The 2021 NFL season has come to the end of its new 17-game schedule with only one game left for every team. Here’s checking on the updated standings and what the playoff picture is looking like for the final Week 18.
The league kept its expanded playoff field, with 14 of its 32 teams (43.8 percent) set to qualify for the latest postseason. That includes 7 each from the AFC and NFC, with only the No. 1 seeds getting byes on top of home-field advantage.
Who would be in, who’s still in contention, and who should be thinking about next season? Here’s a comprehensive look:
NFL POWER RANKINGS:
Chiefs, Cowboys, Colts slip up; Titans, Bengals, Raiders rise for Week 18
NFL standings for Week 18
AFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5), champions, AFC West. The Chiefs lost at the Bengals in Week 17 to lose control of the top seed in the AFC playoffs. To get back to No. 1 after beating the Broncs in Week 18, they need a Titans loss in Week 1. They will not fall any lower than this given the cushion between them and the Bengals and Bills.
2. Tennessee Titans (11-5), champions, AFC South. The Titans won the division with their Week 17 home rout of the Dolphins while the second-place Colts also lost to the Raiders. They got the bonus of jumping back up to the top seed and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs with the Chiefs loss. They have the tiebreaker because of a Week 7 home win over Kansas City. They need to beat the Texans in Week 18 to secure the lone bye.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), champions, AFC North. The Bengals clinched the division title with their thrilling Week 17 win over the Chiefs, further boosted by the Ravens losing at home to the Rams. They also remained ahead of the winning Bills, whom they haven’t played, because of a superior record in AFC play (8-3 vs. 6-5). A win in Week 18 would keep them here and possibly allow them to jump the Chiefs into No. 2. A loss could open the door for the Bills to jump here and the Bengals to end up at No. 4. Regardless, the Bengals are resting key players, including banged-up QB Joe Burrow against the Browns. Remaining schedule: at CLE
4. Buffalo Bills (10-6), first place, AFC East. The Bills stayed here for Week 18 by rallying in the second half to beat the NFC’s Falcons at home in Week 17. The win allowed them to keep pace with the winning Titans and Bengals and also gain a game on the Chiefs. They also stayed ahead of the winning Patriots because of a superior division record (4-1 vs. 3-2). They will clinch the division and at least No. 4 with a win over the Jets in Week 18 and could move up to No. 2 depending on what the Chiefs and Bengals do. Getting to No. 1 over the Titans, however, isn’t happening, because that team beat both the Bills and Chiefs.
5. New England Patriots (10-6), second place, AFC East. The Patriots stopped their two-game losing streak as expected by destroying the Jaguars in Week 17. They kept pace with the winning Bills to push the division race into the final week, needing a win over the Dolphins and a Bills loss to take back the East. The Week 17 victory also pushed the Patriots one game ahead the Colts, to whom they lost in Week 15.
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-7), second place, AFC South. The Colts failed to clinch a wild-card spot behind the winning Titans as they lost to the Raiders at home in Week 17. That cost them a spot, falling from No. 5 ahead of the Patriots to behind them. The Colts still need one more win in Week 18 at the Jaguars or another Ravens’ loss vs. the Steelers to earn a wild-card spot. Their playoff chances remain strong despite the defeat.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7), second place, AFC West. The Chargers got back into playoff position with their home win over the Broncos, rebounding from the bad upset loss to the Texans. They get the last spot for now over the Raiders ahead of playing them again in Las Vegas because they beat them at home in Week 4. The winner of the rematch will be in the playoffs at 10-7.
Who can get there?
8. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
The Chargers displaced the Raiders, whom they beat once and play again in Week 18, with their win over the Broncos. The Steelers stayed alive by beating the Browns and will go into their Week 18 game with the Ravens having a chance, like their opponents.
Who’s set to be out?
11. Miami Dolphins (8-8, eliminated)
12. Cleveland Browns (7-9, eliminated)
13. Denver Broncos (7-10, eliminated)
14. New York Jets (4-12, eliminated)
15. Houston Texans (4-12, eliminated)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14, eliminated)
The Browns, Broncos and Dolphins were all eliminated by the Chargers beating the Broncos.
NFC playoff picture
Who would be in?
1. Green Bay Packers (13-3), champions, NFC North. The Packers clinched the No. 1 seed, the lone bye and the Lambeau home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with their win over the Vikings in Week 17, matching their record of the previous two seasons with Aaron Rodgers under Matt LaFleur with one more game left in the new schedule. They will be resting Rodgers and their other key regulars against the Lions in Week 18.
2. Los Angeles Rams (12-4), first place, NFC West. The Rams clinched a playoff spot before stepping on the field against the Ravens, but still got the comeback Week 17 win at Baltimore. They couldn’t win the division after the Cardinals beat the Cowboys, but the Rams got to No. 2 ahead of the Cowboys with the West lead and can look to wrap things up there at home against the 49ers in Week 18. They also hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buccaneers.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4), champions, NFC South. The Buccaneers beat the Jets in unexpected comeback fashion in Week 17 to keep pace with the winning Rams and also jump the losing Cowboys. They would have a shot to move up to No. 2 with a win over the Panthers in Week 18 and if the Rams, who beat them in Week 3, would lose to the 49ers.
4. Dallas Cowboys (12-5), champions, NFC East. The Cowboys rebounded to rout the resting Eagles in Week 18 after they lost to the Cardinals in a failed comeback in Week 17 to drop behind the winning Rams and Buccaneers. The division was wrapped up in Week 16 but the Cowboys blew the chance to push for the No. 1 seed behind the Packers. They are now probably staying at No. 4 and for now would have a home wild-card rematch with the Cardinals.
5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5), second place, NFC West. The Cardinals, who have clinched at least the top wild-card spot, stayed alive in the NFC West race by beating the Cowboys and keeping pace with the winning Rams. They can still win the West based on the division-record tiebreaker (5-1 vs. 3-3) if they can beat the Seahawks at home in Week 18 while the Rams lose at home to the 49ers.
6. San Francisco 49ers (9-7), third place, NFC West. The 49ers got closer to locking down a wild card with their Week 17 home win over the Texans, but they still have work to do against the Rams in Week 18. They stayed ahead of the winning Eagles because of beating that team on the road in Week 2. They need a win over the Rams or a Saints loss to the Falcons to make the playoffs.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8), second place, NFC East. The Eagles took care of their business by beating Washington in Week 17. They clinched a wild-card spot behind the Cowboys in the division with the Vikings losing to the Packers. They rested players at home vs. the Cowboys in Week 18, with the chance to move up only one spot to No. 6.
Who can get there?
8. New Orleans Saints (8-8)
The Saints kept pressure on the winning 49ers by beating the Panthers in Week 17. They can get into the playoffs with a win over the Falcons and a 49ers loss to the Rams, two very possible outcomes.
Who’s set to be out?
9. Minnesota Vikings (7-9, eliminated)
10. Atlanta Falcons (7-9, eliminated)
11. Washington Football Team (6-10, eliminated)
12. Chicago Bears (6-10, eliminated)
13. Seattle Seahawks (6-10, eliminated)
14. Carolina Panthers (5-11, eliminated)
15. New York Giants (4-12, eliminated)
16. Detroit Lions (2-13-1, eliminated)
Minnesota, Atlanta and Washington were the latest teams to join this also-running club with their Week 17 losses.