Updates to NFL Playoff odds and Week 18 win scenarios


Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert standing in pocket

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) appears to pass during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, October 4, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo / Kyusung Gong )

  • Sunday January 9 is the last day of the 2021-22 NFL Regular Season
  • There are 11 of the 14 playoff spots won, but seven teams still have a chance to win one of the three remaining playoff spots.
  • All playoff scenarios and NFL playoff odds are described in the story below

When the NFL added one more regular season game and one more team to each conference’s playoff lineup, that’s what it had in mind. Competition on multiple fronts for playoff spots entering this final week of play in the regular season.

With one game for each of the 32 teams left to play, 18 of those teams still have at least one mathematical chance of making the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at how the picture of the NFL playoffs is tentatively shaping up.

NFL 2021-22 Ranking

AFC seeds Team NFC seed Team
1 Tennessee Titans ** 1 Green Bay Packers **
2 Kansas City Chiefs ** 2 Los Angeles Rams *
3 Cincinnati Bengals ** 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers **
4 Bison tickets * 4 Dallas Cowboys **
5 New England Patriots * 5 Arizona Cardinals *
6 Indianapolis Colts 6 San Francisco 49ers
seven Los Angeles Chargers seven Philadelphia Eagles *

** The Titans (AFC South), Chiefs (AFC West), Bengals (AFC) North, Packers (NFC North), Buccaneers (NFC South) and Cowboys (NFC East) won the division titles.

* The Bills, Patriots, Rams, Cardinals and Eagles clinched playoff spots.

If the Buffalo Bills win at home on Sunday against the New York Jets, they will clinch the AFC East title. The Bills are already assured of at least a 10-game winning season for the third year in a row. If Buffalo lost, the Bills would open the door to give New England the chance to claim the division crown with a victory over the Miami Dolphins.

In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams need a Sunday win over the San Francisco 49ers to wrap up NFC West honors. Lose and the Arizona Cardinals would be the champions of the NFC West if they beat the Seattle Seahawks.

If the seven seeds from each conference held their current spot, it would be the Tennessee Titans (AFC) and Green Bay Packers (NFC) who would earn byes and take home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

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Potential Wild Card Weekend Matchups

The current AFC Wild Card Weekend playoff clashes would see the Kansas City Chiefs welcome the Los Angeles Chargers in a showdown entirely with the AFC West. The 4-5 seeds would pit rivals AFC East Buffalo against New England. Game three has the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Indianapolis Colts.

In the NFC, the Rams are currently scheduled for a showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay would get the San Francisco 49ers in a final two-team clash to win the NFC Championship game. Finally, the Dallas Cowboys would host the Cardinals.

That’s how they’re lining up right now… but a lot could change that order this weekend.

AFC playoff odds

Team Odds of making the playoffs Chances of missing the playoffs
Baltimore Ravens +4000 DISABLED
Indianapolis Colts -1200 +650
Los Angeles Chargers -150 +120
Las Vegas Adventurers -125 +105
Pittsburgh Steelers +1400 -5000

Quotes as of January 4 at DraftKings.

Clearly, bettors are confident the Baltimore Ravens are going to end up out of the playoffs. They don’t even offer a line in the NFL playoff odds on the chances of the Ravens missing out on qualifying for the Super Bowl tournament.

The Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers in one of two clashes over the weekend between two teams both remaining in search of spots for the AFC Wild Card. Baltimore (8-8) must win and lose three other teams to advance to the playoffs. No wonder the Ravens are +4,000 to make the playoffs.

Certainly the best bet among the AFC underdogs to be sure of making the playoffs is the Indianapolis Colts. Indy is -1200 to qualify for the playoffs. This is not surprising, given that the Colts close out the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars 2-14. Recall that Indianapolis opened the 2020 season by bowing on the road in Jacksonville.

Raiders vs Chargers – Win and they’re in it

The chance to earn a solid salary comes with the Los Angeles Chargers playing the Las Vegas Raiders. In this scenario between these longtime AFC West rivals, it’s all about the win and they’re in it.

The Chargers have won back-to-back wins over the Raiders. Las Vegas has won three straight wins to stay alive in the playoff pursuit. The point is, the Raiders live on the edge while still hunting. They won those three games with margins of two, four and three points. And they haven’t scored more than 23 points in any of those games.

The Raiders are 1-3 in their last four home games. They’ll need to show a lot more offense to defeat an LA team that hasn’t scored less than 28 points in its last five games.

Take the Chargers and QB Justin Herbert to get the job done at -150, while playing against the Raiders to miss a +105 bet line.

NFC playoff odds

Team Odds of making the playoffs Chances of missing the playoffs
Saints of New Orleans -150 +120
San Francisco 49ers -150 +120

There is much less to decide in the NFC in terms of playoff entrants. In a strange twist, the No.7 seeded Philadelphia Eagles clinched a spot, while the No.6 Niners did not. San Fran wins the tiebreaker with the Eagles based on a 17-11 triumph in Week Two at Philly.

2021 NFL Playoff Win Scenarios

Team How they make the playoffs
Baltimore Ravens BAL victory + LAC loss + IND loss + MIA loss or draw / td>
Indianapolis Colts IND win or tie WHERE LAC loss + BAL-PGH tie WHERE LAC loss + PGH loss + MIA victory
Las Vegas Adventurers LVR victory WHERE LVR tie and IND loss WHERE IND loss + PGH loss or tie
Los Angeles Chargers BAC wins or draws
Pittsburgh Steelers PGH victory + IND + LVR-LAC defeat does not end in a tie
Saints of New Orleans NO win + SF loss
San Francisco 49ers SF win or tie WHERE NO loss or tie

San Francisco doesn’t have the easiest path to the playoffs. The 49ers face the Rams, who must win to secure the NFC West title. And San Fran will likely ride with rookie Trey Lance in QB instead of injured Jimmy Garoppolo.

If the Niners stumble, it opens the door to New Orleans. The 8-8 Saints are 7-9 in Atlanta, where they have won three in a row. Despite using four different starting QBs this season, New Orleans are 3-1 in their last four games.

The chances of the saints improve

According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Saints have a 39% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. That’s a slight increase from the 35% figure last week.

If the 49ers and Eagles lose and the Saints win, all three teams would finish 9-8. New Orleans and Philly would enter, based on their conference record of 7-5, against the Niners’ 6-6. The best the Saints can do is seed the # 7 seed. If they come in it’s a lock, they’ll play the Rams. LA must win for New Orleans to make the playoffs as well. A win in LA lands the No. 2 seed for the Rams.

Take the Saints at -150 to sneak into the playoffs at the expense of San Francisco. Go with the 49ers to miss the playoffs at +120.

Robert duff

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