NFL playoff picture: Ravens, 49ers lock up top seeds; AFC, NFC East titles still up for grabs


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The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers enter the final week of the regular season with nothing left to play for. Each has locked up the No. 1 seed in their conference and will enjoy a first-round bye in the playoffs.

MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson and the Ravens secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs in impression fashion Sunday, thrashing the No. 2 seed Miami Dolphins 56-19. The 49ers, meanwhile, let the Washington Commanders hang around a bit before pulling away to a 27-10 win. Not long after, the Philadelphia Eagles’ stunning loss to the Arizona Cardinals ensured the 49ers would walk away from Week 17 with the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Despite the top spots being locked up, there is still plenty left to play for in Week 18. The Eagles and Cowboys are tied atop the NFC East at 11-5; Dallas can clinch the division with a win at Washington. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills and Dolphins will meet next Sunday night to decide who will lay claim to the AFC East title.

As for the rest of the NFL, there’s plenty of intrigue heading into Week 18. Let’s take a look at where things stand as we enter the final week of the season.

Listed odds to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl are all via The Athletic’s NFL betting model, created by Austin Mock.

AFC playoff picture

13-3W vs. MIA
x--2Dolphins11-5L vs. BAL
z--3Chiefs10-6W vs. CIN
4Jaguars9-7W vs. CAR
x--5Browns11-5W vs. NYJ
6Bills10-6W vs. NE
7Colts9-7W vs. LV

x — Clinched playoff berth | z — Clinched division title | * — Clinched No. 1 seed​

Baltimore Ravens​

After blowing out the Jacksonville Jaguars, 49ers and Dolphins in successive weeks, the Ravens have clinched the AFC’s top seed and will enter the playoffs as the clear-cut team to beat. Now, they’ll deal with the age-old talk-show debate: How much of a layoff is too much? With a meaningless regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers before the bye, the Ravens aren’t going to play a truly competitive game — as far as they’re concerned, anyway — for another three weeks when they open the playoffs.

Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 22.7 percent

Miami Dolphins​

The Dolphins could have instilled more confidence for their playoff hopes if they were at least competitive with the Ravens. Now, if the Dolphins can’t hold serve at home against the Bills, they’re going to give away the AFC East and open the playoffs on the road. That could be quite the fall from being on the verge of the top seed to winding up with a wild-card visit to Kansas City or Buffalo.

Remaining schedule: vs. Bills

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 9.4 percent

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs will take a win however they can get one at this point. After losing five of eight, they dispatched the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals and gave themselves a chance to win back-to-back games to enter the playoffs. Even if the Chiefs don’t give off the appearance of a superpower, a reigning champion with improving confidence will be an unwelcome sight for the rest of the AFC field.

Remaining schedule: at Los Angeles Chargers

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 7.2 percent

Jacksonville Jaguars​

The Jaguars earned this cushion, even if they didn’t intend to need it. They finally snapped a four-game losing streak against the NFL-worst Carolina Panthers, and the Jags can close out the AFC South title at Tennessee. But don’t forget the Jaguars snatched the division from the Titans in Week 18 of last season, so the Titans will have revenge on their minds this week. And it’s not typically favorable to be in the crosshairs of a vengeful Mike Vrabel. The Jaguars had to know it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride to win back-to-back division titles for the second time in franchise history (1998-99).

Remaining schedule: at Titans

Odds: To make playoffs: 51.8 percent | To win Super Bowl: 1 percent

Cleveland Browns

Teams spend so much time, energy, coaching, money and other resources to find and develop the right quarterback. Perhaps no organization understands the challenges of that process better than the Browns, who attempted to end decades of quarterbacking futility by committing to an unprecedented trade and contract for Deshaun Watson, only to lose him to an injury, pull Joe Flacco from his Thanksgiving table and watch the 38-year-old enjoy the best statistical stretch of his career. Go figure.

Remaining schedule: at Bengals

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 2.8 percent

Buffalo Bills​

The Bills were out of the playoff picture when they fell to 6-6 in Philly, but they’ve since reeled off four consecutive wins to give themselves a shot to steal the AFC East from the Dolphins in Week 18. If the Bills deliver, they’ll be a legitimate threat to the Ravens in January.

