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Predicting the 2024 NFL Playoff bracket going into final week of regular season

We try and predict the NFL playoff picture heading into Week 18.

Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills in action during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We have made it to the final week of the NFL’s regular season. There are 14 playoff spots up for grabs, and nine have been determined. Week 18’s matchups could see teams resting up, but there is still plenty of movement that could happen for the playoff picture. Let’s take a shot at predicting how the playoff picture will look when the dust settles on Week 18 Sunday night.

AFC prediction

AFC matchups

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Denver Broncos vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

If the favorites win

The Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Bengals, Patriots, Chargers, Raiders and Bills would win as favorites. The Ravens are locked into the No. 1 seed, so they are expected to rest players, giving Pittsburgh a boost. Baltimore will receive the first round bye for the AFC. If these results were to happen, the Bills would be the No. 2 seed, the Chiefs No. 3, and the Jaguars No. 4, with all three teams earning a home playoff game in the Wild Card round. The Browns are locked into the No. 5 seed, and Miami would drop to the No. 6 seed, with Houston sneaking in as the No. 7 seed.

How I see it

Pittsburgh should win over Baltimore. The Ravens will have extra time off, but any significant injury suffered when the players don’t need to be out there could be costly. The Steelers would then be in line for a playoff spot but would need some help. The Texans should beat the Colts, the Bengals should win over the Browns’ backups, and the Jaguars should be able to beat the Titans.

No offense to their fans, but the Jets and Patriots game doesn’t matter, and the Pats should let the Jets win to have a better draft pick. Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce has a good chance to make a strong statement with a win over the Broncos this week, and the Chargers should beat the Chiefs, who are locked into a playoff spot.

The biggest game of the weekend is the Bills and Dolphins. The latter are the underdogs at home, but injuries have them dropping like flies. They will be missing some important pieces on defense and potentially Jaylen Waddle. Miami will be the No. 2 seed with a win and the No. 6 seed if they lose, which is the same situation for Buffalo. It feels like this game is leaning toward the Bills favor, but I think the Dolphins pull out a win at home.

If my predictions happen, Baltimore would be the No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 Miami, No. 3 Kansas City, No. 4 Jacksonville, No. 5 Cleveland, No. 6 Buffalo, and No. 7 Pittsburgh.

NFC Prediction

NFC matchups

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders

If the favorites win

The Buccaneers, Lions, Saints, Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, 49ers and Seahawks would win as favorites. San Francisco is locked into the No. 1 seed for the NFC, so it is slightly surprising to see them as favorites since they will likely rest some players, but the Rams may rest some as well. Dallas would be the No. 2 seed, followed by Detroit and Tampa Bay as the division winners with home-field advantage in the Wild Card round. Philly would be the No. 5 seed, with Green Bay at No. 6 and Los Angeles at No. 7.

How I see it

The Bucs should beat the Panthers, who will finally end their dumpster fire season. Detroit has struggled in pulling away from teams, but should beat the Vikings at home. Atlanta and New Orleans play an important matchup if the Buccaneers lose. Otherwise, this is just for draft seeding and bragging rights. Green Bay should hold strong at Lambeau, and if they don’t, expect its defensive coordinator to be fired before the day ends.

The Eagles need a win in case Dallas loses, while Seattle needs a win to try and get into the playoffs. The 49ers don’t have anything to play for, so they should rest some of its bigger names. This should see Los Angeles pick up an important win for seeding. Dallas is the only double-digit favorite of the week, and they should win even if they don’t cover.

If my predictions happen, the 49ers will be the No. 1 seed, followed by Dallas, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Los Angeles.

Final bracket prediction

NFC playoff bracket

#1 San Francisco 49ers (12-5) — BYE
#2 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) vs. #7 Green Bay Packers (9-8)
#3 Detroit Lions (12-5) vs. #6 Los Angeles Rams (10-7)
#4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) vs. #5 Philadelphia Eagles (12-5)

AFC playoff bracket

#1 Baltimore Ravens (13-4) — BYE
#2 Miami Dolphins (12-5) vs. #7 Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7)
#3 Kansas City Chiefs (10-7) vs. #6 Buffalo Bills (10-7)
#4 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-7) vs. #5 Cleveland Browns (11-6)