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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.

George Pickens #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring a touchdown with his teammates Mason Rudolph #2 and Allen Robinson II #11 during the third quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on December 23, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

We are approaching the final week in the 2023-2024 NFL season. Some teams are already locked into the playoffs, and some are even locked into specific seeds in the playoffs, while others are already turning their attention to the 2024 NFL Draft and the offseason. Let’s take a look at every team’s scenario in Week 18, including which teams have something to play for and which ones do not.

Must-win teams and matchups

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

Steelers don’t technically have to win, but of the five scenarios that could see them secure a playoff spot, three of them involve a Steelers win.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans

If the Jaguars win, they win the AFC South and earn the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. If the Jags lose, they should still be able to make the playoffs, but technically have yet to clinch.

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts

The winner of this game would win the AFC South if the Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Tennessee Titans. The winner also gets into the playoffs if Jacksonville were to win.

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

The Bills have yet to clinch a playoff berth, yet could win the AFC East with a win in this game. They still have a solid shot with a loss, but it would be out of their hands.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers

The Bucs head into Week 18 on top of the NFC South due to tiebreakers. If they beat the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay will secure the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. If they lose, they are out.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

If Tampa Bay loses to Carolina, this game becomes for the NFC South, and the winner would go on to be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Loser is eliminated from contention, as would the winner if Tampa Bay were to win over the Panthers.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

Seahawks need a win to stay in the playoff hunt. They will need some help from other teams if they lose.

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

The Packers are win and in for this game following Week 17’s win over the Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

Vikings don’t control their own destiny, but a loss eliminates them from playoff contention entirely.

Clinched playoff spot, but chance for better seeding

The Eagles and Cowboys are trying to win the NFC East, while the Dolphins could drop all the way to the sixth seed with a loss to the Bills. They should all play their starters.

The Lions can get either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the NFC, and Dan Campbell says he will play his starters. The odds are slim they can move up to the No. 2 spot, so I would be wary of their starters playing all out, especially if the game gets out of hand somehow.

The Rams don’t have much to play for, as the odds of them not being the 6th seed are slim. They will rest starters and let the chips fall where they may.

Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles
Los Angeles Rams
Miami Dolphins

Clinched playoff spot, but locked into seeding

Some of these teams might play their starters, but we just can’t know if they will play very long. I’d avoid them in fantasy this week.

Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs
Cleveland Browns

Update: Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday that Sam Darnold would get the start against the Rams, per Clayton Holloway. Wentz vs. Darnold!

Update: Head coach Andy Reid says they will rest Patrick Mahomes and other select starters against the Chargers, per Ian Rapoport.

Update: Head coach Kevin Stefanski will rest starters, per Chris Easterling.

Update: Right after the 49ers win over the Commanders, Shanahan said, “We’ll definitely try to rest some guys, but you can’t rest everybody.”

No playoff hopes 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.

Carolina Panthers
Washington Commanders
New England Patriots
Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants
Los Angeles Chargers
Tennessee Titans
New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals
Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos
Chicago Bears