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How Week 17 Playoff Scenarios Played Out: Colts, Ravens, Eagles Earn Final Berths

Dec 31, 2018 11:30 PM EST
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Andrew Luck, Lamar Jackson, Doug Pederson

  • There was a lot at stake heading into Week 17, including three wild-card spots and all six AFC seeds.
  • We tracked all the playoff scenarios, draft order and more as the games unfolded. See our tick tock of results below.

What more could we ask for than a Week 17 full of games that actually matter?

After a wild regular-season finale, the 2018 NFL playoff picture is officially set. If you missed any of Sunday’s action or need a quick refresher, below is a tick tock of how all the key games unfolded.

11:30 p.m. ET: Colts Secure AFC’s Final Wild Card

Indianapolis locked in the AFC’s final wild-card berth with its 33-17 win over Tennessee.

The Colts will face the Texans on Saturday. Here’s an early preview of their matchup.


9:49 p.m. ET: Colts Lead Titans at Half

Indianapolis carried a 17-10 lead into halftime. Winner locks in the AFC’s final berth.


9:01 p.m. ET: Colts Take 14-0 Lead

Indianapolis has the inside track to the AFC’s wild-card spot with a two touchdown lead over Tennessee with less than 10 minutes to play in the first half.

The winner of this game will play the Texans next weekend. If this game ends in a tie, the Steelers would slot in as the sixth seed.


8 p.m. ET: What You Need to Know Heading into Colts-Titans

The Colts and Titans will be playing for the AFC’s final playoff berth on Sunday Night Football.

Here’s a brief overview of went down earlier in the day:

About the NFC Playoff Picture

  • The Rams and Bears locked in the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, with their wins over the Niners and Vikings.
  • The Seahawks’ win over the Cardinals coupled with the Vikings’ loss to the Bears locked Seattle into the fifth seed and Arizona into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
  • The Eagles’ win over the Redskins (coupled with the Vikings’ loss) earned them the conference’s final wild-card spot.

About the AFC Playoff Picture

  • The Chiefs and Patriots locked in the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, with their blowout wins over the Raiders and Jets. Kansas City’s win left the Chargers in the fifth seed.
  • The Texans’ win over the Jaguars secured Houston the third seed.
  • The Ravens won the AFC North title and tied up the fourth seed with their win over the Browns, virtually eliminating the Steelers in the process. The only way Pittsburgh could get in now is if the Colts and Titans tie tonight.

7:40 p.m. ET: Ravens Win AFC North, Effectively Eliminate Steelers

C.J. Mosley intercepted Baker Mayfield on fourth-and-10 on Baltimore’s 39-yard line with a little more than a minute to play, sealing the Ravens’ 26-24 win over the Browns.

Baltimore wins the AFC North and locks in the No. 4 seed with the win, effectively eliminating the Steelers from the playoffs in the process. Pittsburgh’s only chance of making the postseason is if the Colts and Titans tie tonight.


7:30 p.m. ET: AFC North Race Coming Down to the Wire

With the Steelers’ 16-13 win over the Bengals, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes hinge on Ravens-Browns.

Baltimore leads Cleveland, 26-24, with a little less than a minute and a half to play in the fourth quarter with the Browns driving down the field.


7:29 p.m. ET: Cardinals Lose, Finish with No. 1 Pick

The Seahawks’ game-winning field goal against the Cardinals guarantees Arizona the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

We’ll be updating more on draft order here.


7:24 p.m. ET: Eagles Lock In NFC’s Final Wild-Card Spot

With the Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Bears, the Eagles secure the NFC’s sixth seed with their 24-0 win over the Redskins.


7:08 p.m. ET: Seahawks Retake Lead

With the Vikings trailing the Bears, 24-10, the Seahawks would end up with the NFC’s fifth seed even with a loss.

However, with Seattle retaking the lead over Arizona (24-21) with less than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals are back in position to land the draft’s No. 1 pick.


