NFL Week 18 schedule, playoff scenarios: Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins control division fate, while Steelers need help

If the Cowboys beat the Commanders next week, they'll claim the NFC East and host a playoff game

The NFL playoff field is starting to take shape.

Multiple teams clinched or improved their postseason positions through the early wave of games Sunday. Four divisions will go down to the wire next weekend. Here’s where things stand with the postseason picture:

Week 18 schedule

The NFL released the Week 18 schedule on Sunday night.

All times ET

Saturday, Jan. 6

Pittsburgh at Baltimore | 4:30 p.m. | ESPN

Houston at Indianapolis | 8:15 p.m. | ESPN

Sunday, Jan. 7

Atlanta at New Orleans | 1 p.m. | CBS

New York Jets at New England | 1 p.m. | FOX

Tampa Bay at Carolina | 1 p.m. | Fox

Minnesota at Detroit | 1 p.m. | Fox

Jacksonville at Tennessee | 1 p.m. | CBS

Cleveland at Cincinnati | 1 p.m. | CBS

Chicago at Green Bay | 4:25 p.m. | CBS

Denver at Las Vegas | 4:25 p.m. | CBS

Dallas at Washington | 4:25 p.m. | Fox

Philadelphia at New York Giants | 4:25 p.m. | CBS

Seattle at Arizona | 4:25 p.m. | Fox

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers | 4:25 p.m. | CBS

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco | 4:25 p.m. | Fox

Buffalo at Miami | 8:20 p.m. | NBC

Cowboys in command of NFC East

Thanks to a late-season collapse by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys now control the NFC East.

The Cowboys, who narrowly beat the Detroit Lions in a controversial finish Saturday night, have to beat just the Washington Commanders on the road next weekend to claim the division title — something that didn’t seem possible after the Eagles’ 10-1 start to the season. If Dallas can pull it off, it’ll host at least one playoff game. That would mark the 18th season in which the division hasn’t had a repeat champion, the longest such streak in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.

The Eagles can still claim the division but only with a win over the New York Giants and a Cowboys loss. The Cowboys beat the Commanders 45-10 in Dallas on Thanksgiving, though they’ve lost their past two road games.

If the Cowboys beat the Commanders next week, they'll claim the NFC East and host a playoff game. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
If the Cowboys beat the Commanders next week, they'll claim the NFC East and host a playoff game against the NFC's No. 7 seed. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Dolphins-Bills to battle for AFC East title

Because the Dolphins lost, they’ll take on the Bills next week with the AFC East title on the line.

If the Dolphins win, they’ll claim the division for the first time since the 2008 season. Otherwise, the Bills will win the title for a fourth consecutive season. Buffalo held on to beat the New England Patriots 27-21 on Sunday to pick up their fourth straight win.

The Bills have not yet clinched a playoff spot. They can still make it into the postseason with a loss, depending on how the rest of the AFC shakes out, but it won't be guaranteed. They would need the Steelers to lose to the Ravens on Saturday night or the Jaguars fall to the Titans next Sunday.

Buccaneers can still win NFC South

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could've clinched the NFC South on Sunday. Instead, the New Orleans Saints cruised to a 23-13 win.

Luckily for Baker Mayfield and the Bucs, they can still claim the division next weekend with a win over the Carolina Panthers — who have won just two games all season and fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-0 on Sunday.

If the Bucs lose and the Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons next week, it'll be New Orleans who wins the division and gets to host a playoff game. The Saints could get a wild-card spot with a win and defeats by the Seahawks and Packers.

Texas can win and get in; Jags can claim AFC South; Colts are still in the hunt

The Houston Texans are so close to their first postseason berth since 2019. They flew past the Tennessee Titans 26-3 on Sunday. If they can beat the Indianapolis Colts next weekend, the Texans will secure a wild-card spot, as they hold tiebreakers over the Bengals, Broncos and Steelers.

The Jaguars, with their win over the Panthers, can win the AFC South with a victory over the Titans next weekend.

Meanwhile the Colts, currently in the wild-card position, can take the South crown with a Saturday night victory over the Texans and a Jaguars defeat in the regular-season finale against the Titans. Indianapolis would clinch a playoff berth outright with a win Saturday.

Rams clinch playoff spot; Seahawks, Steelers need help in Week 18

The Pittsburgh Steelers now will have a winning record this season, the 17th straight under coach Mike Tomlin. They can still make the playoffs, too, with a win next week and extra help. They will take on the Ravens on Saturday night in Baltimore, though the Ravens have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

For the Steelers to get into the postseason, they need to win in Week 18 and have the Dolphins beat the Bills on Sunday night. Pittsburgh's other avenues to clinching a wild-card berth:

  • a victory against the Ravens and a Titans upset of the Jaguars

  • defeats by the Jaguars and Raiders, and Colts-Texans doesn't end in a tie

The Seattle Seahawks are currently on the outside looking in. To return to the postseason, they need to beat the Cardinals in Week 18 and have the Green Bay Packers lose to the Bears.

Packers can reach playoffs with win over Bears

Though the NFC North is out of reach — the Lions already claimed that title in historic fashion — the Packers’ playoff hopes are still alive.

The Packers rolled past the Minnesota Vikings 33-10 on Sunday night in Minneapolis. That set up a win-and-get-in game for the Packers next week at Lambeau Field. If the Packers beat the Chicago Bears, they’re in the playoffs. If they lose, that opens the door for the Seahawks or the Saints to make it in.

If the Packers stumble, they could still make the playoffs with:

  • defeats by the Saints, Seahawks and Vikings OR

  • defeats by the Bucs, Seahawks and Vikings

The Vikings were not eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, but it won’t be easy. They’ll have to beat the Lions, and then have the Packers, Seahawks and Saints lose. They can also make it in with a victory Sunday against the Lions and defeats by the Packers, Seahawks and Bucs.

The Bears have been eliminated from the playoffs headed into the regular-season finale, though they have locked up the No. 1 pick in the draft.