With just one week left in the NFL regular season, the playoff picture is nearly set. Most teams have either clinched a spot in the playoffs or been eliminated from the postseason. Yet there are still seven teams still fighting for three open playoff slots, and just one game left to potentially keep their postseason hopes alive.
Teams that have already clinched a postseason berth now have to decide whether to play their starters in Week 18. Some can clinch their division with a win and ensure home field advantage for at least one playoff game, which could give them a boost on their road to the Super Bowl.
To determine how each NFL team will finish the 2021 season, 24/7 Tempo reviews each week FiveThirtyEight’s 2021 NFL Predictions, which are based on 50,000 simulated games and are updated after every game. The predictions are as of Jan. 3, 2022, and teams are ranked by their Elo rating, which measures quality based on results and the quality of opponents. teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention were not included. Supplemental data came from Pro Football Reference.
In the AFC, five of the seven playoff teams have already been confirmed — the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, and Buffalo Bills. The Titans would clinch the top seed and a first round bye with a win over the lowly Houston Texans in the final week.
The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers, both 9-7, can clinch a playoff spot with a Week 18 win. If one or both of them lose, the Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Baltimore Ravens could still get in. The Raiders and Chargers will square off in Week 18 in a de facto playoff game — the winner would clinch a postseason spot.
Six of the seven NFC playoff spots have been filled, with the Green Bay Packers clinching the top seed and a bye with a dominant 37-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Philadelphia Eagles will all make the postseason.
Just one open spot is left. The San Francisco 49ers would clinch it with a win. If the 49ers lose, that leaves the door open for the New Orleans Saints. These are the NFL teams with the most consecutive winning seasons.