear that they’ll be heavy favorites, but the Texans did get a win the first time the two teams played this season so the crown won’t be rewarded until they actually play the game.

The other intrigue in the conference comes with the final two Wild Card spots. The Colts have the inside track on one and they’ll need to win in Jacksonville for the first time since 2014 to sew it up. The Chargers and Raiders will be meeting on Sunday night with another playoff spot on the line while the Steelers and Ravens hope for chaos to reign in a way that allows them to sneak into the dance.

Here’s how the entire picture shapes up with one game left to play:

CLINCHED

1. Titans (11-5) Motivation to get the top seed includes extra time to get running back Derrick Henry back in the lineup.

2. Chiefs (11-5) Their winning streak came to an end in Cincinnati, but they still look like they’ll be a handful in the postseason.

3. Bengals (10-6) With their first division title since 2015 in the bag, they’ll move on to trying for their first playoff win since 1990.

4. Bills (10-6) Holding serve against the Jets will give them a second straight division title and a good chance at round three against the Patriots.

5. Patriots (10-6) There’s nothing like playing the Jaguars when it comes to getting right on the scoreboard.

IN THE HUNT

6. Colts (9-7) The Colts stumbled against the Raiders, but, as noted with the Patriots, the Jaguars make it easy to get right.

7. Chargers (9-7) A win in Las Vegas on Sunday night would likely lead to another AFC West matchup in the Wild Card round.

8. Raiders (9-7) Plenty of people counted the Raiders out in early December, but they’ve proven to be a tougher team to eliminate than anyone expected.

9. Steelers (8-7-1) Monday night’s emotional sendoff to Ben Roethlisberger will be the lasting memory of an inconsistent season in Pittsburgh.

11. Ravens (8-8) Another close loss extended their losing streak to five games, but it didn’t quite erase their playoff chances.

ELIMINATED

10. Dolphins (8-8) While they technically rank above the Ravens in the standings, their path to the postseason ended with Sunday’s loss to the Titans.

12. Browns (7-9) A disappointing season will end against the Bengals and questions about their quarterback will be front and center this offseason.

13. Broncos (7-9) With the playoffs off the table, the Broncos can start asking their own quarterback questions while also determining Vic Fangio’s future.

14. Jets (4-12) They had the Buccaneers right where they wanted them, but a botched fourth down call left them lamenting another loss.

15. Texans (4-12) Playing spoiler against the Titans would be a happy way to end a rough season in Houston.

16. Jaguars (2-14) The Jaguars could also play spoiler this weekend, but there aren’t many signs of life in Jacksonville.

22 responses to “Week 18 NFL playoff picture: The AFC is set to go through Nashville

  1. The Ravens were the 1 seed after the 19 season, got thumped in divisional round. The Chiefs were the 1 seed after the 20 season, got thumped in the SB. Sure, it’s nice to have the bye week, but doesn’t always work out. Example, Giants as a wild card beat the Patriots in the SB at least once, if not twice. The Pack, were the 1 seed last year, got thumped by the Bucs.

  2. If the Ravens make the playoffs, with that M*A*S*H* unit, give the entire Ravens coaching staff “coach of the year”.

  3. I don’t like the addition of a #7 seed in the playoffs, taking away the #2 Seeds well-earned BYE, and it really waters down the play-offs. It used to really mean something to win your Division, but now it just means a home game.

  4. If the Raiders can make the playoffs with all the drama they have endured that would be amazing. The Raiders (like the Steelers and Ravens) also have a negative point differential of 68 – not sure how they are even 9-7.

  5. It should be noted that the one win the Jaguars had last year was at home against the Colts.
    I have faith in Carson Wentz in that he can pull off the unthinkable. So, if I’m Frank Reich, I copy the Patriots playbook in their win against the Bills, and just let Jonathan Taylor have 99.9% of the offensive touches in that game.

  6. I’m with Michael Enloe on the new format–winning your division should mean more. Football becomes less and less recognizable with each change.

  7. I love the Steelers but does anyone really believe they have a chance to get in the playoffs? Come on! Sure they may beat the Ravens but Jacksonville beating Indianapolis? The only thing the Jags will accomplish by winning is giving up a number one draft pick to Detroit. They do not want to win this game and they won’t.

  8. Funny that the Colts are outside looking in. Wasn’t too long ago they were celebrating their Superbowl win against the Patriots which led to them being beaten at home by the Raiders. Ouch. Poor Jim.

  9. “Funny that the Colts are outside looking in. Wasn’t too long ago they were celebrating their Superbowl win against the Patriots which led to them being beaten at home by the Raiders. Ouch. Poor Jim.”
    _____________________________________

    It’s funny that Pats fans still say the whole “you won your Super Bowl” thing.

    New England just ain’t that team anymore.

  10. If the Ravens make the playoffs, with that M*A*S*H* unit, give the entire Ravens coaching staff “coach of the year”.

    ——————

    Ravens literally have a 2% chance of making the playoffs.

    BB every year should win Coach of the Year.

  11. I like the addition of up and coming Bengals into the mix in the postseason. It should be fun.

  12. When the NFL goes to an 18 game schedule with 2 bye weeks they are planning to add 16 teams into the tournament next or the year after. There will be no bye weeks for the playoffs. Top 2 teams in each division are guaranteed in. One division winner and 1 runner-up. Seeding will be 1 plays 8 2 plays 7 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5. All four games will be played over the weekend by both conferences. I like the better as you need to fight win your division or be in 2nd place. 3rd and 4th place are eliminated even with good records but you need to be 1st and 2nd. The competition would be fierce.

  13. I can’t wait for the Buffalo – Patriots rematch in the playoffs. Buffalo fans thought they buried the Patriots but here we go again.

  14. MortimerInMiami says:
    January 4, 2022 at 11:58 am
    Titans will be one and done in playoffs its obvious!
    ————————————
    Say you know nothing about football without saying you know nothing about football.

  15. “I can’t wait for the Buffalo – Patriots rematch in the playoffs. Buffalo fans thought they buried the Patriots but here we go again.”
    __________________________________

    I can’t speak for Bills fans, but I never thought we buried the Pats.

    But if we beat them again in the playoffs, making it 4 out of the last 5, with the only loss being in hurricane force winds? Yeah, probably then.

  16. It will be a Bucs vs. Patriots super bowl. Everyone will be betting against both teams throughout the playoffs. And, Brady will still get there with a banged up team.

  17. But if we beat them again in the playoffs, making it 4 out of the last 5, with the only loss being in hurricane force winds? Yeah, probably then.

    _____

    Buffalo fans complaining because their team had to play in bad weather, which is what Buffalo gets in December and January, and didnt make the adjustments needed to win is kind of funny.

  18. The Patriots and bills are both 10-6 and 1-1 against each other. Their third game could literally go either way. I would go as far as to say this is one of the hardest years to predict because the AFC is so separated by all of 1 or 2 wins between teams. In my opinion, talking trash is risky. Good chance it’ll come back to bite you.

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