Making Sense of NFL Week 18 and the Playoff Picture

Important matchups to take note of their playoff implications, and Super Bowl favorites


Elsie Conover

The first week of NFL wildcard weekend kicks off on Jan. 14.

Will Rentfro, Reporter

After 17 weeks of football, the playoffs are almost here, and with the race so tight this year week 18 was much more exciting than usual. Not only was the bubble (the group of teams that are just inside or just outside of the playoff) very tight, the coveted one seed could have been held by any three teams in both conferences. Today I will explain some team’s complicated paths to the playoffs and take a look at the important and exciting games in week 18.

If you didn’t know, the NFL is split into two different conferences, the NFC and the AFC. These conferences have four divisions each, making eight divisions (the NFC: North, South, West, and East and the AFC: North, South, West, and East). Each division has four teams making 32 teams in total. Here’s where it gets tricky; there are 14 total teams that make the playoffs, seven in each conference. The top teams in each division get an automatic bye to the wild card (the first round of four in the playoffs), which means that three teams in each conference that did not win their division will make it to the playoffs. The coveted No. 1 seed is only given to the top team (by record) in each conference. This gives that team a first-round bye and home field advantage for all games except for the Super Bowl, which is held at a neutral site. 

Alright, let’s talk about games. This year it seems that every other game’s result drastically changed the playoffs. Let’s start with the bubble teams: in the AFC, the Steelers played very well against the Browns putting them with a record of 9-8 on the year. The Patriots playing the Bills were beaten handsomely putting them out of the playoffs, so the final AFC playoff spot is down to Dolphins or Steelers. If the Dolphins could scrape by against a tough Jets team, they would push themselves into the playoffs, and if not the Steelers would take it from behind. In pure chaotic fashion, it came down to the final seconds. Tied at 6-6 with less than 10 seconds left, the Dolphins lined up for a field goal and kicked their way into the playoffs. 

The first week’s matchups for the opening round of the NFL postseason. (National Football League)

For the NFC, the Seahawks, Packers and Lions had a crazy day in the afternoon time slot. The Seahawks played a very defensive game against the Rams and it even went to overtime after a possession from each team. The Seahawks marched down the field to score yet another game winning field goal, thus eliminating the Lions from playoff contention before they even got to play against the Packers. If the Packers won, they would go ahead of the Seahawks, but if they lost they would drop out. So the Lions did everything they could to keep their rivals out. If their season couldn’t continue, the Packers wouldn’t either. In a game that went to the final minutes, the Lions pulled it off. 

Now let’s talk about the one seed. Because of the cancellation of Bills vs. Bengals, and the Chiefs win against the Raiders, the NFL has come up with a solution: the Chiefs will take the bye but if the Chiefs play the Bills, the game will be held in a neutral site instead of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Bills will have the No. 2 seed and will play the Dolphins, the Bengals take the three playing the Ravens, and the Jaguars take the four, playing the Chargers.

In the NFC, it is much simpler. The Eagles took the top seed with their win over the Giants and with the Cowboys loss to the Commanders, the Eagles dominance over the NFC was secured. The 49ers will take the second seed and will play the Seahawks, the Vikings take the three and will be playing the Giants, and the Buccaneers take the four playing the Cowboys. 

There are many different favorites to win the Super Bowl, such as the Bills, Chiefs, Eagles and Bengals. It’s hard to pick just one. Austin Gayle from “The Ringer” puts the Eagles at the top of his list, stating, “I still look at the Eagles and see a complete and deep roster and elite coaching.”

Vinnie Iyer from The Sporting News has the Chiefs at his top spot. “The Chiefs have held up well against the run and made up for some coverage concerns with the AFC’s most productive pass rush. their complete profile makes them the favorite,” Iyer said.

As for me, as a die-hard Bills fan, my opinion would be way too biased, but I will say that the Chiefs and their now iconic quarterback and coach duo have a very real shot really every year.

With all the exciting story lines and interesting matchups there are, this could shake up to be one of the best playoffs in recent memory. I believe it could even beat out the 2018 playoffs, which if you don’t remember, included the Jaguars incredible defense getting them all the way to the conference championship. The Minneapolis miracle is one of my favorite plays made by one of my favorite players, and Nick Foles, a backup QB, bringing the Eagles to the promised land. This year’s playoff looks like it could be similar or maybe even better than that crazy 2018 playoffs and I’m genuinely excited to see what happens. 

I’d also like to mention how the Texans had a chance to grab the number one overall pick in this next coming draft (given to the worst team by record in the entire league) if they lost their game against the Colts. However, in what I can only explain as stupidity, they somehow found a way to fail at losing, winning on a Hail Mary and giving away the most valuable thing a rebuilding team can have to the Chicago Bears.