2021 Week 18 NFL Playoff Picture: Colts Clinching, Seeding Scenarios

The Colts will clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18. 

Jonathan Taylor_

The simplest thing here is if the Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at TIAA Bank Stadium, they're in the playoffs. (They'd also clinch a playoff spot with a tie.)

Being in the playoffs could mean the Colts are anywhere from the No. 5 to the No. 7 seed. And there's a scenario in which the Colts can still make the playoffs with a loss.

Diving into the final week of the AFC playoff picture:

Seeding scenarios

Here's how the AFC playoff standings look heading into Week 18 (yx = clinched division, x = clinched playoff spot, e = eliminated)

  1. yx - Tennessee Titans (11-5)
  2. yx - Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
  3. yx - Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
  4. x - Buffalo Bills (10-6)
  5. x - New England Patriots (10-6)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
  7. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
  8. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)
  10. e - Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  11. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

It doesn't really matter why the Colts have a higher seed than the Raiders even after losing to them last week (it's because the Raiders are technically third in the AFC West), since the Raiders play the Chargers on Sunday Night Football in Week 18 in what's effectively a play-in game for a spot in the postseason.

So we know that if the Colts win, they're in. Where they'd be seeded, though, depends on the outcomes of the Patriots-Dolphins, Bills-Jets and Raiders-Chargers games.

Patriots, Bills, Raiders win: Colts are No. 7 seed

Patriots, Jets, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed

Patriots, Jets, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed

Patriots, Bills, Chargers win: Colts are No. 6 seed

Dolphins, Bills, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed

Dolphins, Jets, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed

Dolphins, Jets, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed

Dolphins, Bills, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed

Colts tie: Colts are No. 7 seed

As for who the Colts would play as these seeds – depending on how the Chiefs-Broncos, Titans-Texans, Bengals-Browns, Dolphins-Patriots and Bills-Jets games go, it could be either the Chiefs, Titans, Bengals, Bills or Patriots on Wild Card Weekend.

Let's cross that bridge on Sunday.

The lose-and-still-in scenario

Yes, it is technically possible. The Colts would make the playoffs with a 9-8 record if:

  • Dolphins beat Patriots
  • Raiders beat Chargers
  • Ravens beat Steelers

Those results would slide the Colts in as the AFC No. 7 seed.

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