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NFL's Decision to Flex Raiders vs. Chargers Could Have Weird Implications

Next weekend will bring on the first Week 18 in NFL history after the league opted to extend the regular season to 17 games for each team. Three playoff spots remain available heading into the final week of the season, two of which are in the AFC.

After Sunday's games, the NFL announced major scheduling news for next weekend. Chiefs at Broncos and Cowboys at Eagles will be played in a doubleheader on Saturday, while Chargers at Raiders–an AFC West matchup between two teams right in the playoff hunt—was flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot.

Los Angeles and Las Vegas are two of five AFC teams still vying for playoff spots, along with the Colts, Ravens and Steelers.

For Indianapolis, the situation is straight forward, with the Colts simply needing to beat the 2–14 Jaguars to lock up a playoff spot. If it fails to do so, however, the situation becomes very interesting for the two AFC West teams in the running.

As pointed out by NFL Network's Adam Beasley, if the Colts lose to fall to 9–8, the Raiders and Chargers could both clinch wild card spots with a tie on Sunday night.

The two teams would move to 9–7–1 on the season, better than a 9–8 record that the Ravens can clinch with a win over the Steelers next week. Pittsburgh needs to beat the Browns on Monday night and the Ravens next week to move to 9–7–1, but they would still not get in on tiebreakers ahead of either the Raiders or Chargers should they tie.

Baltimore is walking a very thin line to make the postseason. Along with a win against Pittsburgh, it needs a Browns loss on Monday or next week, a Colts loss to the Jaguars, a Dolphins loss or tie with the Patriots, and a Raiders win over the Chargers to secure a playoff spot. That combination would give the team the tiebreaker over the Colts and Chargers. 

A Jaguars win, which some of these scenarios hinge on, remains a long shot. The Colts are 15-point favorites in the Week 18 game right now, per SI Sportsbook.

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