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2023 NFL Draft: What's at stake in Week 18? Eight key subplots to follow on Saturday/Sunday

Week 18 unsurprisingly carries significant playoff implications, from finalizing wild-card spots and seeding to deciding a pair of division titles. And the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals Week 17 game -- which previously had been postponed following Damar Hamlin's frightening incident from Monday night -- adds a whole other layer of postseason computations.

But for the 18 teams that don't end up making the tournament for the Lombardi Trophy, this weekend will lock in their respective slots in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Here are eight draft scenarios to keep in mind ahead of the final two days of the 2022 regular season.

Just two teams left in the race for No. 1

The Houston Texans (2-13-1) enter the weekend in the driver's seat to lock up the No. 1 overall pick for the fourth time in franchise history. The Texans secure the selection with a loss to the Colts on Sunday. However, if Houston wins in Indianapolis, and the Bears (3-13) lose at home to the Vikings, Chicago receives the No. 1 pick. For what it's worth, Houston has come up empty in its previous attempts to turn the top pick into a franchise cornerstone, with none of their previous three selections (David Carr, 2004; Mario Williams, 2006; Jadeveon Clowney, 2014) signing an extension with the team.

Eagles have more riding on Week 18 than playoff implications

Eagles fans could have plenty to celebrate after Week 18: the NFC's No. 1 seed, their first division title since 2019, a first-round bye and even a top-16 draft pick. Philly acquired the Saints' first-rounder this year in a trade with New Orleans prior to last year's draft, and while the value of this pick has see-sawed over the course of the campaign, it's currently sitting at No. 11 overall. The pick is not likely to improve to anything better than No. 10 after this weekend because all three six-win teams have far lower strength of schedules (SOS) than the 7-9 Saints (.510). But a Titans win on Saturday night and a Saints loss to Carolina on Sunday would likely move New Orleans up one slot. Meanwhile, that relatively low SOS is also one of the reasons why the Saints' pick shouldn't end up any worse than No. 16 overall, as it would break ties with most of the teams that could also finish with eight wins (the Jags, Patriots, Seahawks -- all currently in the playoff field and with lower SOSs -- are the exceptions).

A Rams win affects two NFC contenders

The Lions (8-8) need the Rams (5-11) to beat the Seahawks (8-8) on Sunday afternoon for Detroit to stay in contention for a playoff berth. However, an L.A. win would be slightly bittersweet for the Lions, as they acquired the Rams' first-round pick in the Jared Goff trade. Detroit's Rams selection, currently sitting at No. 6 overall, could potentially fall to No. 9, depending on how the three 6-10 teams (Raiders, Falcons and Panthers) fare in Week 18. What's the market loss of potentially sliding three slots? Don't need a draft value chart to know it's a price Dan Campbell and Co. would gladly pay for a shot at a playoff berth.

Silver lining for Seattle?

The Seahawks -- win or lose, playoffs or bust -- are guaranteed a top-five pick in April, a stunning outcome of last offseason’s Russell Wilson trade. The Seattle-owned Broncos pick, currently at No. 3 overall, can't slide below the Detroit-owned Rams pick at No. 6 because Denver (4-12) has a significantly lower strength of schedule than Los Angeles (5-11) -- .477 vs. .518 -- which would serve as the tiebreaker. Seattle could actually end up with the No. 2 choice if Denver loses to the Chargers, and the Bears (3-13) beat the Vikings, again thanks to the Broncos' relatively low strength of schedule. If the Seahawks were to make the playoffs, they'd end up with the highest draft pick by any postseason team in exactly 20 years, when the Jets traded up to No. 4 overall in the 2003 draft to select DT Dewayne Robertson.

Raiders' SOS locks them into top-10 pick

Las Vegas (6-10) is just one of several teams currently set to select in the top 10 with questions at quarterback. With Derek Carr appearing likely to be released or traded in the coming weeks, and Jarrett Stidham and undrafted rookie Chase Garbers the only other QBs on the Raiders' roster, Vegas could opt to take a passer early in Round 1. How early? With a Raiders loss to the Chiefs on Saturday, and a Rams (5-11) win over the Seahawks on Sunday, Las Vegas could end up with the No. 6 overall selection. But even if the Raiders win, their floor in the draft order is No. 9 overall, thanks to their strength of schedule (.449) falling well below any of the current seven-win squads. In fact, Vegas has the lowest SOS of any non-playoff team entering Week 18.

Titans' worst-case scenario involves high draft pick

Cushioning a potential loss to Jacksonville for the AFC South title in prime time: The possibility that Tennessee could land one of the best players in this year's draft class. No team has a chance for a bigger draft-order drop than the Titans (7-9), who could go from a top-10 selection to hosting a playoff game, depending on Saturday night's outcome. The Titans enter the weekend holding the 10th overall pick and have a lower SOS (.504) than any of the other seven-win teams (Saints, Browns, Jets, Commanders), positioning them well to break potential ties. However, Tennessee's SOS is well above all of the six-win teams holding Picks 7-9 (Raiders, Falcons, Panthers), meaning if any of those three teams were to win this weekend, it would still likely hold the tiebreaker over Tennessee in the draft order.

Major draft-order swing in play for Jags

While the Titans could see the biggest move down the draft board this weekend -- one they'd undoubtedly be thrilled with, seeing how it'd put them in the playoffs -- the Jags could find themselves making the biggest rise. With a win on Saturday night, Jacksonville would lock up the AFC South and secure only its second pick outside the top 10 since 2008. A loss, though, could see the Jaguars picking as high as 10th overall because of their relatively low strength of schedule (.473). Not the worst consolation prize, but an unlikely one. For this scenario to come to fruition, they'd need the Saints, Browns, Jets and Commanders all to win (Washington could also tie) to create a multi-team tie. In the case Jacksonville loses out on the division title, the team appears to have a far better chance at landing the AFC's No. 7 seed than a top-10 pick.

Colts looking at favorable floor/ceiling

Little has gone right this season for the Colts (4-11-1), who have had their share of injuries, benchings and firings. Still, as the franchise looks ahead to a challenging offseason, it will do so with potentially its highest draft pick since Andrew Luck at No. 1 in 2012. (Currently, the highest such pick is offensive guard Quenton Nelson, who went No. 6 overall in 2018.) The Colts are guaranteed a top-six pick in April, but could move up to third overall with a loss to the Texans, and wins by the Cardinals (over the 49ers) and Broncos (over the Chargers). After years of searching for a solution under center, the Colts could end up finding one early in the 2023 draft.

Follow Ali Bhanpuri on Twitter.

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