Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Andre Roberts
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Andre Roberts (7) returns a kick for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Mike Shara

Week 18 just sounds weird, doesn’t it? I had just gotten used to saying, “Week 17” and now this? Something tells me it’ll only be a matter of time before the owners will have these men playing 25 games a year. With that said, it isn’t a total cash grab – some games this weekend will determine playoff seeding and possible home field advantage in the first round for teams that have already clinched a spot. Some games will determine whether a team is even going to reach the playoffs or not, with several teams forced to scoreboard watch during their own game, hoping that the teams they’re battling with come up short and that they’ll get to extend their season for at least one more week. There is actually an abundance of intrigue left as the NFL enters it’s first-ever Week 18 and a lot is still on the line. Almost every game this week has some sort of playoff consequences. There is also a game between Washington and the Giants, so…yeah. Week 18. Get used to it.

Last week helped clarify some things. The Packers, led by likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, became the first and only team to secure a first-round bye by dismantling the Vikings at Lambeau Field. Philadelphia beat the Washington Wieners, and even though the Eagles currently sit in the 7th and final spot in the NFC, they have clinched a playoff spot while the 49ers currently sit in sixth but somehow haven’t secured anything yet. Math is hard. In the AFC, Buffalo and New England both won handily and assured themselves of playoff spots, heading into the final week tied for the lead in the East division with identical 10-6 records. The other three division titles were all claimed as Cincinnati, Tennessee and K.C. each won, leaving five teams battling for the final two spots. None of those five teams are based in Cleveland. Too soon, Dog Pound?

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This site does not pay me nearly enough to go through all the potential playoff scenarios that could unfold this weekend and frankly I’m not sure I understand them all well enough to explain them all, anyway (see the San Fran/Philly thing in the last paragraph for evidence of my limited grasp) but I know enough to see a LOT of games that will matter. To wit: Indy has to travel to Jacksonville (where they have not won since 2014, believe it or not) to keep themselves in the hunt, Pittsburgh will travel to Baltimore – where else would the Steelers play Ben Roethlisberger’s final road game? – in a game that will eliminate one of those two teams (that I’m sure of), New England will try to win the division title against an 8-8 Dolphins team in Miami, and the Chargers and Raiders will also play a ‘Loser Goes Home’ steel cage match on Sunday night in Vegas.

No Monday night game this week – everyone’s schedule ends by Sunday so each team is equally rested for the playoffs – but Saturday has two games, so that’s something to look forward to. All games are listed at EST. Check your local listings to see which games are being broadcast in your area – and pray one of them is not Vikings/Bears. If that’s the only 1:00 game showing in your area, you should refuse to pay your satellite/cable bill. And you should also really consider moving.


Kansas CityDenver (+10.5 on FanDuel4:30 pmESPN, ABC
DallasPhiladelphia (+7 on PointsBet)8:15 pmESPN, ABC


CincinnatiCleveland (-6 on BetMGM1 pmFOX
Green BayDetroit (+3.5 on DraftKings)1 pmFOX
ChicagoMinnesota (-3.5 on FanDuel)1 pmFOX
WashingtonNY Giants (+6.5 on BetMGM)1 pmFOX
IndianapolisJacksonville (+15.5 on FanDuel)1 pmCBS
PittsburghBaltimore (-5.5 on BetMGM)1 pmCBS
TennesseeHouston (+10 on PointsBet)1 pmCBS
New OrleansAtlanta (+4.5 on DraftKings)4:25 pmFOX
NY JetsBuffalo (-16.5 on BetMGM)4:25 pmCBS
San FranciscoLA Rams (-4 on FanDuel)4:25 pmFOX
New EnglandMiami (+6.5 on FanDuel)4:25 pmCBS
SeattleArizona (-7 on DraftKings)4:25 pmFOX
CarolinaTampa Bay (8 on PointsBet)4:25 pmCBS
LA ChargersLas Vegas (+3 on BetMGM)8:20 pmNBC

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