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July 25, 2024

Several Key Games With Major Playoff Implications in Final Week of NFL Regular Season

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Jan 6, 2024

The 2023 NFL regular season comes to an exciting conclusion this weekend, with multiple matchups in Week 18 having significant playoff implications. As the final pieces of the playoff puzzle come together, here is a breaking look at some of the top storylines.

AFC North Title, Final Playoff Spots Up For Grabs in Saturday Doubleheader

This Saturday’s AFC North doubleheader between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, followed by the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, will go a long way in determining the division champion and final AFC playoff spots.

The Steelers-Ravens matchup has major implications, as both teams remain alive in the hunt for the 7th playoff seed. The winner keeps their postseason hopes alive, while the loser will be eliminated. Pittsburgh is banking on the connection between rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and rising star receiver George Pickens to make enough big plays to pull off the road upset.

AFC North Standings

| Team            | Record | 
|-----------------|--------|
| Cincinnati      | 11-4   |
| Baltimore       | 10-6   | 
| Pittsburgh      | 8-8    |
| Cleveland       | 7-9    |

The late game between the Colts and Texans carries weight in the AFC South race. While the 4-12 Texans have long been out of contention, the Colts at 4-11-1 still have an outside shot at the division crown if they win and get some help. After a disastrous season, Indianapolis is playing for pride and jobs in 2023.

Packers, Seahawks Jockey For Final NFC Playoff Spot

In the NFC, competition for the 7th and final playoff spot also comes down to the last game, as the 8-8 Green Bay Packers host the 8-8 Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

Despite down years filled with injuries and inconsistent quarterback play, the two legendary franchises have scrappy rosters fighting until the end for that last Wild Card opening. The Packers still boast top weapons in Aaron Jones and Christian Watson, while the Seahawks ride rookie sensation Kenneth Walker III in the backfield.

Whichever club emerges victorious punches their ticket to the playoffs. The loser sees their season come to a sudden, gut-wrenching end. This primetime matchup is essentially a play-in game for the postseason.

Bills, Dolphins Battle For AFC East Title

Arguably the marquee game with the biggest playoff implications in Week 18 happens Sunday afternoon, as the 12-3 Buffalo Bills take on the 8-8 Miami Dolphins with the AFC East division title on the line.

Buffalo entered the year as Super Bowl favorites but have failed to clinch the historically weak East due to starting quarterback Josh Allen missing games with an elbow injury. However, despite Miami sweeping the regular season series, the red hot Bills have won seven straight and look primed to take back control of the division.

The Dolphins rocketed out to an 8-3 start but have since collapsed with five straight losses behind third string rookie Skylar Thompson. Miami is barely clinging to the 7th playoff spot but could miss out entirely with a loss and some help from other contending teams. The Fins will need major mistakes from Buffalo to pull off the upset.

NFC East Champion Eagles Rest Starters in Finale

The Philadelphia Eagles have already locked up the NFC East title and earned the conference’s #1 seed at 13-3. As a result, head coach Nick Sirianni announced star QB Jalen Hurts and several other key starters will not play in Philly’s Week 18 finale against the New York Giants.

Eagles Notable Players Sitting Out Week 18

| Position   | Player          | Replacement     |
|------------|-----------------|-----------------|
| QB         | Jalen Hurts     | Gardner Minshew |   
| C          | Jason Kelce     | Cam Jurgens     |
| DE         | Brandon Graham  | Tarron Jackson  |

For the Giants at 9-6-1, the matchup represents a must-win to secure their playoff spot. New York currently holds the 6th NFC seed but cannot afford a loss with the Detroit Lions and Seahawks lurking one game back. Playing against Philadelphia’s backups represents Big Blue’s best-case scenario to lock up a Wild Card.

Conclusion & What Happens Next

As the 2023 regular season wraps up, the NFL playoff picture will finally crystallize after this dramatic Week 18. Several ferocious battles remain that will determine division championships and the final Wild Card spots in both conferences.

Once the dust settles, the real action amps up with Wild Card weekend. The top two seeds in each conference (Eagles, 49ers, Bills, Chiefs) will enjoy first round byes while the other 10 playoff teams square off. Just over a month later, the 2023 NFL season will culminate with Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

But first, the fateful final week must play out. Tune into all the games highlighted above as the playoff bracket takes shape to find out who survives and advances.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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