Week-18 Playoff Scenarios for Patriots, Steelers and Cowboys
There's one weekend of regular season football to go and there is still a lot at stake for many teams.
Let's take a look at three of those teams.
They can still earn the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win at Washington AND an Eagles loss vs the Giants AND a 49ers loss vs the Cardinals.
The Eagles are in the drivers seat for the NFC title, but they have lost two straight and have done so without QB Jalen Hurts, who sprained his throwing shoulder in a week-15 win vs the Bears.
I think we can expect Hurts to play for this very important week-18 game vs the Giants in Philly, but if Hurts can't go the door would be wide open for the Cowboys to jump into the top seed in the NFC with a little more help from the Cardinals.
The 49'ers will also be playing for the NFC title in week-18. They're at home vs the Cardinals. They need a win and an Eagles loss and they would take the NFC crown.
The Cardinals are 4-12 and have been eliminated from the playoffs, so this would be a long shot for them to pull off this upset vs the 49'ers.
Since a 49'ers loss to the Cardinals is part of the Cowboys path to the NFC #1 seed and is unlikely to happen, we can pretty much rule out the NFC title for the Cowboys. But they do still have a decent shot at the NFC East crown. With a win and an Eagles loss they would win the division and push the Eagles to a Wildcard spot.
The Cowboys can finish with either the #1, #2 or #5 seed in the NFC, but it's safe to predict them as the #5 seed, setting them up with a trip to Tampa Bay and a match-up with the Buc's.
The Cowboys have never beat Tom Brady and likely will have to plan on figuring-out a way in order to advance to the Divisional round.
They managed to stay alive in their quest for a playoff spot. With the Dolphins loss to the Patriots and their win at the Ravens on Sunday night their long-shot chances were kept alive. They still need a win and some help in order to claim the last Wildcard spot in the AFC.
With a win at home vs the Browns AND a Patriots loss at Buffalo AND a Dolphins loss at home vs the Jets, the Steelers would get in.
The Patriots very well could lose in Buffalo if the Bills still need a win in order to clinch the AFC's #1 seed. But, if the Chiefs were to lose to the Raiders in Vegas on Saturday night the game vs the Patriots would be meaningless to the Bills and they would probably sit-out a lot of their starters, giving the Patriots a very good chance of winning and eliminating the Steelers.
The Dolphins have lost five straight and probably still won't have QB Tua Tagovialoa back from his 2nd concussion this season. They will also likely be without their #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has reportedly broke a finger on his throwing hand in the loss to the Patriots on Sunday. Their #3 QB Skyler Thompson will likely get the start.
The Jets have been eliminated from the playoffs, but will likely still like to deliver a playoff-eliminating blow to their division rivals, so this one should be a hard fought game with both teams leaving it all out on the field. The Steelers will need the Jets to find a way to win this game.
Right now Vegas has the Steelers with 10-1 odds of making the playoffs, which is considerably better than the 2% chance they had going into week-17.
It doesn't look very promising for the Steelers, but it was just about the same case last season when they entered the final week of the regular season, and the cards fell in a way that gave them an improbable playoff spot. So, I'm saying there's a chance.
If the Steelers were to find themselves in the 2022 playoffs it would likely be short-lived, as they would most likely go on the road to Buffalo or Kansas City. Either of those match-ups would most likely make the Steelers the biggest underdogs in round-1.
The Patriots kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Dolphins on Sunday.
They will now head to Buffalo with a win-and-in scenario.
They can still hold onto the #7 seed if they lose to the Bills if the Steelers and Dolphins also lose.
Again, if the Chiefs lose their game to the Raiders on Saturday night the game on Sunday would be meaningless to the Bills, as they will have already clinched the #1 seed. This would give the Patriots a decent chance of winning this game and securing the last playoff seed in the AFC.
Just like the Steelers and Dolphins, who also have a shot at the final playoff spot, if the Patriots do get in they will most likely travel to Kansas City or Buffalo. They would also certainly be big underdogs in that round-1 match-up.