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NFL Week 18 review: Playoff picture finalized as regular season ends

Five teams with winning records missed out on the postseason and multiple division titles were decided during a high-stakes final week of games.

The drama went down to the final game of the season as the Buffalo Bills won on the road to snatch the AFC East title away from the Miami Dolphins.

The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) in the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers (12-5) in the NFC played their backups as they already clinched their respective conference's top seed and first-round bye, but there was plenty of shuffling of the order for the lower seedings based on Week 18 results.

Let's take a look at the key results from NFL Week 18 and what they meant for the playoff bracket.

Titans crush Jaguars' playoff hopes

After the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the week's action with a win over the Baltimore Ravens' backups, Saturday's key game was showdown for a playoff place between AFC South rivals the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, which the Texans won 23-19.

The Texans were closely watching Sunday's AFC South clash between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, where beating the already-eliminated Titans would lock up a playoff spot for the Jags.

However, Jacksonville had lost four of their previous five games and couldn't get it done in Tennessee either, losing 28-20 as quarterback Trevor Lawrence came up short when it mattered most. That result handed the division to the Texans and knocked the Jaguars (9-8) out of the playoffs entirely.

Houston will host the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs.

Read more: NFL Power Rankings

Eagles' late-season slide continues as Bucs take NFC South

The second seed in the NFC was also up for grabs in Sunday's games and the Dallas Cowboys claimed that prize by crushing the Washington Commanders 38-10 while the Philadelphia Eagles slumped to a 27-10 loss to the New York Giants. 

The Eagles allowed 415 yards of total offense while gaining 299 against the Giants, who have the league's fourth-worst offense and sixth-worst defense.

It was the Eagles' fifth loss in their last six games and they are out to +1600 to win the NFL Championship having been among the favorites during their 10-1 start to the year. Dallas, on the other hand, is +750 to win the NFL Championship.

The NFC South title was also yet to be decided. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to win it at the second attempt, having missed their first chance to clinch when losing to the Saints in Week 17. They made no mistake against the 2-15 Carolina Panthers, winning 9-0 to secure the fourth seed for the playoffs. 

The New Orleans Saints had put themselves in line to benefit if the Bucs had slipped up, beating the Falcons 48-17, but Tampa Bay's win ended their season. It was also the last game for Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who was fired on Sunday night after three seasons with the team.

Elsewhere in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 17-19 to claim the final wild-card place, which eliminated the Seattle Seahawks even though they beat Arizona 21-20 after the Cardinals missed an attempt at a game-winning field goal.

Due to these results, the Cowboys will host the Packers and the NFC West-winning Los Angeles Rams will play the NFC North-winning Detroit Lions on Sunday, Jan. 14, and the Eagles will visit the Bucs on Monday, Jan. 15, 

Read more: NFL Championship odds

Bills take AFC East crown

With a 21-14 away win against the Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills took the AFC East title and will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, while the Dolphins will visit the Kansas City Chiefs.

With this loss, the Dolphins ended the regular season with a 1-5 record against playoff teams after losing to the Cowboys, Chiefs, Eagles, and the Bills twice. They also lost to the Tennessee Titans as they finished 11-6.

Buffalo won each of their last five regular season games and also finished with an 11-6 record, winning the division thanks to their two wins over Miami.

While Miami's main weakness is their ability to beat good teams, Buffalo's weakness is turnovers. QB Josh Allen threw 18 interceptions, good for the second-most in the league, and he threw two against the Dolphins in Week 18.

Still, these two teams have enough top-end talent to make a deep playoff run. The question is whether either squad is consistent enough to go all the way against the league's best.

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