There is nothing better in sports than high-pressure games with a lot at stake. With just two weeks of regular season football remaining, there are still five playoff spots left to be clinched across the NFL. For almost half of the league that's still alive, the playoffs start now. How do oddsmakers view the current races and who is favored to sneak into the playoffs?
The AFC has seen five teams already clinch a playoff spot. The Buffalo Bills have clinched the AFC East and the Kansas City Chiefs have clinched the AFC West. The Los Angeles Chargers clinched a wild-card spot on Monday night with a victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens have clinched playoff spots as well, but the AFC North is yet to be decided. The Bengals are -250 favorites to win the division. They can clinch with a win this week coupled with a Baltimore loss. There's a good chance the division will be decided in Week 18 when the teams meet head-to-head.
That leaves two playoff spots up for grabs, and one of those spots will go to the winner of the AFC South. Let's take a look at the current odds.
Week 17 is a bit of a nothing burger for the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. No matter what happens this weekend, Week 18 will feature a head-to-head matchup between the two teams with the winner claiming the top spot in the AFC South. Both teams could theoretically claim a wild-card spot if they lose out on the division, but that would require a lot to go their way and seems rather unrealistic. The most likely path for either of these teams is to win the division.
Currently, Jacksonville is a -250 favorite to win the division. The Titans are +200 underdogs to get it done. Oddsmakers are expecting Jacksonville to make the playoffs and host a playoff game as the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The Titans are expected to be without Ryan Tannehill for the remainder of the season.
Final wild card spot
Once we account for the AFC South and the five teams who have already clinched a playoff spot in the AFC, just one final wild-card spot remains.
The Miami Dolphins currently hold the final spot in the AFC with their eight wins. However, things aren't trending well for Miami. They've lost four straight games and now they will be without their starting quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa has suffered yet another concussion so Teddy Bridgewater will start on Sunday at New England. The Dolphins are 3-point underdogs.
Despite that, the Dolphins are sizable -225 favorites to make the playoffs at BetMGM and claim the No. 7 seed. Those odds imply Miami makes the playoffs over 69% of the time. The Dolphins can wrap up the spot this weekend if they beat the Patriots and the Jets lose on the road in Seattle.
Even if the Dolphins lose Sunday, they will make the playoffs if they can beat the Jets in Week 18 and the Bills defeat the Patriots. If the Jets beat the Seahawks this weekend, Miami will need to beat the Jets in Week 18, no matter what happens in Week 17.
The Jets were 7-4 and looked to be in good shape, but they've gone on to lose their last four games. Because of that, the Jets are now +350 underdogs to make the playoffs. Mike White will be back at quarterback for New York this weekend, giving them some hope. The Jets have a tough but not impossible road to get into the playoffs. According to the odds, New York's chances of getting in are just over 22%.
The Jets need to win their final two games of the season and also have the New England Patriots lose to either Miami or Buffalo over the final two weeks of the season. New York is a 1.5-point road favorite in Seattle this weekend against a Seahawks team that has lost five of their last six games. The Patriots will be underdogs against a Bills team that will likely be playing for the No. 1 seed in Week 18. If those two results go New York's way, the Jets will have a win-and-in game in Week 18 against a Miami team that is faltering and is currently without their starting quarterback.
New England Patriots
The Patriots lost their last two games, fumbling the ball in the final minutes of each game. As a result, they've fumbled an easy path to the playoffs. Instead, they're a long shot to get in. The Patriots are currently +650 to make the playoffs at BetMGM. Those odds suggest just a 13% chance of getting in.
On the bright side for New England, they get in if they win their last two games. However, that's a tough task with a trip to Buffalo facing them in Week 18. If the Patriots lose to the Bills, their playoff odds crash down to just about 7%. They would need a lot to go right, including the Jets losing to Seattle but beating Miami as well as losses by Pittsburgh and Las Vegas. If the Patriots lose to Miami as a 3-point home favorite in Week 17, they will be eliminated.
Much like last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hanging around and need a lot to go right for them in the final weeks of the season. It worked out for them last year. Can history repeat itself? The Steelers are 10-to-1 to make the playoffs at BetMGM, odds which suggest a 9% chance of getting in.
In order to make the playoffs, the Steelers need to win out against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. They would then need the Jets to lose to Seattle but beat the Dolphins. Additionally, they would need the Patriots to beat the Dolphins and then lose to the Bills in Week 18. So you're saying there's a chance.
