nfl week 18: four things to keep an eye on

By Tayyib Abu

After a difficult week, the final weekend of the NFL regular season is here. With playoff places still up for grabs, it should be a dramatic last two days. Here are four things to watch this weekend:

Win, And You're In

The Week 18 action kicks off today with a seismic game in the AFC South. The 8-8 Jacksonville Jaguars host the 7-9 Tennessee Titans in a defacto playoff game. The winner will qualify for the postseason as AFC South winners and claim the four seed. The Jags have won four straight games to lead the division, whereas the Titans are injury-ravaged and have lost six consecutive games. It feels like a foregone conclusion, but the pressure is firmly on Doug Pederson’s young Jaguars team. Over the last four weeks, the Jaguars 4th in DVOA.

Conversely, the Titans are 29th. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is playing red-hot football, while Josh Dobbs has only just arrived in Tennessee. With home advantage and confidence, the Jaguars are good enough to win. But strange things can happen; Mike Vrabel will have his team fired up and ready for a win-or-bust game. The Titans have also enjoyed longer rest, having last played on Thursday Night Football. Someone’s season will end tonight, while the other will host a game on Wildcard Weekend. The AFC South will crown its champion tonight.

Can The Eagles Finish The Job?

For 17 weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles have played like the best team in the NFL. They require one more win to lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs. Only the New York Giants stand in Philadelphia’s way. The Giants are almost certainly locked into the six seed. Therefore they may rest several starters. The Eagles crushed the Giants 48-22 a month ago and will be eager to forget last week’s defeat.

Star quarterback Jalen Hurts is set to return to the starting lineup, and a big win could enhance his MVP credentials. For Philly? A win will force the NFC through the wintry, hostile conditions of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Happy Endings And Beginnings

12 months ago, the LA Rams were preparing for a Super Bowl run. Now, they are set to finish bottom of the NFC West, and big questions now surround the futures of LA’s central characters. Head coach Sean McVay is once again getting linked with TV roles. When asked about the rumors, McVay was non-committal. McVay was begged to return in 2022, but his engaging personality and insight will attract plenty of suitors. McVay got married in the offseason and has spoken about wanting to be there for his family. Legendary defensive tackle Aaron Donald was close to walking away last offseason and may consider doing so again. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has suffered multiple concussions this season, and the veteran may hang up the helmet for good. It feels like the end of an era for the Rams. Poor sequels often herald a franchise reboot in Hollywood, and it feels like the Rams are hurtling toward that reboot. 

As for the team that LA plays, it feels like a new beginning for the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson’s departure forced many analysts to say that Seattle would struggle this season. Pete Carroll’s team has dumbfounded the doom-mongers, and they stand on the verge of the playoffs. With a top-ten pick coming from Denver, the Seahawks’ future looks promising. A win over the Rams could be enough to get Seattle into the tournament. They are more confident, more talented, and will have the 12s roaring them on to victory. If Seattle wins, all eyes in the North West will be fixed on Sunday Night Football, where they will join every pair of eyes from Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Red Hot Finale On The Tundra

Wembley, Augusta National, the MCG, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are all iconic sporting venues. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is the most storied stadium in NFL history. And their 8-8 Green Bay Packers welcome their 8-8 neighbors from across Lake Michigan. Dan Campbell’s fighting Detroit Lions travel to Green Bay to either play spoilers or punch a ticket to the postseason. The final NFC playoff spot will go one of three ways; if the Packers win, they are in. A Seahawks win and a Lions win will hand Seattle the seven seed. And a Seahawks loss, paired with a Lions win, and it will be Detroit that goes to the playoffs. 

However, none of that matters. The Lions and Packers will only have one thought, win. Green Bay played an ugly game in the loss to Detroit at Ford Field. Aaron Rodgers was intercepted three times, and the Lions restricted Green Bay to just 106 total rushing yards. After dismantling the Vikings last week, the Packers will be desperate to scratch off another division win. They control their destiny and are playing their football of the season.  

As for Detroit, their playoff fate could be sealed before kickoff if Seattle wins. But that will not deter them. The last primetime game Detroit played was Week 2 in 2021 at Green Bay. At the start of this season, the Lions were the most inexperienced team in the NFC. The young Lions players have spoken all week about how hungry they are to perform in primetime and announce themselves to the NFL. There is also the carrot of a winning season. If Detroit were to finish 9-8 in year two of a rebuild would be a massive boost. 

Dan Campbell labeled it a playoff game. Lions safety DeShon Elliott upped the ante with his comments in midweek. Playoffs or not, the men from the Motor City will rev up that engine one more time. 

The Packers are the battle-tested veterans. They have run the NFC North for a long time. The Lions are the young, hungry upstarts desperate for change. As season finales go, this could be electric.



Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1