No matter the sport, every game counts, and you should always be trying to win. In the NFL, where there are significantly fewer games than in the other major professional sports leagues, each game is more meaningful.
That’s just math.
Even now, in the final week of the regular season, you expect the teams that have no chance at the playoffs to at least try to win. Pride is a factor, as is ending a bad season on a positive note. Being a “spoiler” by helping eliminate another team from contention, can lend a bad team an element of significance by having an effect on the playoffs even though they can not participate in them. Screwing over a hated division rival can provide extra motivation as well.
Then, there are the playoff races.
As we enter Week 18, all but three of the possible 14 playoff spots have been determined. The NFC is the more settled conference, with the top seed (Green Bay) clinched, and but two teams vying for the final berth (San Francisco, New Orleans). In the AFC, even though only two spots remain unclaimed, there is much more to decide. Four teams could still claim the coveted number one seed (Tennessee, KC, Cincinnati, New England), while a total of five teams are still eligible for one of those final slots (Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Baltimore). As such, there aren’t many games in the AFC that don’t have at least some significance.
As a fan, what more could you ask for?
Week 18 Picks
Winners in Bold
KC at Denver
Denver is out, and KC has clinched the AFC West. KC needs to win, and have Tennessee lose to claim the top seed.
Dallas at Philadelphia
Dallas has clinched the NFC East, and Philly is in the playoffs no matter what. Both teams are a bit banged-up and have nothing to play for, but this is a bitter rivalry.
Green Bay at Detroit
Aaron Rodgers gets to rest his sore toe this week. If only he’d rest his big mouth.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Indy has a simple path to the playoffs; win, and they’re in. They could lose and still get in, but they’d need a LOT of help.
Washington at New York Geez (They’re Terrible!)
Nothing to play for here. Both teams have a boatload of injured players. I don’t even know who’s starting at QB for New York, nor do I care.
Chicago at Minnesota
Nothing to play for here. Chicago has its two best defensive linemen Out.
Tennessee at Houston
If Tennessee wins, they clinch the top seed, and with all the injuries they’ve had this season, that first round bye is a HUGE motivator.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Pittsburgh’s path to the playoffs requires an Indianapolis loss, while Baltimore’s requires losses by the Bolts, Colts, AND ‘Phins. These teams always play each other tough. Added note: TJ Watt has a chance to break the single season Sack record, currently held illegitimately by Michael Strahan, who achieved the feat when Brett Favre took a dive for him.
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Though Cincy still has a chance at the top seed, their path is a convoluted one, requiring help from three other teams. As such, they are wisely resting Joe Burrow.
San Francisco at Los Angeles R
LA wins the NFC West with a win or an Arizona loss. San Fran makes the playoffs with a win or a NO loss.
Carolina at Tampa
Tampa is the NFC South champ, and need to get healthy, so they’d like to rest as many guys as possible.
Seattle at Arizona
Arizona needs the Rams to lose in order to claim the NFC West title.
New England at Miami
New England needs Buffalo to lose in order to claim the AFC East title, but need Tennessee AND KC to lose as well to claim the top seed.
NO at Atlanta
For NO, it’s simple; they need to win, and for San Fran to lose.
New York Jeez (They’re Awful) at Buffalo
Buffalo will be motivated by not wanting to allow the Pats to reclaim top spot in the AFC East.
Los Angeles Bolts at Las Vegas
In the final game of the regular season, the winner makes the playoffs. The Bolts NEED to win, PERIOD. Vegas could lose and still get in if BOTH Indy and Pittsburgh lose.