The situation isn't all that different in the NFC. The Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the conference this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. The Minnesota Vikings have clinched the NFC North and the San Francisco 49ers have clinched the NFC West. The Dallas Cowboys likely won't win the division, but they've clinched a playoff spot.
Just like the AFC South remains up for grabs in the AFC, the NFC has a similar situation with the NFC South. Three teams are technically alive for the division, and the playoffs are unlikely for the two teams that come up short. Beyond that, two wild-card spots remain up for grabs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -350 favorites to win the NFC South. If they beat the Carolina Panthers as 3-point favorites this weekend, the Buccaneers will clinch the division and a playoff spot. Those odds suggest the Buccaneers win this division nearly 78% of the time. Things become infinitely more interesting if the Panthers beat Tampa Bay.
If the Panthers win this weekend, they will win the division as long as they beat the New Orleans Saints in Week 18. If the Panthers beat Tampa Bay but lose to New Orleans, the Buccaneers would win the division if they beat Atlanta in Week 18. Carolina is +310 to win the division.
In the outlandish scenario where Tampa Bay loses out and the Saints win out, the Saints would win the division. New Orleans needs to beat Philadelphia and Carolina. They would need Carolina to beat Tampa Bay and then beat the Panthers themselves. They would need the Falcons to beat Tampa Bay in the season finale. New Orleans is 28-to-1 to win the division.
Two wild-card spots remain
With the Eagles, 49ers, Vikings and Cowboys have already clinching a playoff spot and with the NFC South sending the divisional winner to the playoffs, five playoff spots in the NFC are accounted for. That means two wild-card spots remain up for grabs with two weeks remaining in the season.
The New York Giants are -1000 favorites to make the playoffs, and for good reason. New York will clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Indianapolis Colts as 6-point home favorites on Sunday. Even if the Giants lose to the Colts, they're in good shape as they'd still have a 78% chance of getting into the playoffs. They have the Eagles on deck in Week 18, and there's a good chance Philadelphia has nothing to play for in that game. If the Giants want to quiet their naysayers, they beat the Colts at home and take care of business themselves quickly and painlessly.
The Washington Commanders have gone winless in their last three games and have turned the team back over to Carson Wentz this week. Despite all of that, they still occupy the final wild-card spot in the NFC. The Commanders are +165 to make the playoffs at BetMGM, odds which suggest they make the playoffs nearly 38% of the time.
The Commanders are in control of their playoff destiny. They are 2-point favorites over the Cleveland Browns this weekend. Next weekend, they host a Dallas team that might have nothing to play for. If Washington wins out, they would make the playoffs. If Washington goes 1-1, they would need none of Seattle, Green Bay or Detroit to win out.
A month ago, the Green Bay Packers were dead. They were 4-8 and the playoffs were nothing but a pipe dream. Since then, they've won three straight games and teams like Seattle and Washington stopped winning. Suddenly, Green Bay is very much alive in the playoff picture. The Packers are +185 to make the playoffs, odds which tell us they make the playoffs over 35% of the time.
The path for Green Bay is simple. They need to beat the Vikings as a 3.5-point home favorite this weekend and then beat Detroit in Week 18. On top of that, they need the Commanders to lose once. Not outlandish at all.
The Seahawks have lost five of their last six games, but they're still alive in the playoff race. Based on how things are trending, it's hard to be confident, but nobody even expected them to be in this spot at the start of the year. The Seahawks are +290 to make the playoffs, which is a little over 25% in terms of implied probability.
Seattle has the same exact situation as the Packers, but the only difference is the Packers hold a tiebreaker over Seattle. The Seahawks need to win out against the Jets and the Rams. They then need both Washington and Green Bay to lose at least once.
The Lions were in a very solid spot entering last weekend, but then they got blown out by the Carolina Panthers. Now, Detroit needs to win out and then get a bunch of help. The Lions are +340 to make the playoffs at BetMGM, odds which imply a 22.7% chance of getting in.
The Lions are in a similar spot to the Packers and the Seahawks. The only added layer is that Seattle has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, so Detroit needs them to lose as well. To recap, the Lions need to win out against Chicago and Green Bay. Then, they need Seattle and Washington to both lose at least one game.