2022 NFL Playoff-Clinching Scenarios: Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, and Patriots in play for AFC No. 1 seed

As we head into the 2022 NFL playoffs, what are the clinching scenarios that could play out in Week 18 of the season?

While a number of 2022 NFL playoff scenarios have already played out entering Week 18, there are still several clinching situations that could take place this week. Which teams can still clinch a playoff spot, which divisions are up for grabs, and who can still clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC? Let’s take a look at all of the potential scenarios this weekend for each of the teams.

NFL playoff-clinching scenarios in Week 18

Before we get into what can be clinched this week, let’s take a look at what has already been clinched for the 2021 season entering Week 18.

What has been clinched in the AFC?

  • AFC North division title — Cincinnati Bengals
  • AFC West division title — Kansas City Chiefs
  • AFC South division title — Tennessee Titans
  • Playoff berths — Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots

What has been clinched in the NFC?

  • No. 1 seed and NFC North division title — Green Bay Packers
  • NFC East division title — Dallas Cowboys
  • NFC South division title — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Playoff berths — Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Philadelphia Eagles

Arizona Cardinals playoff-clinching scenarios

The Cardinals may have already clinched a playoff spot, but they can still win the NFC West. That would see them host a game in the first round of the playoffs instead of going on the road. For that to happen, the Cardinals need to win and the Rams need to lose.

Baltimore Ravens playoff-clinching scenarios

The Ravens need a lot to go their way to make the playoffs this season. After a tough season due to injuries, the Ravens do not have their future in their own hands. Here is what needs to play out for the Ravens to make the playoffs:

  • Ravens win, Chargers lose, Colts lose, and Dolphins lose (or tie)

Buffalo Bills playoff-clinching scenarios

The Bills have a pretty simple scenario if they want to clinch the AFC East. Buffalo simply needs to win and the division will be theirs.

Moreover, the Bills basically just need to match or better whatever result the Patriots have. Here are the three scenarios that see Buffalo clinch the division title in 2021:

  • Bills win
  • Patriots lose
  • Bills tie and Patriots tie

Cincinnati Bengals playoff-clinching scenarios

The Bengals have already clinched the division, but where they finish in the NFL standings will depend on their own game as well as other results. They still have an outside chance of clinching the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, but they need some help. Here is how the Bengals can clinch the No. 1 overall seed:

  • Bengals win, Titans lose, Chiefs lose, and Patriots lose or tie
  • Bengals win, Titans lose, Chiefs lose, and Bills win

Indianapolis Colts playoff-clinching scenarios

The Colts saw their chance of winning the AFC South vanish last week. Furthermore, their loss to the Raiders in Week 17 means they now go into Week 18 needing to clinch a playoff spot.

Still, the Colts hold their future in their own hands. If they win or tie with the Jaguars, they are in. Yet, there are ways they can lose and still make the playoffs. The Colts can make the playoffs in the following ways:

  • Colts win (or tie)
  • Chargers lose and a tie between the Ravens and Steelers
  • Chargers lose, Steelers lose, and Dolphins win

Kansas City Chiefs playoff-clinching scenarios

The Chiefs lost control of the No. 1 seed last week. However, they can still clinch a first-round bye if they better the result of the Titans. Kansas City needs to win and hope the Titans cannot match that when they face the Texans. There is also the potential the Chiefs can tie and take the No. 1 seed if the Titans lose.

Las Vegas Raiders playoff-clinching scenarios

The Raiders could head into Sunday Night Football knowing they have already clinched a playoff spot. But with the Colts playing the Jaguars, that seems unlikely. Therefore, it looks likely the game in Las Vegas will be a straight elimination game for the AFC playoffs. Here is what the Raiders need to make the playoffs after a turbulent season.

  • Raiders win
  • Raiders tie and Colts lose
  • Colts lose and Steelers lose or tie

Los Angeles Chargers playoff-clinching scenarios

Things are simple for the Chargers — win and they’re in. Lose and they miss out. In a way, that will be refreshing for the Chargers as they do not need to have an eye on other results. They simply need to go and win against the Raiders.

Los Angeles Rams playoff-clinching scenarios

The NFL playoff-clinching scenario for the Rams is simple in theory. They need to match or better the result of the Cardinals. Winning their Week 18 game will clinch the NFC West, but they can also do so with a tie or a loss if the Cardinals fail to win. In reality, that is somewhat tougher, given they are facing a 49ers team fighting for their playoff lives.

New England Patriots playoff-clinching scenarios

The Patriots have already clinched a playoff spot, but they have other things they can clinch this week. The Patriots can still win the division if they better the result of the Bills.

It seems unlikely with the Bills playing the Jets, but if they do lose, the Patriots would take the division with a tie. There is also a scenario where the Patriots can take home the No. 1 seed.

  • Patriots win, Bills lose or tie, Chiefs lose, Titans lose

New Orleans Saints playoff-clinching scenarios

The Saints can still clinch a playoff spot, which is very much on the table. If the Saints win and the 49ers lose, New Orleans will take the final playoff spot in the NFC. All the Saints can control is their own result. Nevertheless, if they get up big heading into the fourth quarter, a lot of their fans may start focusing on the 49ers’ result.

Pittsburgh Steelers playoff-clinching scenarios

While Monday was emotional in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger’s pending retirement, they could yet extend his career with a playoff game. Indeed, the Steelers need to win, hope the Colts lose, and hope the Raiders vs. Chargers game does not end in a tie. Here are the two scenarios that would see the Steelers make the playoffs.

  • Steelers win, Colts lose, and Raiders lose
  • Steelers win, Colts lose, and Chargers lose

San Francisco 49ers playoff-clinching scenarios

The 49ers are another NFL team that has their playoff-clinching scenario in their own hands. If they win, they’re in. Where they have to rely on others to help is if they fail to beat the Rams. At that point, they would be relying on the Falcons to defeat the Saints.

Tennessee Titans playoff-clinching scenarios

For the Titans, things are simple this week when it comes to clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC. It could be as simple as a victory for them. Yet, if they lose, they could still wind up as the No. 1 seed if things go their way. Here are the scenarios that would see the Titans clinch home-field advantage in the AFC:

  • Titans win
  • Titans tie and Chiefs lose or tie
  • Chiefs loss, Bengals lose or tie, and Patriots lose or tie
  • Chiefs loss, Bengals lose or tie, and Bills win

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN

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