Do or die, now or never, win or bust – whatever you call it, this weekend is the last chance for NFL teams to punch their ticket to the postseason.

An extra game was added to the schedule in 2021, making this the NFL’s longest regular season at 17 games and 18 weeks.

And three play-off spots are still up for grabs heading into week 18, with the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers two of the teams in the hunt.

There’s also the scramble for play-off seedings, which determine who plays who in the postseason – and where – as the race to Super Bowl 56 hots up.

With so much still to be decided, BBC Sport guides you through the potential scenarios for this Sunday’s finale.

Who reaches the NFL play-offs?

Fourteen teams go through to the postseason, with seven from each conference – the four division winners plus the three teams with the next-best records (wildcards).

The top seed in each conference gets a first-round bye for the play-offs and home advantage thereafter, and the Green Bay Packers have secured the NFC’s top spot for the second year running.

In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans currently hold the top seed on a tie-breaker from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Titans will clinch it by winning at Houston on Sunday but the Chiefs, aiming for a third straight Super Bowl, can put pressure on with a win at Denver on Saturday.

Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won Super Bowl 55 last year, are also among the 11 teams who have secured play-off football.

So just three wildcard spots remain, with the wildcard teams all having away games for week one of the play-offs.

Who are still in contention?

There’s just one spot left in the NFC, with the San Francisco 49ers in pole position. They face the Los Angeles Rams, who have already qualified and hope to clinch the NFC West division title, but the 49ers have won the past five games with their divisional rivals.

Should the Rams win, that opens the door for the New Orleans Saints to get in as they visit the Atlanta Falcons later on Sunday.

In the AFC, five teams are in the running for two spots, currently held by the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers.

The Colts visit a Jacksonville Jaguars side which is set to finish with the NFL’s worst record for the second year running – and therefore the number one draft pick yet again in 2022.

A Colts win would set up a winner-takes-all meeting between the Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders for the other spot.

But if the Jaguars upset the Colts, the Raiders could get in even if they lose to the Chargers.

It would also give the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens a chance to sneak in, with the Ravens the biggest long shot.

Despite losing their last five, Baltimore can make it if they win at home to Pittsburgh and three other results go their way.

What about the play-off seedings?

The four division winners become the top four seeds in each conference, followed by the wildcard teams, and the seedings will change numerous times this weekend.

Remarkably, the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots could even snatch the top seed if they win at Cleveland and Miami, respectively, and three other results go their way.

But if the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets, they will clinch the AFC East title ahead of the Patriots and have home advantage for the first round of the play-offs, where they could face the six-time Super Bowl winners for the third time in six weeks.

In the NFC, Sunday’s results could see the Rams, Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals slide up or down the seedings, setting up a play-off match with one of their divisional rivals.

Where they end up and who they’ll face next on the road to the Super Bowl is anyone’s guess.

You can follow live text and radio commentary of the final week of the NFL’s regular season this Sunday from 17:30 GMT.

Source: BBC

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