6:51 p.m. ET: Vikings Falling Behind in NFC Wild-Card Race

The Bears took a 21-10 lead with a little less than eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

With the Vikings trailing the Bears and the Eagles up, 24-0, Philadelphia has the inside track to the NFC’s final wild-card spot.


6:30 p.m. ET: Seahawks Pad Lead

Seattle scored with a little less than five minutes to play in the third quarter, lifting the Seahawks to a 21-13 lead over the Cardinals.

A Seattle win would lock in the fifth seed for the Seahawks and the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for the Cardinals.


6:26 p.m. ET: NFC Wild-Card Race Coming Down to the Wire

The Eagles extended their lead over the Redskins to 17-0, but the Vikings are closing in on the Bears’ lead. Kirk Cousins’ two-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs made it 13-10 Chicago.

If both the Vikings and Eagles win, Minnesota would get the NFC’s final spot.


6:15 p.m. ET: Chiefs Cruising to No. 1 Seed

Patrick Mahomes’ 89-yard touchdown bomb to Demarcus Robinson lifted the Chiefs to a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter.

Pretty safe to say the AFC’s top seed belongs to Kansas City.

It was also Mahomes’ 50th touchdown this season. He joins Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only NFL quarterbacks with 50 passing touchdowns in a single season.


5:56 p.m. ET: What to Know at the Half

  1. The Ravens lead the Browns, 20-7. Baltimore would lock in the AFC North title and No. 4 seed with a win.
  2. The Eagles’ 10-0 halftime lead over the Redskins puts Philadelphia in position to secure the NFC’s final wild-card berth. The Vikings, who trail the Bears 13-3, are the only other team vying for the conference’s last spot.
  3. The Seahawks, who already clinched their berth, will end up with the NFC’s fifth seed with a win over the Cardinals. Seattle leads 14-13 at halftime. Russell Wilson and Co. would only fall to the sixth seed with a loss to Arizona and a Minnesota win over Chicago.
  4. With the Rams’ 28-10 lead over the Niners at the two-minute warning, Los Angeles will likely end up as the NFC’s second seed (and Chicago as the third).
  5. Barring a significant second-half comeback from the Raiders, the Chiefs are on track to lock in the AFC’s top seed. They lead 21-3 at the half. If Kansas City wins, the Chargers will end up with the fifth seed.
  6. The Steelers’ playoff hopes are hanging by a string, trailing the Bengals, 10-3, at the half.

5:29 p.m. ET: Eagles Go Up Before Halftime

Nick Foles connected with Alshon Jeffery for a two-yard touchdown to take a 10-0 lead heading into halftime against the Redskins.

The Eagles would secure the NFC’s final wild-card spot with a win and a Vikings’ loss. (Minnesota trails Chicago, 13-0, with five minutes to play in the first half.)


5:09 p.m. ET: Big Ben Throws Pick Six

The Bengals intercepted Ben Roethlisberger — the unit’s first pick since Week 11 — and returned it to take a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Steelers’ playoff hopes hinge on a win today.


4:52 p.m. ET: Ravens Take Lead Over Browns

Lamar Jackson’s 25-yard rushing touchdown gave the lead back to Baltimore (10-7), which will take the AFC North crown and fourth seed with a win.


4:50 p.m. ET: Chiefs Dominating Raiders Early

Daniel Sorenson intercepted Derek Carr and returned it 54 yards to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead with just less than six minutes to play in the first quarter.

Kansas City locks in the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win.


4:43 p.m. ET: Browns Lead Ravens in 1Q

Baker Mayfield tossed a 28-yard touchdown to Breshad Perriman to lift the Browns to a 7-3 lead over the Ravens.

Cleveland (7-7-1) has nothing to play for — other than a winning season — but Baltimore is playing for the AFC North and the conference’s fourth seed.


