8 NFL teams control their destiny in Week 18

The final week of the NFL regular season is upon us, and Week 18 is shaping up to be one for the ages.

Five playoff spots are up for grabs in the final week — three in the AFC and two in the NFC — and a number of division winners are still to be decided. We will break down the full list of playoff and elimination scenarios later in the week, but right now we can take a quick look at the eight teams that “control their own destiny.”

For these eight teams, they do not need any help to accomplish their goals next week, whether they be a division title, or simply a trip to the dance. Win, and the job is done. While 11 total teams are still alive for playoff spots, these teams can take care of business on their own.


We can start on the NFC side, where two playoff spots remain, and some division winners are yet to be decided.

Dallas Cowboys
at Washington Commanders
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET FOX

The Dallas Cowboys control their own destiny in the NFC East. While Dallas has already clinched a playoff spot, the division winner has yet to be decided. The Cowboys can lock up the NFC East with a win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday afternoon. Dallas can still clinch the East with a loss, but they would need a Philadelphia Eagles loss to the New York Giants in that situation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET FOX

The NFC South is still up for grabs, and despite their loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 17, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still in the driver’s seat. Tampa Bay can clinch the division — and a home playoff game — with a win against the Panthers.

A loss in that game opens the door for the winner of the Saints-Falcons game to clinch the division.

Green Bay Packers
vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET CBS

With Green Bay’s win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, and the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers are now on the inside track to the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.

If they beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, that spot is theirs. Green Bay can still get in with the right combination of losses, regardless of how they fare against Chicago, but their easiest path is with a win.


In the AFC, three playoff spots are left to be decided, including the winners of the AFC East, and the AFC South.

Miami Dolphins
vs. Buffalo Bills
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET NBC

A few weeks ago it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Miami Dolphins were going to win the AFC East. But with some stumbles the past few weeks — a shocking home loss to the Tennessee Titans looms large — and a resurgent Buffalo Bills team tracking them down, they still have work to do.

However, a win against Buffalo in the season finale clinches the division for the Dolphins. A loss however opens up the next scenario

Buffalo Bills
at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET NBC

The Bills can still clinch the AFC East themselves. All they need to do is win at Miami in the final game of the regular season. It is worth noting that the Bills may have already clinched a playoff spot before kickoff, as Buffalo is in with either a Steelers loss to the Ravens on Saturday, or a Jaguars loss to the TItans on Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars
at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET CBS

With their win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Jaguars remain in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. However, the job is not yet done. But with a win over the Titans on Sunday afternoon, Jacksonville would clinch the AFC South, and a playoff game at home for the second-straight season.

Indianapolis Colts
vs. Houston Texans
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN/ABC/ESPN+

Houston Texans
at Indianapolis Colts
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN/ABC/ESPN+

It felt right to list these two together, because this is in a way the first playoff game of the season.

The winner of this AFC South clash on Saturday night clinches a playoff spot, and retains an outside shot at winning the division. If the Jaguars stumble in their season finale, the winner of this game will win the AFC South. But even if Jacksonville does win on Sunday — and take the division — the winner of this game is in the playoffs.

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