NFL Week 18

Ben Drago

For the first time in NFL history there was a Week 18 on the schedule. Typically in the previous NFL season there were 3 preseason games and 16 regular season games. There is also a bye week built in within the season. The NFL in March 2021 approved an extra game to the schedule and removed a preseason game. This change took effect beginning in the 2021-2022 season. The preseason games are less interesting to the fan since they are less competitive than the regular season games and they are not televised. Clearly a calculated move, through adding another game, the NFL is likely to make more money through television rights. While this was clearly a business move, it also gives the fans an extra week of football and Week 18 in the NFL did not disappoint. 

With playoffs on the line 7 teams were fighting for the final 3 playoff spots. Going into the day on Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers had a 10% chance of making the playoffs and the Colts had an 88% chance of making the playoffs. With what was seemingly an easy win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts simply needed to win to make the playoffs. However, with a disastrous offensive performance, led by Carson Wentz, the Colts were defeated 26-11. This loss, ultimately eliminated them from the playoff hunt. Paving the way for the Steelers to clinch the 7th seed in the AFC. The Steelers beat the Ravens and all they needed to make the playoffs was for the Chargers and Raiders primetime game to not end in a tie. However, it was not that simple. Tied at 29-29 in the fourth quarter, the Raiders-Chargers game was headed to overtime. In the NFL there is a 10 minute overtime period and if neither team is winning then the game ends in a tie. Ultimately, the game ended on a game winning field goal in the final 2 seconds of the overtime period. The Raiders defeated the Chargers and clinched the 6th seed in the AFC. Their win also knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs and the Steelers clinched the final playoff spot in the AFC. 

In the NFC, there was one spot left and it was between the 49ers or the Saints. The 49ers would clinch the spot if they won and the Saints would clinch the final spot if they won and the 49ers lost. The Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons, taking care of business and now all they needed was a 49ers loss. With the 49ers down 17-0 in the second quarter, the Saints playoff chances were improving. However once halftime ended the 49ers mounted a second half comeback, scoring 17 unanswered points. The competitive game went into overtime and ultimately ended with the 49ers winning 27-24. With their win, the 49ers clinched the final playoff spot in the NFC. In both conferences the playoffs are set. The chaotic final Sunday of the regular season is paving the way for Wildcard Weekend on January 15-17.