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In or out? All the NFL playoff scenarios at stake in Week 18

A handful of teams are playing for their NFL playoff lives in Week 18, with headline matchups between the Rams-49ers in the NFC and Raiders-Chargers in the AFC.

LOS ANGELES — Week 18 is here, for the first time ever.

NFL teams will play their 17th game of the NFL season and there's still plenty to be decided. 

Games this weekend will not only decide playoff seeding but also who gets into the playoffs for multiple teams in both conferences. 

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NFC Playoff Scenarios

Here's how the NFC playoffs would look if they started today, before Week 18 games:

No. 1 Green Bay Packers (BYE)
No. 2 Los Angeles Rams vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles
No. 3 Tampa Bay Bucs vs. No. 6 San Francisco 49ers
No. 4 Dallas Cowboys vs. No. 5 Arizona Cardinals

There's still a good amount that can change here. One thing that won't change is that the Packers have the No. 1 seed locked up. They will play the lowest-ranked seed that advances out of the Wild Card round. For the sake of sanity, the seeding propositions here are not factoring in ties.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams currently hold the No. 2 seed but that would change with a loss to the 49ers on Sunday. The loss, plus an Arizona Cardinals win rover the Seahawks would give Arizona the NFC West title and a top three seed while the Rams would have the No. 5 seed. If the Rams defeat the 49ers, they'll be locked into the No. 2 seed, but would likely face the Saints, who must defeat the Falcons to advance to the playoffs in the event of a 49ers loss.

If the Rams lose, but the Cardinals also lose, L.A. takes the NFC West, but would likely drop to the No. 4 seed behind the Bucs and Cowboys, given they win their Week 18 games.

Tampa Bay Bucs

The Bucs are in the playoffs and have a chance to move up to the No. 2 seed if they can beat the Panthers and the Rams lose to the 49ers. If the Rams and Bucs both win, the Bucs will stay at the No. 3 seed. If the Bucs lose to the Panthers, they still would own the No. 3 seed because they defeated the Cowboys and lost to the Rams. If the Rams lose and the Bucs lose, the Bucs will be the No. 3 seed and Arizona will take the No. 2 seed.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have the NFC East locked up and will remain the No. 4 seed whether they win or lose to the Eagles on Sunday.

If the Rams win against the 49ers, the Cowboys play the Cardinals. If the Rams lose against the 49ers, the Cowboys will play the Rams.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West and move up to in seeding if they defeat the Seahawks AND the Rams lose to the 49ers on Sunday. If the Cardinals and Rams both win or both lose, the Cardinals will remain the No. 5 seed.

If the Cardinals win, the Rams lose and the Bucs lose, the Cardinals will shoot all the way up to the No. 2 seed, and they would face the Eagles.

The Cardinals are set up to play the Cowboys if the Cardinals and Rams have the same results on Sunday. If the Cardinals do win the NFC West and the Bucs also win, they will be the No. 3 seed and face the 49ers.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are the current No. 6 seed in the NFC but they're the only NFC team that hasn't clinched a spot. 

If the 49ers defeat the Rams, they're in at the No. 6 seed. If the 49ers lose AND the Saints defeat the Falcons, the 49ers are out. 

If the 49ers lose AND the Saints lose, the 49ers' seed will depend on the Eagles' result vs. Dallas. In that loss-loss scenario with the Saints, the Eagles would have to win vs. Dallas to move to up to the No. 6 seed. If the 49ers, Saints and Eagles all lose, the 49ers will be No. 6, and the Eagles will be No. 7.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have already clinched a spot in the playoffs.

As explained, above, the Eagles will be the No. 7 seed if the 49ers defeat the Rams. They'll face the Bucs if that happens as long as the Bucs take care of business against the Panthers. If the Cardinals win and the Rams and Bucs both lose, the Cardinals would slide into the No. 2 seed to face the Eagles.

If the Eagles lose and the 49ers lose and the Saints lose, the Eagles will be the No. 7 seed and face the Rams.

However, if the 49ers lose and the Saints win, the Eagles will move up to the No. 6 seed and face the No. 3 seed Bucs as the Saints move into the No. 7 spot.

New Orleans Saints

If the Saints defeat the Falcons and the 49ers lose to the Rams, they're in. If the Saints win and the 49ers win, the Saints are out. If the Saints lose at all, they're out.

AFC Playoff Scenarios

Here's how the AFC playoffs would look if they started today, before Week 18 games:

No. 1 Tennessee Titans (BYE)
No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Chargers
No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals s. No. 6 Indianapolis Colts
No. 4 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 5 New England Patriots

There's even more shaking up that can happen on the AFC side of the playoffs as there are three teams still on the bubble outside of the top seven current seeds. For the sake of sanity, the seeding propositions here are not factoring in ties.

Tennessee Titans

If the Titans win against the Texans on Sunday, they'll own the No. 1 seed and the bye. 