4:34 p.m. ET: Bears Jump Out to Early Lead

Jordan Howard capped Chicago’s opening drive against Minnesota with a six-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

The Bears can improve their seeding if the Rams lose the Cardinals as 10-point favorites, but our simulations give Chicago only a 10.27% chance of jumping to the second seed. Matt Nagy’s squad is locked into the No. 3 seed if Sean McVay’s team wins. (The Rams are off to an early 14-0 lead over the Niners.)

The Vikings need to win to make the postseason.


4:20 p.m. ET: Jets Secure Top Three Pick

With their blowout loss to the Patriots, the Jets can do no worse than the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

According to our simulations, the Cardinals have a 90.5% chance to get the top selection. Beating the Seahawks is the only thing that could screw that up.

We’re tracking the various draft order scenarios here.


4:05 p.m. ET: What to Watch in the Late Afternoon Games

Most of the playoff picture will be determined in this window of games — also known as the window of chaos.

Here are the most important things to watch:

  1. The Vikings can punch their playoff ticket with a win over the Bears. Minnesota is favored by six points and our Bet Labs simulations give Kirk Cousins and Co. a 59.48% of securing the sixth seed.
  2. BUT the Vikings are not alone in the race to the NFC’s final wild-card spot. The Eagles can reach the postseason if they beat the Redskins … and Minnesota loses to Chicago. Our simulations give this a 35.71% chance of happening.
  3. The Chiefs can lock in the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over the Raiders. Kansas City is favored by 14.5 points.
  4. BUT if Patrick Mahomes and Co. lose to Oakland, it would open up a path for the Chargers to win the AFC West and jump from the fifth to the top seed with a win over the Broncos.
  5. The Ravens’ path to the AFC North crown and postseason berth is clear: They just need to beat the Browns as 7-point home favorites.
  6. The Steelers need a lot of help to make it, though. Baltimore would have to lose in addition to Pittsburgh beating Cincinnati, which happens in only 19.50% of our simulations.

3:55 p.m. ET: Texans Win AFC South, Patriots Lock in First-Round Bye

Deshaun Watson and the Texans took the division crown with their 20-3 win over the Jaguars, officially locking the winner of the Sunday Night Football showdown between the Titans and Colts into the sixth seed. Houston is the third seed.

New England secures at least the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with its 38-3 win over the Jets.


3:20 p.m. ET: Texans Extend Lead

Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked an early fourth-quarter field goal for the first points of the second half. The Texans extend their lead to 20-3, positioning themselves to win the AFC South crown and lock in no worse than the AFC’s third seed.


2:26 p.m. ET: Patriots, Texans Have Comfortable Halftime Lead

The Texans are playing for the AFC’s No. 3 seed while the Patriots are playing for a top two seed. (New England has a 4.76% chance of winning the top seed, according to our Bet Labs simulations, which would require a win and the Chargers and Chiefs to both lose.)

The Texans lead the Jaguars, 17-3, while the Patriots lead the Jets, 21-3.


1:45 p.m. ET: Texans Take 2Q Lead

Deshaun Watson rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to open the second quarter, lifting the Texans to a 10-3 lead over the Jaguars. Houston needs a win to avoid falling to the AFC’s sixth seed.


1:19 p.m. ET: Texans Trail Jaguars Early

Jacksonville capped its first drive with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead over Houston in the first quarter.


12 p.m. ET: What to Watch in Early Games

We won’t get to the real good stuff until the late afternoon games, but there are a couple seeding scenarios to monitor in the early window:

  1. The Texans have already clinched a playoff berth, but they can take the AFC South crown and guarantee nothing lower than the third seed with a win over Jacksonville. But if they lose, they would fall to the sixth seed, which happens in 26.7% of our Bet Labs simulations.
  2. The Patriots still (technically) have a path to the AFC’s No. 1 seed if they beat the Jets … and the Chiefs and Chargers both lose later in the day. It’s worth noting that our simulations give New England only a 4.7% chance of getting the top seed, though.
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