The 2018 NFL season has hurtled right along, with professional football getting quite the rejuvenation with high quality on-field play and tons of storylines. We’re getting near the end! The fantasy playoffs are here and it’s almost time for the real playoffs to start.
In fact, with just four regular season weeks remaining, there are a large number of clinching scenarios available for various NFL teams. Let’s run through them all.
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What: First-round bye
How: The Rams already clinched a playoff berth, winning the NFC West with their win over the Lions last week. Next up is securing a first-round bye and then hoping they can get homefield advantage (win out and its theirs). To clinch a first-round bye, the Rams simply need to win in Chicago on Sunday night. Beat the Bears on Sunday Night Football and the Rams won’t have to worry about being involved in Wild-Card Weekend.
What: NFC South AND/OR playoff berth
How: The Saints have the opportunity to secure a playoff berth through two different scenarios. They could clinch the NFC South OR they could clinch a straight-up playoff berth. They could actually do both (although each one would, obviously, be a playoff spot).
To clinch the NFC South, the Saints need one of two things to happen: win/tie at Tampa Bay OR have the Panthers lose/tie when they play in Cleveland. The Saints are eight-point road favorites while the Panthers are one-point road favorites.
To clinch a “regular” playoff berth, the Saints would need: a Vikings loss AND an Eagles loss or tie AND a Redskins loss or tie. Minnesota plays the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday, the Eagles play the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday and the Redskins play the Giants in Washington on Sunday. All three are underdogs.
What: Playoff berth
How: The Chiefs can’t win the AFC West … yet. That will likely be on the table next Thursday against the Chargers, although the race could actually come all the way down to the end of the season thanks to Los Angeles playing well. Instead the Chiefs will look to just lock up a standard playoff spot. They can do that with a win/tie OR a Dolphins loss/tie AND Coltsloss/tie AND Titans loss/tie.
Beat the Ravens and the Chiefs are in the playoffs or lose and hope you hit a three-game parlay.
What: AFC East title
How: Easy answer here — the Patriots need to win or tie against the Dolphins in Miami and they clinch the AFC East.
What: AFC South title
How: The Texans need a little bit of help to clinch the division title. They need to win Sunday against the Colts AND have the Titans lose or tie against the Jaguars on Thursday OR if the Texans manage to tie against the Colts (it came close last time!), they could clinch if the Titans lose on Thursday.
A Titans win on Thursday would obviously prevent the Texans from clinching this week.
Los Angeles Chargers
What: Playoff berth
How: This one is pretty complex so we’re going bullet points for it. The Chargers obviously can’t clinch the division so they’d be locking up a standard playoff/wild-card spot. And they need one of two complex situations to happen.
- 1) Chargers win + Dolphins loss or tie + Broncos loss or tie + Colts loss or tie + Titans loss or tie
- 2) Chargers tie + Dolphins loss + Broncos loss + Colts loss or tie + Titans loss or tie as long as both IND and TEN both don’t tie
SO, if the Titans win on Thursday, the Chargers are also prevented from clinching. But they basically need a five-game parlay to hit in order to clinch a playoff spot. They’re probably more concerned about trying to chase down the Chiefs, but certainly L.A. wouldn’t mind guaranteeing a postseason spot as early as possible