Week 18 is here! As the season draws to a close, there are five games with playoff spots riding on them
1. This one’s for Damar
After an emotional week, the Buffalo Bills will be out to play for their hero, Damar Hamlin. After the contest was abandoned, the NFL has chosen not to replay the game to avoid scuppering the traditional schedule.
Because both teams have played one fewer game than the rest of the league, some rules have been put in place to ensure a ‘fair’ playoff seeding. It’s safe to say that the Bengals are displeased.
Due to those rules, and Kansas City beating Las Vegas last night, Buffalo cannot be the number-one seed, but are playing for the opportunity to have the AFC Championship game at a neutral site, should they face the Chiefs.
2. A big opportunity for Skylar Thompson
Miami’s playoff hopes are riding on Skylar Thompson, the team’s third-string rookie quarterback. After Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his pinky finger in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, Thompson will make his second start of the season.
The collapse of this team has been rather spectacular, losing five straight after being in the mix for the one seed just a few weeks ago. It’s fair to say they’ve been rather unlucky, but the Chargers and 49ers games were inexcusable. A win and a New England loss will send them to Buffalo or Cincinnati next week.
The New York Jets were eliminated after a loss to Seattle last weekend. They will start Joe Flacco in place of Mike White, who is out with a rib injury. If the Jets win, they would have swept the Dolphins this season.
3. Mike Tomlin, the winner
Mike Tomlin has done it again! His Pittsburgh Steelers would have yet another winning season with a victory over Cleveland today. No-one would have been expecting that two months ago.
If both Miami and New England lose, which could very much happen, the Steelers would even make the postseason. This all comes after winning seven of their last nine games.
They’ve won those games in typical Pittsburgh fashion, by an elite defense. Tomlin and Teryl Austin’s unit have only allowed more than 17 points once in that nine-game stretch.
4. Could the Seattle Seahawks sneak in?
Seattle are still alive, just. They looked to be out of the playoff picture before pulling off a win over the Jets seven days ago. A victory would put pressure on the Green Bay Packers later this evening.
Pete Carroll’s team had lost three straight before that victory. The Seahawks would make the postseason with a win over the Rams on Sunday and a Detroit Lions win over the Packers.
Baker Mayfield will start what could be Sean McVay’s final game as an NFL coach. The reigning Super Bowl champion head coach looks set to go into broadcasting, whilst Baker will try to impress in his final audition for a starting job somewhere next season.
5. Packers, Lions close out the regular season
After an against-all-odds run of wins, the Green Bay Packers look destined for the playoffs. And rightly so too, the postseason would be better with Aaron Rodgers in it.
As for their opponent the Detroit Lions, if the Seahawks lose to the Rams, they will take the last spot in the wildcard round with a win over their division rival tonight.
With the most riding on this game, it was sensible to pick it as the regular season closing Sunday Night Football matchup.