The final week of the NFL season (now Week 18 for the second year after the regular season was extended by a game starting in the 2021 season) always has more than its fair share of uncertainty given that some teams’ seasons are already over and others are locked into certain playoff positions.
Week 18 in 2022 was shaping up to be a bit more normal because of the 14 playoff spots available, just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-seed in NFC) and New York Giants (6-seed in NFC) were set in stone.
More clarity was expected after Monday night’s Buffalo vs. Cincinnati game. A Bills win would’ve put them in a solid position to clinch home-field advantage in the AFC, and a Bengals win would’ve given them the AFC North crown. Since Kansas City vs. Las Vegas is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, Cincinnati would’ve known by game time on Sunday whether or not they had a chance at home-field advantage by kick-off time for their game vs. division rival Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
But with the incident in the Monday night game where Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field following a tackle, both teams’ immediate futures are in question. The game was suspended at 7-3 midway through the first quarter and did not resume. It’s unclear whether that game will restart, and each team’s Week 18 contests are currently off the board at the major sportsbooks.
While we await word of what the NFL will do regarding the future schedule, here are three games that could be impacted by playoff seeding or positioning.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-14 at DraftKings)
For a while, it was looking like this game would be important for the Giants against an Eagles team that would’ve already sewn up home-field advantage in the NFC. Philadelphia, however, was without quarterback and MVP candidate Jalen Hurts for the last two games, and the Eagles dropped both contests to Dallas and New Orleans.
That leaves Philly needing to win this week to secure the top seed in the NFC. With a loss and a Cowboys win over Washington, who is eliminated from playoff contention, the Eagles would shockingly drop into a wild card spot after a 13-1 start to the season.
This early spread suggests that Hurts not only will start, but the Giants may rest players like running back Saquon Barkley and QB Daniel Jones given that they are locked into their playoff seed. Head coach Brian Daboll did not say what he will do during a press conference on Monday, which further suggests that players will not see a full game’s worth of action.
That said, 14 points is a lot to give a team that likes to run the ball and has largely played good defense all season.
The Pick: While Hurts’ status is still in question, the value lies in the Giants here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-3 at BetMGM)
The Bucs are the other team with its playoff fate decided: they will host the NFC’s top wild-card team in the first round. Tampa Bay’s quarterback is 45-year-old Tom Brady, who continues to defy his age by throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns last week in the NFC South clincher over Carolina.
Brady says he wants to play, as he’s only missed games due to injury in 2008 and the “Deflategate” suspension of four games in 2018. It’s expected that he will start, but unlikely that he and several of the Bucs veterans will play the whole game. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been competitive despite a 6-10 record, and the Bucs are just 8-8 even though they are a division champion.
The Pick: We like the Falcons here to win and cover to end their season on a high note.
Detroit Lions (+4.5 at Caesars) vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are on a roll and control their own playoff destiny following a four-game winning streak. Detroit has had an impressive turnaround of their own, recovering from a 1-6 start to also sit at 8-8. But if Seattle beats the Los Angeles Rams at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, it will eliminate the Lions from playoff contention prior to their Sunday night contest at Lambeau Field.
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But even if that happens, don’t expect Detroit to go quietly into the night. They beat the Packers earlier this year, and head coach Dan Campbell has shown to be an excellent motivator. If the Lions can’t get into the playoffs, expect them to be laser-focused to take their NFC North rival down with them.
The Pick: Green Bay might come away with the win, but Detroit getting more than a field goal represents good value.