The 2023 NFL regular season comes to an exciting conclusion this weekend with Week 18. Several playoff spots and division titles remain up for grabs, making this a must-see week of action.
AFC South Title Race Headlines Final Weekend
The biggest game on the Week 18 slate features the 9-7 Indianapolis Colts hosting the 9-7 Houston Texans on Sunday night.  The winner will claim the AFC South division title and the 4th seed in the AFC. The loser will be eliminated from the playoffs.
Texans quarterback CJ Stroud has been battling an ankle injury but is expected to play.  He will need to be sharp to keep pace with veteran Colts QB Carson Wentz, who ranks 3rd in passer rating (103.8) this season.
Both teams rely heavily on their run games. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor leads the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards while Texans rookie Dameon Pierce sits 5th with 1,406 yards on the ground. With the season on the line, both backs could see 30+ carries on Sunday night.
|2nd AFC South
|T-1st AFC South
Other key AFC playoff scenarios in Week 18: 
- The 12-4 Buffalo Bills can clinch the AFC East division title with a win over the Dolphins
- The 11-5 Cincinnati Bengals can clinch the AFC North by beating the Baltimore Ravens
- The 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs need a win or Chargers loss to clinch the AFC West and #1 seed
NFC East Title On The Line In Washington
The banged up 12-4 Philadelphia Eagles are opting to rest several key starters, including QB Jalen Hurts who is still not 100% after suffering a shoulder sprain.  That opens the door for the 10-6 Dallas Cowboys to steal the NFC East crown if they can beat Washington on the road.
Cooper Rush will likely start again at quarterback for Dallas with Dak Prescott still recovering from a thumb fracture. RB Tony Pollard (1,359 total yards, 12 TDs) will be the focal point for a Cowboys offense that has struggled in recent weeks.
|1st NFC East
|2nd NFC East
The NFC playoff picture also contains these Week 18 storylines: 
- The 13-3 San Francisco 49ers need a win over the Rams to lock up the #2 seed
- The 11-5 Minnesota Vikings will earn the NFC North title with a victory against the Bears
- The 8-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers must beat Carolina while needing the Lions to upset the Packers to claim the final wild card spot
Motivation The Deciding Factor In Several Games
With playoff positions solidified for some teams, deciding who might rest starters becomes crucial when making Week 18 picks. 
The AFC North champion Bengals have very little to play for versus the Ravens. Baltimore needs a win plus some help to reach the postseason. The desperate team often prevails in this spot.
The Packers are locked into the #1 wild card spot in the NFC regardless of Sunday’s result against the Lions. Detroit will likely empty the playbook trying to enhance coach Dan Campbell’s case to keep his job.
Even playoff bound teams like the Bills and Vikings can’t afford to coast too much with potential home field advantage at stake. The top seeds earn a coveted first round bye and home field, advantages no contender wants to surrender lightly. 
Playoff Implications Galore
No NFL weekend matches the season’s final one for drama, emotion and playoff intrigue. Win and you are in. Lose and start scheduling those January golf vacations.
Nearly every game holds some postseason meaning, whether it be jockeying for seeds or claiming a division crown.  Unlike other sports that play best-of-seven series, the NFL playoffs offer no margin for error. Win once at home then take one of two road games. That’s the path teams must traverse to reach the Super Bowl.
Wild card weekend shapes up as a owner, featuring marquee matchups like Bills-Bengals, Cowboys-Bucs and maybe even Aaron Rodgers versus his hometown 49ers.  But first, those playoff tickets must get punched across the league in Week 18.
Will the game’s brightest young stars like CJ Stroud and Jonathan Taylor guide their teams into January? Can old heads like Carson Wentz and Aaron Rodgers conjure up some postseason magic? Those answers and more lie just ahead this weekend.
Sit back and savor every moment, football fans. It’s winning time across the NFL.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.