Opinion & Analysis

Week 18 NFL Preview

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Welcome to Week 18, the NFL’s Season Finale.

The music stops playing this weekend and there are only three remaining chairs – three final postseason berths. With one week to play, 18 teams are in Super Bowl contention. The last time there were more entering the final week of the regular season was 15 years ago (20 in 2006).

The 2021 regular season concludes with 14 of 16 games featuring at least one team either in the playoffs or in playoff contention.

In the AFC, five teams are fighting for the final two playoff invitations. In the NFC, two clubs have a shot at the final playoff reservation. Only the GREEN BAY PACKERS have secured their playoff seeding, clinching the NFC’s No. 1 seed and only first-round bye.

The Season Finale kicks off on Saturday with a doubleheader on ESPN and ABC: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) visit the DENVER BRONCOS (7-9) at 4:30 PM ET and the DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5) travel to meet the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7) at 8:15 PM ET.

For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week are division contests. The last matchup on the 2021 regular-season schedule features the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) at the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET). The winner will earn the final spot in the NFL Playoffs.

FOUR TEAMS FIGHTING FOR NO. 1 SEED IN AFC: Only one team in each conference gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In the AFC, four teams enter the final weekend with an opportunity to earn that right, which includes homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The TENNESSEE TITANS (11-5) have the most direct path to that coveted No. 1 seed, win at HOUSTON (4-12) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET). But don’t sleep on the Texans, who have won two of their past three and defeated Tennessee in Week 11.

The Chiefs can secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed for a second straight season, but they need to first win at Denver on Saturday and hope for a Titans loss the next day. And if Houston defeats Tennessee in the early window on Sunday, and the Broncos defeat the Chiefs, the door opens for both the CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6).

BRADY CAN ADD TO HISTORIC RESUME: When the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (12-4) host the CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET), quarterback TOM BRADY has an opportunity to accomplish something only two players have done in 31 years.

Brady leads the NFL in passing attempts (682), completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). Only DREW BREES (2008) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (2013) have led the league in all four categories since 1991.

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