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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Green Bay Packers

With a loss…
-Minnesota Vikings loss or tie to Detroit Lions
-Seattle Seahawks loss to Arizona Cardinals
-Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to Carolina Panthers OR
-New Orleans Saints loss to Atlanta Falcons

Even with a loss to the Chicago Bears, the Packers would finish ahead of the Bears in the NFC North due to their record in common games. The reason why the Vikings cannot also finish 8-9 in this scenario is because the Vikings would finish ahead of the Packers due to a superior record within the NFC.

Provided the Buccaneers and Saints don’t both win in Week 18, the second place team in the NFC South is set to be 8-9. If the Buccaneers lose and the Saints win, the Buccaneers will be in second. If the Buccaneers win and the Saints lose, the Falcons will be in second. If both lose, the Buccaneers will be in second.

Both the Buccaneers and Falcons beat the Packers head-to-head, but the inclusion of the Seahawks in the three-way tie is what keeps the Packers alive.

A three-way tie involving the Packers, Seahawks, and Buccaneers goes to the Packers due to strength of victory, as all teams would own the same record within the NFC, and a three-way tie involving the Packers, Seahawks, and Falcons goes to the Packers as well.

The Falcons would be eliminated due to having one less NFC victory, and the Packers would again beat the Seahawks on strength of victory.

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There are a number of other teams – specifically, the Saints, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Texans, and Colts – that have a very slight chance to secure playoff spots via ties. But per ESPN FPI, there is no more than a 0.4% chance of a tie in any of the Week 18 games. Overall, there is only a 4.41% chance of any tie occurring in Week 18, and that percentage is reduced to 3.25% in games featuring at least one team vying for a playoff spot.

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