4 p.m. update: The NFL has announced the Week 18 schedule, and it’ll be the Green Bay Packers facing the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. The Packers will be in the playoffs with a win, while the Lions will need the Seahawks to lose earlier in the day to remain in contention for a spot.
The NFL released the complete schedule of games back in May, but did not provide game times for the Week 18 slate. The league waits until Week 17 to settle that schedule so as to offer up the most competitive matchups. If two teams competing for a playoff spot are playing at different times, an early loss could lead to the second team resting its players. Similar to the World Cup, the league pairs up games with times that keep as many teams competing as possible.
The NFL will announce the full Week 18 time schedule during or after Week 17 Monday Night Football. The league already announced a two-game Saturday slate. The Raiders will host the Chiefs at 4:30 p.m. ET and the Jaguars will host the Titans at 8:15 p.m. ET.
The 14 games that will take place on Sunday will have game times assigned late Monday night in part because the Week 17 MNF contest between the Bills and Bengals will impact who needs what next week. If the Bengals win, they clinch the AFC North title and head into Week 18 a game back of the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed, while the Bills will drop to No. 3 and likely won’t improve upon that in the finale. However, if the Bills win, they would be playing for the No. 1 seed next week while the Bengals would need to beat the Ravens to clinch the AFC North.
So, which game will get the SNF finale spot? Here’s a rundown of the possible options.
UPDATE: The game time will be decided after Bills-Bengals MNF, but it will be at either 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET.
This makes sense if the Bengals lose to the Bills. If the Bengals clinch the division, Baltimore would be playing for some positioning in the wild card, but not much else. If the Bengals don’t clinch, both teams are in the playoffs, but they would love that home field in the first round.
UPDATE: This game will air on Sunday Night Football.
This could be a huge win-and-in game, but one drawback is we might know one team is already out. If the Seahawks beat the Rams earlier in the day, Detroit cannot clinch a playoff berth because they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Seattle while Green Bay can clinch the wild card berth with a win due to the conference record tiebreaker against Seattle. If the Seahawks lose to the Rams, the winner of Lions-Packers gets in and the loser goes home.
UPDATE: This game will air at 1 p.m. ET.
If the Bills beat the Bengals on Monday to close Week 17, they could be playing in Week 18 for the No. 1 seed. If the Chiefs lost on Saturday to the Raiders in that scenario, the Bills would clinch the No. 1 seed without playing. Of course, the Chiefs are unlikely to lose to the Raiders, so the NFL might be willing to roll the dice in that situation.
On the other hand, the Patriots are in with a win, but could also secure a playoff berth ahead of this game if a few things fall the right way. If the Jaguars beat the Titans on Saturday, the Browns beat the Steelers, and the Jets beat the Dolphins, the Patriots clinch ahead of SNF. It seems unlikely the Browns beat the Steelers, but crazier things have happened.