By DJ Harding –
It has all led up to this! The final week of the NFL season that has playoff spots, home field advantage, Division Titles, and possibly the AFC Championship on a neutral site. Let’s break down all the big matchups to look out for in week 18.
Before a Sunday full of football that has a 14 game slate. There are 2 games on Saturday the 2nd of those games has a division title up for grabs as the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) play at home versus the Tennessee Titans (7-9). This game is a winner take all as the Jaguars look for their first division title since 2017, while the Titans look to win their 3rd division title in a row. Working in the jaguars favor is the 4 game win streak they are currently on which started week 14 in their last matchup versus the Titans and for those Titans that lost was part of a current 6 game losing streak. But you can’t count out the Titans because of The King. Derrick Henry the Titans 7th year back is looking to make history with this game if he can reach 1,500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns he can become the first back with 3 such seasons previously doing it in 2019 and 2020. The King is also playing in his home state of Florida which might be an added motivation. The only thing for sure is at 8:15 on ESPN the AFC South Crown is up for grabs.
Also up for grabs in the AFC is the 7th seed which has 3 teams attached and possibly 4 if the Jaguars lose the AFC South showdown the day before. As of right now or with a Jaguars Saturday victory the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers are the 3 teams up for grabs. The Patriots play the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo. The Bills have their own playoff implication to fight for but more on them later. There are 2 ways the Patriots can extend their season into the playoffs the first and the most obvious way to get in is with a win as The Patriots hold the current tiebreaker. The other involves the other 2 teams being the Dolphins and Steelers to lose their matchups along with a Jaguars win. Why the Jaguars win is part of the puzzle will be explained momentarily. The Dolphins have the Jets as their season finale opponent. The Dolphins started the season 8-3 and have been on a skid as of late and go into this matchup without Tua which lessens their playoff chances as the Dolphins need a win plus a Patriots loss.The last of the 3 teams are the Steelers who play the Browns with the chance to keep a streak alive, Mike Tomlin head coach of the Steelers hasn’t had a season with a under .500 win percentage and at 8-8 with a win they could keep that going they also need a win because with a win and losses by the previous 2 teams mentioned the Steelers would be in the playoffs after starting the year 3-8. Now to the possible 4th team the Jaguars who still can get in despite losing the AFC South Division title if all 3 teams lose. So if the Jaguars win and all 3 teams lose it reverts back to the Patriots. The Jaguars as previously mentioned play on Saturday but the other 3 teams will play at 1:00 on either CBS or FOX.
Due to the tragic events on Monday Night Football in week 17. The league has canceled that matchup and found a solution to determine how the AFC Championship would work. It involves the top 3 teams in the AFC being the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Kansas City Chiefs. The solution is sort of complicated and involves a possible AFC championship at a neutral site. The Neutral site would only come into play in 3 scenarios. The First involves if both Buffalo and Kansas City both tie or win then a Buffalo, Kansas City Championship game would be played at a Neutral site. The Next Scenario involves all 3 teams losing and in that case a Buffalo versus Kansas City championship would once again be on a neutral site. But if the Bills and Chiefs lose but the Bengals win then Buffalo versus Kansas City or Cincinnati versus Kansas City will be at a neutral site as well. The Chiefs face the Raiders as the first part of a Saturday Double Header which was previously mentioned.
Now over to the NFC where you have the NFC East possibly up for grabs between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles along with the 1st round bye which also involves the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys play the commanders in Washington D.C and have the chance to win the NFC East with a win and an eagles loss. A 49ers loss on top of that would give Dallas the first seed. If the 49ers win their matchup on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals and the Eagles lose they will obtain the 1 seed. The Eagles playing the Giants are in a Win and in situation when it comes to the 1st seed or they need the 49ers and Cowboys to lose. All 3 games will be during the 4 o’clock window.
The Final Spot in the air is the 7th seed in the NFC that involves 2 games at 4 O’clock the Seahawks play the Rams where the Seahawks need to win to give themselves a chance. But with the last game of the day the 7th seed will be determined when the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football at 8pm the last game of the regular season. Now if the Seahawks win they will automatically eliminate Detroit from playoff contention. If the Seahawks lose then Detriots just need to win. The Packers on the other hand just need to win and they’re in. The crazy part is even though the Lions could be eliminated if the Seahawks win they could still spoil the playoffs for Green Bay as for the Seahawks to get in they would need a win and a Packers loss.
As you can see there is a lot of high level football that could shape the playoffs and it all goes down this weekend.