NFL Playoffs: 4 teams can clinch even with a Week 18 loss

Four teams vying for playoff spots have a chance to lose and still get into this year’s playoffs, including one that isn’t currently in a playoff position.

Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Week 18 of the 2023-2024 NFL season is here, and the league is just days away from solidifying the 14-team playoff bracket. Nine teams have clinched playoff spots, but only four of those nine teams know where they’ll be seeded by the time the postseason rolls around.

All in all, 20 teams still have a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at Allegiant Stadium next month, meaning that there are 11 teams vying for the final five spots. Five teams are vying for three AFC spots, and six teams are vying for two NFC spots.

Even with so many spots coming down to the wire, there are four teams that have a chance to clinch one of them even with a Week 18 loss. In fact, one of those teams is currently two spots outside of the playoff picture heading into the week.

Here’s a look at those four teams and how each one can pull it off.

Jacksonville Jaguars

With a loss…

-Pittsburgh Steelers loss to Baltimore Ravens
-Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans non-tie
-Denver Broncos loss or tie to Las Vegas Raiders

If the Colts lose to the Texans, the Jaguars take second place in the AFC South behind the Texans due to their head-to-head sweep over the Colts. If the Texans lose to the Colts, the Jaguars take second behind the Colts due to a superior divisional record over the Texans. 

Even if the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns, a 9-8 Steelers team would finish ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North due to their head-to-head sweep. So this scenario sets up the Jaguars over the Steelers due to their head-to-head victory.

Despite Denver’s elimination from the playoffs, this is one of two scenarios in which they are a factor. Jacksonville cannot afford to have the Broncos create a three-way tie at 9-8 involving Pittsburgh, since the tiebreaker would then become strength of victory. That would go Pittsburgh’s way, as the Jags’ win over the Steelers would no longer be meaningful from a seeding perspective.