Remaining schedule: at Dolphins

Odds: To make playoffs: 93 percent | To win Super Bowl: 5 percent

Indianapolis Colts

Nice job by the Colts to bounce back from an ugly loss to the Falcons, especially against a feisty, confident Raiders team that was still in the playoff hunt. But for the Colts to finish the job and get into the postseason, they’ll have to sweep the Houston Texans and win back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 9-13.

Remaining schedule: vs. Texans

Odds: To make playoffs: 69.7 percent | To win Super Bowl: 1 percent

In the hunt​

• Houston Texans (9-7)
• Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)


Denver Broncos (8-8)
• Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
• Las Vegas Raiders (7-9)
New York Jets (6-10)
• Tennessee Titans (5-11)
• Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
New England Patriots (4-12)


NFC playoff picture
*--149ers12-4W vs. WAS
x--2Cowboys11-5W vs. DET
z--3Lions11-5L vs. DAL
4Buccaneers8-8L vs. NO
x--5Eagles11-5L vs. ARI
x--6Rams9-7W vs. NYG
7Packers8-8W vs. MIN

x — Clinched playoff berth | z — Clinched division title | * — Clinched No. 1 seed​

San Francisco 49ers​

In a statistical oddity, the 49ers improved to 3-0 this season when running back Christian McCaffrey doesn’t score a touchdown with their victory against the Washington Commanders. Bigger picture, head coach Kyle Shanahan can spend the next couple of weeks showing daily film of the blowout loss to the Ravens as a way to keep the top-seeded Niners sharp before their playoff opener.

Remaining schedule: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 26.6 percent

Dallas Cowboys​

This was a dream week for the Cowboys, who were the beneficiaries of a bizarre Brad Allen ruling Saturday night and then the Eagles’ ongoing collapse. The No. 2 seed looked like a pipe dream in Week 12 when the Cowboys trailed the Eagles by two games and the head-to-head tiebreaker. Now, they’re a win shy of securing it.

Remaining schedule: at Commanders

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 9.4 percent

Detroit Lions

Just when the Lions started having fun, right? They’ve been a mentally strong team under head coach Dan Campbell, and that’ll be tested like never before after a controversial ruling cost them a late lead against the Cowboys. The Lions may not have to look long for revenge, as they could be a victory shy of a return date to Dallas in the divisional round.

Remaining schedule: vs. Minnesota Vikings

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 4.8 percent

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when the NFC South starts to try to make sense, it goes haywire again. The Bucs were gaining steam with a four-game winning streak — albeit against reeling opponents — before a flat loss at home to the New Orleans Saints with the NFC South title on the line. The Buccaneers have their “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the finale against the Panthers to take the division, but it would have been nice to deliver Sunday in front of their home crowd.

Remaining schedule: at Panthers

Odds: To make playoffs: 67.8 percent | To win Super Bowl: 1.5 percent

Philadelphia Eagles​

The Eagles have lost four of five, and it’s now time to hit the panic button. The previous losses in this stretch were against the 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks, and it was fair to look at those as an uneven team losing to quality opponents. But after ceding control of the NFC East to the Cowboys with a home loss to the Cardinals, the Eagles are on red alert. They’re going into the postseason, now likely on the road, without a win against anyone other than the Giants since they improved to 10-1 on Nov. 26.

Remaining schedule: at Giants

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 4.4 percent

Los Angeles Rams​

Head coach Sean McVay’s squad has won six of seven, including victories against the Seahawks and Browns, to take control of the No. 6 seed. It’s unclear how the 49ers will approach their meaningless finale, but this could be a sound tune-up for the Rams. And for quarterback Matthew Stafford, a Week 18 win would likely lock up a wild-card return to Detroit.

Remaining schedule: at 49ers

Odds: To make playoffs: 100 percent | To win Super Bowl: 1.7 percent

Green Bay Packers

Good luck figuring out the Packers. They recovered from a four-game losing streak and a 2-5 record to win four of five while riding a hot Jordan Love, but the Packers kicked it away with back-to-back losses to the Giants and Buccaneers. But of course, they’ve now taken consecutive road games against the Panthers and Vikings to stay alive. The only problem? They’ve got to knock off a suddenly hot Chicago Bears team in the finale.

Remaining schedule: vs. Bears

Odds: To make playoffs: 66.2 percent | To win Super Bowl: 0.8 percent

In the hunt​

• Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
• New Orleans Saints (8-8)
• Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
• Atlanta Falcons (7-9)


• Chicago Bears (7-9)
• New York Giants (5-11)
• Washington Commanders (4-12)
• Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
• Carolina Panthers (2-14)