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Which teams have something to play for in Week 18

The NFL has arrived at the final week of the regular season. We take a look at who has something to play for and who might rest their starters this weekend.

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on January 1, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Week 18 of the NFL season is always fraught with obstacles for those playing DFS and season-long fantasy football. Some teams will be locked into a playoff position and a win or loss will be meaningless to their next step in the playoffs. Some players won’t be 100 percent and could rest because they have nothing to play for. Some younger players might see more playing time to help evaluate where they are in live action. And some players might be going for bonus incentives tied to a statistic like yardage accumulated.

This season we also have an extra component to factor in as we wait to see how the NFL plans to handle the Bengals-Bills postponement. Hopefully, we’ll get that info soon and can update this post, so keep an eye out.

There are teams that still very much need to win their Week 18 game for a chance to make the playoffs. We’ll start with those, as teams that must win, will play their starters and go all out.

Must win teams and matchups

Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (Saturday, 4:30 p.m)

The Chiefs need a win or a Bills loss to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC standings. The Chiefs will play all out, while the Raiders have nothing to play for.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (Saturday, 8:20 p.m)

The winner of this game is in the playoffs and the loser is likely out of the playoffs. The Jaguars would still have a shot at the playoffs if they lost, but would need a lot of help.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (8:20 p.m)

The Packers need a win and they’re in. It’s that simple. But, the Lions need some help and a win. That help, if it comes, would be earlier in the day when the Seattle Seahawks face the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions need the Rams to win for them to have a shot at the playoffs. So, if the Seahawks win, the Lions will have already have been eliminated by the time Sunday Night Football rolls around. The Lions, under Dan Campbell, would play all out, but there’s no doubt elimination would lets some wind out of their sails. But, if the Seahawks lose, this becomes a win and in game for both teams.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m.)

The Seahawks need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, so they will play all their starters and go all out to win. The Rams have nothing to play for, but they should play their current starters, or what’s left of them.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m.)

The Dolphins will play to win, as they still have a shot at a playoff spot. They need to win and have the Bills beat the Patriots to secure a playoff spot.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m.)

The Steelers can still make the playoffs if they win and the Patriots and Dolphins lose. They’ll play all out.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (1 p.m.)

The Patriots win this game and they’re in the playoffs. They will play all out. The Bills cannot get the No. 1 seed if the Chiefs beat the Raiders on Sunday, which is likely. But, they would still be in line to get the No. 2 seed instead of the No. 3 if they win this game. They could still get the No. 2 spot if the Bengals lose to the Ravens, but they will playing at the same time. The No. 2 seed would assure them a home game in the divisional round if they made it that far and that should be worth them playing to win.

Clinched playoff spot, but chance for better seeding

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m.)

Game-day update: The Ravens are resting their starters, which likely means the Bengals win this game and the Chargers will also rest their starters in the later game, as they would be locked into the No. 5 seed with a Ravens loss.

The Ravens are currently the No. 6 seed, but could climb to the No. 5 seed if they beat the Bengals and the Chargers lose to the Broncos. More importantly, with a win and a Chargers win, a Ravens-Bengals Wild Card matchup would be in place and the NFL would conduct a coin flip to determine home-field advantage for that game.

The Bengals could climb to the No. 2 seed with a win and a Bills loss coupled with some permutations of the strength of victory tiebreaker, but are guaranteed no worse than the No. 3 seed.

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (4:25 p.m.)

As you’ll see below, the Giants are locked into their seeding and will likely rest starters. The Eagles are not locked in yet and need a win to get the No. 1 seed, which they will do everything they can to get. There’s a good chance Jalen Hurts returns for this game as well, so an Eagles win seems pretty likely.

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (1 p.m.)

The Vikings are sitting at the No. 3 overall seed in the NFC and can’t move up to the No. 1 seed. They can move up to the No. 2 seed, but would need to beat the Bears and have the red hot 49ers lose to the depleted Arizona Cardinals. The odds are not good and we could see the Vikings rest players.

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (4:25 p.m.)

Game-day update: The Ravens are resting their starters, which makes it more likely the Chargers rest their starters, as Ravens loss in the early game means they are locked into the 5 seed.

The Chargers will finish in either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the AFC. To keep the No. 5 spot, they’ll need to beat the Broncos or if they lose, they’ll need the Bengals to beat the Ravens. How much that Bengals and Ravens game may mean is tied to the Bills-Bengals outcome, so some of the pieces to this equation are still missing, but, the Bengals-Ravens game will be an early game and if the Ravens lose, the Chargers won’t have anything to play for.

We did see a change in the odds for this Chargers-Bills matchup, which moved toward the Broncos, suggesting the books believe the team will end up resting starters.

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders (4:25 p.m.)

The Cowboys could get the No. 5, 2, or 1 seed, but the odds are slim for the top two seeds. They can win the NFC East with a win over the Commanders and a Philadelphia Eagles loss to the New York Giants. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants won’t play their starters much in a game they don’t need and the Eagles should get Jalen Hurts back for this game.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (4:25 p.m.)

The 49ers still have a slim shot at the No. 1 seed if the Giants can upset the Eagles and they beat the Cardinals. They get the No. 2 seed if they win and the Eagles also win or if they lose and the Vikings also lose. They could move down to the No. 3 seed if they lose and the Vikings win. The Cardinals will have David Blough starting and no DeAndre Hopkins. The 49ers could likely rest starters and still win this game. They will likely play to win though.

Resting starters

New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minnesota Vikings (possibly)
Los Angeles Chargers (possibly)

The Giants and Bucs are the two teams that have absolutely no way of moving up or down in the playoff seeding. They may start their healthy starters, but they won’t play much if they do. Backups on these teams could have some fantasy upside, but there aren’t any locks for big games.

Nothing to play for

These teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. They should play their healthy starters and if they don’t, we should know about it beforehand. They don’t have the same motivations at teams looking to move on in the playoffs, but they can still put up good fantasy points.

Las Vegas Raiders
Washington Commanders
Los Angeles Rams
Arizona Cardinals
Denver Broncos
Cleveland Browns
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
New York Jets
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Chicago Bears
Atlanta Falcons