This NFL Week 18 playlist is a must-watch for anyone who enjoys high-stakes football, as long as they also enjoy watching the scoreboard and slightly complicated tiebreakers.
It’s been an eventful week for the players and fans, who watched in horror Monday night as Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and had to be given CPR. Before leaving the field in an ambulance. A few days later, those same players and fans watched in glee as Hamlin recovered.
This makes it easy to focus on the NFL’s stacked final week, which will determine the fate of the playoffs for many teams.
Aaron Rodgers, one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, faces a win-or-go home situation when the Green Bay Packers host the Detroit Lions. Bill Belichick, one of the game’s all-time great coaches, and his running mate for the New England Patriots need to beat the mighty Bills or they could find themselves on the couch watching the playoffs.
Kansas City secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a 31-13 win over Las Vegas on Saturday. The NFC No. 1 spot is still up for grabs. It remains to be seen how affected the AFC team will be by canceling the Bills-Bengals game following Hamlin’s injury.
Here’s a look at some of the things to watch:
What is the shape of the stadiums?
This is the third consecutive year of the NFL’s current playoff format, which includes the top seven teams from both the AFC and NFC.
The four winners in both conferences receive the top four spots automatically, regardless of record, hence the top three teams with the best non-division winning record are the wild card picks. This is why it is fairly common for an elected group of wild cards to have a better record—but worse rating—than the team that finished as division winners.
The No. 1 ranked team in each conference gets a bye into the second round while the No. 2, No. 7, and No. 6 third-place and No. 4 hosts the No. 5 hosts over the weekend.
The NFL has a policy of re-posting after each playoff run. This means that no matter how the class started, the lower seeded team will always travel to the higher seeded team.
There are four rounds to the playoffs: the wild round on January 14-15, the division tournament on January 21-22, the conference championship games on January 29, and a Super Bowl game scheduled for February 12. In Glendale, Arizona.
What changed with the cancellation of bills?
The Bills-Bengals game had significant playoff implications in the AFC, so the cancellation of the game due to Hamlin’s injury could force some changes depending on Week 18 or the outcome of the playoff.
The AFC Championship would be played on a neutral site if the participating teams played a disproportionate number of matches and both would have been the top seed and hosted the match had all AFC clubs played the full 17 matches.
The league is considering many locations, including indoor and outdoor stadiums.
There are many scenarios – especially for the Bengals, Bills and Chiefs – depending on the upcoming results. The list is rather long. The Associated Press broke down those potential matches.
What are some of the big games this weekend?
In a fairly frank playoff drama, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 20-16 Saturday night to win the AFC South for the first time in five seasons. The Titans needed a win to advance to the post-season.
The Packers and Rodgers also have a direct path to the postseason. If they beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field, they’re in the arc. If they lose, they are out. The Lions are also in the playoffs but they need to beat the Packers and I hope the Seahawks lose to the Rams.
What other games to watch in Week 18?
The New England Patriots travel to take on the Bills on Sunday in a game that will be watched closely for many reasons.
First, there’s the obvious Bills playing story less than a week after Hamlin’s emotional situation. But there are also significant playoff effects.
The Patriots could punch their ticket to the postseason with an upset win. If they lose, they will need help from the other teams. The Bills are still in contention for the AFC’s top seed, depending on what the Chiefs do against the Raiders on Saturday night.
It should also be noted that the Miami Dolphins – likely down to third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson – need a win over the New York Jets (and some help from other teams). to make the playoff bracket. In Philadelphia, the Eagles could earn the #1 seed in the NFC if they beat the New York Giants.
Even the Pittsburgh Steelers have a chance. They have to beat the Browns on Sunday and then hope the Patriots and Dolphins both lose.
AP Pro football writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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