The road to the Super Bowl might begin and end with two quarterbacks who share time with “Jake” in those insurance commercials.
- The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC top seed in Week 17. They’ll get a bye in the first round of the NFL Playoffs no matter what happens this weekend. Expect them to rest a lot of their key players, including QB Aaron Rodgers. That’s why the Packers point spread is a little thin at vs. the lowly 2-14-1 Detroit Lions.
- As for the other pitchman, QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs visit Denver at 3:30 p.m. Saturday to open week 18. Fans in the Mile High City will see a full effort because Kansas City can still get the AFC’s No. 1 seed and avoid the “super wild card” round a week from now. The Chiefs need a win Saturday plus a loss by the Tennessee Titans on Sunday for the top spot.
How many teams keep Super Bowl dreams alive?
The NFL voted to expand the postseason from 12 to 14 teams on March 31, 2020. Fans had a chance to bet on the NFL and its expanded playoff field last season.
Before that, 1990 was the last time the NFL expanded its postseason.
The league features a fascinating super wild card schedule this year. Games will be:
- Saturday, Jan. 15 — 3:33 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 16 — 12:05 p.m., 3:40 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
- Monday, Jan. 17 — 7:15 p.m.
Week 18 paves the road to the Super Bowl
Six NFC teams clinched playoff berths in Week 17.
This weekend, the San Franciso 49ers can grab the final spot with a win at the LA Rams. The 8-8 New Orleans Saints ( at the Atlanta Falcons) claim the spot with a 49ers loss.
Other teams will be playing for playoff positioning. As we mentioned, Green Bay locked up the biggest prize — that top seed and playoff bye. Week 18 games will set the Super Wild Card weekend pairings. Four teams can still earn the NFC’s No. 2 seed and at least two home games in the playoffs:
- Rams (12-4) vs. the 49ers (9-7)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) vs. the Carolina Panthers (5-11)
- Arizona Cardinals (11-5) vs. the Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
- Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
The Eagles have one of the wild card spots in the NFC. Arizona has the second of three wild card spots if they don’t catch the Rams for the NFC West.
If the Titans and Chiefs fall, the Bengals (10-6) are next in line. Cincinnati plays at Cleveland. The Titans (11-5) have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed by virtue of their 27-3 win over Kansas City in Week 7. Tennessee plays at the Houston Texans (4-12).
The Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots are tied for the AFC East at 10-6. The Bills host the NY Jets. New England travels to Miami. Buffalo holds the division tiebreaker if both teams win or both teams lose. The second-place team in the AFC East already has a wild card spot.
Five AFC teams are trying to lock down the last two wild card spots.
- Going into Week 18, the Indianapolis Colts (9-7) are in with a win. They also get in if the Steelers, Chargers and Patriots all lose.
- The Sunday Night LA Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) winner would stay on the road to the Super Bowl.
- If the Colts stumble at Jacksonville (2-14), two more teams factor into the postseason picture.
- Pittsburgh (8-7-1) travels to Baltimore (8-8). The Steelers get in with a Colts loss, as long as the Chargers and Raiders don’t tie in their game.
- The Ravens have a path, too. They need a win and need the Colts, Chargers and Dolphins all to lose.