The NFL is about to wrap up its 2021-22 regular season. Week 18 is here, and the playoff picture is coming into focus. There are still a couple of questions to be answered, but football fans and bettors have a good idea of what to expect.
Although it's unlikely, the New England Patriots could still win the AFC East. They may even be able to earn the Number-1 spot in the AFC. New England (10-6) is already in the playoffs after clinching Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the Patriots still need to do a lot to be in contention for bigger titles.
The Pats must beat the Miami Dolphins to win the division. The Buffalo Bills need to lose to the New York Jets or tie them for it to be won. Alternatively, the Patriots could tie the Dolphins or beat Buffalo. The Jets have less incentive to lose, at 4-12, which could improve their draft position.
To take the top seed in the AFC, the Pats will need all of the following to happen:
- They must beat the Dolphins
- The Bills tie or lose against the Jets. The Bills are currently 17-point favorites
- The Kansas City Chiefs must lose Saturday to the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs are a 10-point favorite.
- The Tennessee Titans need to lose to the Houston Texans. The Titans are a 10.5-point favorite.
Each conference has seven teams that make it to the playoffs. The winners of each division determine the top four seeds. The Number-1 seed receives a first-round bye. Seeds 2-4 will host the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Patriots win, tie, or don't get any help, they would be the Number-5 seed. They would then travel to face the 4th-ranked seed. Per the current lineup, that game would be against the Bills, with Buffalo hosting.
However, the Pats could fall to Number 7 if the Indianapolis Colts beat the Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders beat the LA Chargers.
Heading into Week 18, the playoff picture looks like this:
The following have clinched a berth in the AFC:
- Cincinnati Bengals – AFC North division title
- Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division title
- Tennessee Titans – AFC South division title
- Buffalo Bills – playoff berth
- New England Patriots – playoff berth
In the NFC:
- Green Bay Packers – NFC North division title, Number-1 seed
- Dallas Cowboys – NFC East division title
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – NFC South division title
- Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
- Los Angeles Rams – playoff berth
- Philadelphia Eagles – playoff berth