NFL Week 18: Final playoff spots up for grabs as regular season reaches conclusion

The NFL season wraps up this weekend, but there is still much to be decided when it comes to the postseason. Four playoff spots are ripe for the taking on Sunday and, while 10 teams have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, seeding will not be complete until the final game is played.

Baltimore has secured the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed which guarantees a first-round bye and home field advantage, but the No. 2 seed is still up for grabs and will be decided on Sunday Night Football.

The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will duke it out in a game that’s significantly more important to the Bills, who are in danger of missing the postseason entirely.

In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers have locked up the No. 1 overall seed. The No. 2 seed and NFC East division title could go to the Dallas Cowboys if they defeat the Washington Commanders on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each need wins to make it out of the regular season. If the Buccaneers lose, either the New Orleans Saints or Atlanta Falcons will make it out of the weak NFC South.

Here’s what you need to know about Week 18’s marquee Sunday matchups:

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills, 8:20 p.m. ET

The Dolphins are already locked into the postseason but must win on Sunday to secure the AFC’s No. 2 overall seed and the AFC East divisional crown. The Bills, on the other hand, are in a must-win situation. Since the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Ravens on Saturday, a Bills loss on Sunday means Buffalo will miss the playoffs entirely.

“We’ve just taken the mindset that we’ve been in the playoffs,” quarterback Josh Allen told reporters. “It’s been survive and advance and win or go home, and it’s no different this week. We don’t wanna rely on anyone else. In our minds, it’s a must-win game.”

Entering the match-up, the Bills have won four straight games, including wins over the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the defensive powerhouse Dallas Cowboys. While the season has been a bit of a roller coaster, the Bills seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.

Josh Allen and the Bills are hitting their stride at the right time in the season. - Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Josh Allen and the Bills are hitting their stride at the right time in the season. - Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports/Reuters

“It’s (been) playoff ball,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said. “We play for these moments. It’s a different approach, but we’ve been in this mode for a little while now, so it’s not like ‘flip the switch.’ That switch flipped after the (Week 12) Eagles game and even during the Eagles game, but we’re here.”

Miami, meanwhile, is facing a series of challenges as the season nears its close. Just last week, the Fins suffered a 56-19 drubbing at the hands of the Super Bowl-favorite Ravens.

Receiver Jaylen Waddle and running back Raheem Mostert were both sidelined due to injury. Cornerback Xavien Howard left the field with a hip injury and pass rusher Bradley Chubb tore his ACL.

Despite the recent setbacks, head coach Mike McDaniel praised his team for their ability to adapt and evolve.

“You need to go through stuff together to become closer, to have the intangibles that it takes to move the needle when you’re going to have good teams every time you’re on the field that want [to win as badly] as you do,” McDaniel said.

“So when push comes to shove, something’s got to give. It’s all that that you compile for these moments, which is what you work for, what you play for.”

The Miami Dolphins have suffered a series of setbacks, but still have an explosive offense. - Michael Owens/Getty Images
The Miami Dolphins have suffered a series of setbacks, but still have an explosive offense. - Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Dolphins can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that no matter the outcome of Sunday’s game, they have at least one game of postseason football to play.

However, the outcome will dictate whether or not that next game will be played at home or on the road. It’s worth noting that the Dolphins are 13-3 at home under coach McDaniel, including 7-1 this season, so hosting a playoff game would be particularly advantageous.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Commanders, 4:25 p.m. ET

Like Miami, Dallas has already clinched a spot in the postseason, but there is much to be won on Sunday.

With a victory against Washington, the Cowboys can earn the NFC East division title and home-field advantage for the Wild Card round – and Divisional round if they were to make it that far.

Dallas boasts a perfect 8-0 record at AT&T Stadium on the season and has failed to beat the league’s top talent on the road. Needless to say, they would really benefit from home-field advantage.

All Dallas needs to do to achieve this feat is take down the last-place Commanders, who have lost seven in a row and are already out of playoff contention.

“We’ve got an opportunity to win the division and go out there and make a statement: win and get ready for the playoffs,” linebacker Micah Parsons told reporters. “We have to go make a statement that we are the better team, the more dominant and aggressive team. We just have to prove that.”

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks tries to avoid a tackle by Detroit Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor. - Sam Hodde/AP

So what does this game mean for Washington? With the season chalked up to a loss, a win on Sunday would earn the Commanders nothing other than satisfaction of beating a long-standing rival.

“I think [the players] understand that this is one of the top rivalries in the NFL, and I don’t think it necessarily matters what your record is,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said. “This is really about the opportunity to play against a team like this.”

Although the team’s collective goal is to win under any circumstance, some would argue it would actually be better for the Commanders to lose in order to receive a better spot in next year’s draft. As it stands, Washington would pick second behind the Chicago Bears.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m. ET

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. ET

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m. ET

New York Jets @ New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m. ET

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. ET

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET

Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Commanders 4:25 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m. ET

How to watch

Here’s how to catch these teams in action, from wherever you are:

Australia: NFL+, ESPN, 7Plus

Brazil: NFL+, ESPN

Canada: NFL+, CTV, TSN, RDS

Germany: NFL+, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN

Mexico: NFL+, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

UK: NFL+, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5

US: NFL+, CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN, Amazon Prime

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