If the Titans lose AND the Chiefs win, the Titans will fall to the No. 3 seed.

If the Titans lose AND the Chiefs lose AND the Bengals win AND Patriots lose OR the Bills win, the Titans will own the No. 2 seed behind Cincinnati.

It's highly unlikely the Titans lose to the lowly Titans for a second time this year, odds are high Tennessee will have the top seed.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City will more than likely be the No. 2 seed as well. If the Titans defeat the Texans and the Chiefs beat the Broncos, the Chiefs will have the two seed. If the Titans lose and the Chiefs win, the Chiefs will get the No. 1 seed.

If the Chiefs lose, they'll drop below the Bengals if the Bengals win. The Chiefs would also drop below the Bills if the Bills won and the Chiefs lost. So, Kansas City can go as far down as No. 4. 

The Chiefs are heavy favorites over the Broncos. 

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have locked up the AFC North so the lowest they can drop in the event of a loss to the Browns is No. 4. The highest they can go is No. 1.

There are two ways the Bengals can get the No. 1 seed. They must win in both scenarios. In one scenario, they'll need Tennessee to lose AND Kansas City to lose AND the Patriots to lose to tie. Or, they need Tennessee to lose AND Kansas City to lose AND the Bills to win.

If the Titans win and the Chiefs lose, the Bengals will slide up to No. 2. If the Bengals lose, they'll slide down to No. 4. 

If the Titans, Chiefs and Bengals all win, as they are all heavy favorites, the Bengals will have the No. 3 seed.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills will win the AFC East with a win OR a Patriots loss OR if the Bills and Patriots both somehow tied their games.

The Bills will hold the No. 4 seed if the Titans, Chiefs and Bengals all win. If the Bengals lose and Chiefs win and the Bills win, the Bills slide up to No. 3. If the Chiefs lose, the Bills will slide above them, likely the No. 3 seed if the Bengals were to win. If the Chiefs and Bengals both lost while the Bills won, the Bills will slide up to No. 2. 

Even if the Titans, Chiefs and Bengals all lose, the Bills can only go as high as two, because they lose a tiebreaker to the Titans. 

New England Patriots

The Patriots still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC East, believe it or not. They would need the Titans, Chiefs and Bills all to lose as heavy favorites. They defeat the Bengals in a tiebreaker, if the two teams finish with the same record.

If the Bills win, the Patriots will stay at the No. 5 seed with a win. If the Patriots lose to Miami, they'll drop back to the No. 6 seed IF the Colts defeat the Jaguars, as they would have the tiebreaker.

If the Patriots win and the Bills lose, but the Titans, Chiefs and Bengals all win, the Patriots will slide into the No. 3 slot as a division winner and ahead of the Bengals as a tiebreaker winner.

Lot of scenarios for the Pats, but the most likely is they'll stay in the No. 5 seed as the Bills are expected* to defeat the Jets to win the AFC East and the Patriots are expected to defeat the Dolphins. 

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have not clinched, they're going to need to defeat the Jaguars or tie them in order to get in.

There are two ways the Colts can get in if they lose in Jacksonville. A Chargers loss AND a Ravens-Steelers tie would get them in if the Colts lost. Or, a Chargers loss, plus a Steelers loss, plus a Dolphins win over the Patriots would get them in. They would be the No. 7 seed in both scenarios.

With a Colts win and a Patriots loss, the Colts would slide up to No. 5, but that's as high as they can go.

If the Colts and Patriots both win, and the Chargers defeat the Raiders, the Colts are the No. 5 seed. If the Colts and Patriots both win, but the Raiders defeat the Chargers, the Colts are the No. 7 seed.

Los Angeles Chargers

The formula is simple for the Chargers: Win and you're in. Well, they also can technically tie and get in.

If the Chargers lose, they're out. 

The Chargers would need a win and a Colts loss to move up from the No. 7 to No. 6 seed. Otherwise, the Chargers are cemented into that 7 seed.

Las Vegas Raiders

With a win, the Raiders are in and they'll be the No. 6 seed, as they would jump the Colts with the tiebreaker. 

If the Raiders and Chargers somehow tie, the Colts must lose for the Raiders to be in. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

They're clinging onto hope in Pittsburgh. If the Steelers defeat the Ravens AND the Colts lose to the Jaguars (and Chargers-Raiders doesn't end in a tie), the Steelers are in at the No. 7 seed.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens need even more to go right. They would need to beat the Steelers on Sunday plus would need all of the following to happen: Chargers loss, Colts loss and Dolphins loss or tie. 

They would be in over the Colts because of tiebreaker, in over the Chargers because of tiebreaker and would be into the No. 7 seed behind the Raiders in 6.

If the Colts lost and the Chargers lost and the Dolphins defeated the Patriots, the Colts would be in over the Ravens because the Dolphins would own the tiebreaker over the Ravens and the Dolphins have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

So there you have it. A lot to look out for on Sunday. 

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