NFL Week 18 preview: Playoff spots on the line in the final week of the regular season



CNN

The NFL family has waited on tenterhooks this past week on the health of Damar Hamlin as he continues to recover in the hospital, but this weekend the show goes on and the final game week of the regular season still holds plenty of thrilling football.

Hamlin collapsed during the first quarter of the Bills game at Cincinnati on Monday, a contest that was postponed, then canceled by the NFL on Thursday night.

The canceled game leaves the Bills (12-3) – a win behind the Chiefs (13-3) in the hunt for the No. 1 seed and a bye in the next round.

The Bills will have to play their game against the Patriots (8-8) Sunday knowing that with a win and a Chiefs loss they could still clinch that top spot in the AFC thanks to a higher win percentage.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow says he “probably wants to play” his team’s next game but also understands that others don’t in the aftermath of Hamlin’s collapse on Monday.

“I’m sure if you polled the locker room there would be mixed votes on that,” he told reporters. “Personally, I think playing is going to be tough, but there are people who want to play, too, and there are people who don’t.

“Personally, I probably want to play. I think getting back to as normal as you can as fast as you can is personally how I kind of deal with these kinds of things. But like I said, everyone has a different way of dealing with it.”

The Bengals have no chance of topping the AFC. At best, they could steal the Bills’ second spot if they beat the Ravens and the Bills lost.

The flip side is that even if the Ravens beat the Bengals, thanks to a higher win percentage the Bengals will remain top of the AFC North.

The Ravens have looked toothless these last few weeks in the absence of quarterback Lamar Jackson, but with an imperious defense and the Bengals potentially struggling to overcome the shock of Monday, there is an opportunity for the Ravens to move into the playoffs with some momentum.

The game gets underway at 1:00 pm ET on Sunday.

For Tennessee and Jacksonville, the playoffs have come early.

The winner takes a playoff spot and top spot in the AFC South, while the loser comes away with absolutely nothing.

And it’s not looking great for the Titans, who lost a sixth game on the go when they were beaten 27-13 at home by the Cowboys.

Things have been made worse by their situation at quarterback. Starter Ryan Tannehill is out injured. His replacement Malick Willis threw only 99 yards and was turned over twice against Houston, before he was replaced in their last game by Josh Dobbs.

The 2017 draft pick has only played seven career NFL games and started a game for the first time against the Cowboys.

The teams played against each other just four weeks ago, with the Jaguars coming out 36-22 on top of Tennessee soil. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was on fire, throwing 368 yards and three touchdowns.

Tune in at 8:15 pm ET on Saturday.

Another game with everything to play for as the Packers, Lions and Seahawks all have an identical 8-8 record going into the final game.

Because of previous results against each other, if the Packers win, they are through to the playoffs; if the Lions win, they will need a down-and-out Rams team to do them a favor and stop the Seahawks winning on home soil.

This is also a game of two teams that have recovered from terrible starts (Packers were 3-6 and the Lions were 1-6) to finish the regular season in top form.

The Packers have built their success on one of the meanest defenses in the NFL. They have won their last four games on the spin without conceding more than 20 points in any of them.

Against the Packers is a Lions team scoring for fun. Detroit put 41 past Chicago last week with Jared Goff hitting top form, throwing 255 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The Packers will be praying for a Seahawks win as this is the final game on Sunday, meaning that the Lions could already be knocked out when they kick off in Wisconsin.

But if the Rams pull off an upset, this game could have everything riding on it for both teams.

Tune in at 8:20 pm ET on Sunday.

The Lions beat the Packers 15-9 the last time the two met this season.

A few weeks ago the Philadelphia Eagles looked unstoppable. They had only lost one game, had the best record in the NFL and practically sown up the top spot in the NFC.

Fast forward to this weekend and the Eagles could potentially end the weekend in the fifth seed after losing their last two games.

The Cowboys are only one game behind the Eagles in the NFC East after beating them two weeks ago and could leapfrog them in the playoff table.

Their fate is still in their hands, however, but Philadelphia will be hoping that the Giants do them a favor by resting their starters.

The Giants clinched an improbable playoff spot last week when they beat the Colts but, regardless of results, will come in six-seed and so face the age old question of whether to play or rest their best players.

That bye is particularly important to an Eagles team who are desperate to give a full rest to star quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has been sensational for the Eagles but missed the two recent losses due to a shoulder injury.

With the Cowboys facing a relatively easy game against the Commanders, all eyes will be on the Eagles to see if they can turn around their mini-slump to end the season on a high, or lose all the momentum they have built up this season.

The game gets underway at 4:25 pm ET on Sunday.

Jalen Hurts has only lost one game this season with the Eagles.

Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.

Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus

Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN

Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN

Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN

Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5

US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime

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