Analysis: With 1 more game, more teams in NFL playoff race
With two weeks remaining in the NFL season, only eight teams have been eliminated from the playoff race.
That’s why the league added a 17th game and a third wild-card team last year, plus the revenue gained by another game.
More teams are still playing to get in the tournament or trying to secure a higher seed with one more game to help them earn it.
Eleven teams have already clinched a playoff berth, including four division titles, leaving five spots open. Both No. 1 seeds are up for grabs with four NFC teams and three AFC teams vying for a bye a home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Houston, Chicago, Arizona, Denver, Indianapolis, Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland are out of the playoff picture. Only one game this week – Cardinals at Falcons – has no playoff ramifications.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8) and Carolina Panthers (6-9) are playing for the NFC South. The Bucs would clinch with a win. A loss means they would need to win their final game at Atlanta and the Panthers would have to lose at New Orleans in Week 18.
“Our playoff games started last Sunday when we won, so this Sunday will be the same,” Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said.
The same goes for several teams.
The NFC East has a chance to send four teams to the playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) would clinch the division and the No. 1 seed with a win over the New Orleans Saints (6-9) this week or a victory next week against the New York Giants (8-6-1).
The Dallas Cowboys (12-4) need the Eagles to lose out and have to beat Washington (7-7-1) to win the division. Otherwise, the Cowboys will get the fifth seed and play a wild-card game on the road against the NFC South champion.
The Giants can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 with a win over the Colts. There are several scenarios they could get in this week without a win but beating Indianapolis is the simplest one.
The Commanders can clinch by winning the final two games. Or, Washington gets in this week with a win over Cleveland and losses by Seattle, Detroit and Green Bay.
The NFC South champ will be Tampa Bay, Carolina or New Orleans. Only the Buccaneers can win the division this weekend.
The Minnesota Vikings (12-3) already secured the NFC North. They still have a shot at the No. 1 seed if the Eagles lose out. They visit the Packers (7-8) on Sunday.
The Detroit Lions (7-8) have overcome a 1-6 start to be in position where they would have a chance to make the playoffs with wins over the Bears and Packers and some help — one loss for both the Commanders and Seahawks.
The Packers have rebounded from a 4-8 start to set themselves up for a chance, too. They need to beat the Vikings and Lions and have the Commanders lose to either the Browns or Cowboys.
The San Francisco 49ers (11-4) are NFC West champs. They still have a shot at the No. 1 but need help.
The Seahawks (7-8) seemed like a lock for the playoffs before losing three in a row and five of six. Now, they have to beat the New York Jets and Rams and hope the Commanders and Packers lose one each.
Monday night’s matchup between Buffalo and Cincinnati has major implications.
The Bills (12-3) won the AFC East and currently hold the No. 1 seed but they could finish as low the third seed if they lose to the Bengals.
The Miami Dolphins (8-6) and New England Patriots (7-8) face off Sunday with both teams fighting for a wild-card spot. The Dolphins, minus quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because of concussion symptoms, would clinch with a win and loss or tie by the Jets.
The Patriots get in if they beat the Dolphins and Bills. The Jets are in with two wins and one loss by the Patriots.
The AFC South will be decided in Week 18 when the Tennessee Titans (7-9) visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8).
The Bengals (11-4) lead the AFC North by one game over the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) and have a shot at the No. 1 seed if they beat the Bills and Ravens and Kansas City (12-3) loses one game.
The Ravens already locked up a wild-card spot and would secure the division title with wins over Pittsburgh (7-8) and Bengals. The Steelers have to win out and get plenty of help.
The Chiefs already won their seventh straight AFC West title. They’re in line for the No. 1 seed if Buffalo loses one and they win out.
The Los Angeles Chargers (9-6) secured a wild-card spot and are one game behind the Ravens for the fifth seed.
The Las Vegas Raiders (6-9) haven’t been mathematically eliminated but they benched quarterback Derek Carr for Jarrett Stidham so they understand they really have no chance.
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