Week 18 hinges entirely on motivation. Let's take a look matchup by matchup to examine the stakes for the final week of the regular season. Since access to all contract incentives is not readily available, we will look at significant achievable milestones in each matchup.
Buffalo vs. New England
The Bills have clinched the AFC and need to win to maintain the conference's top spot. The Patriots are playing for their playoff lives after beating Miami in Week 17. A win puts the Patriots in regardless of the Dolphins' outcome. A loss and a Miami loss give them the spot.
- Josh Allen enters Monday's game 515 yards short of his franchise record of 4,544 passing yards and five touchdowns away from his record 37, both set in 2020.
- Devin Singletary is 210 yards short of 1,000; the last Bill to hit 1,000 rush yards was LeSean McCoy in 2017.
- Stefon Diggs is 43 yards away from Eric Moulds' 1,368, the second-best single-season total in franchise history behind Diggs' own 1,535 in 2020. Diggs is also one touchdown behind Bill Brooks' team record of 11 touchdowns.
- Rhamondre Stevenson is just 14 yards away from 1,000, trying to become the first Patriot with 1,000 yards since LeGarrette Blount in 2016. Critical injuries at different points in the season and an offense that ranks in the bottom ten in production eliminates any other significant statistical milestone hunts.
NY Jets vs. Miami
The Jets were eliminated following their loss to the Seahawks in Week 17. They continue the longest playoff drought in the NFL, now up to 12 years. Miami needs to win and needs a Patriots loss to Buffalo. The Dolphins are tied with the Lions for the third-longest five-year drought. The Giants also stood at five years but punched their ticket in Week 17. The Jets currently hold the 13th pick in the draft. They can climb as high as tenth or as low as 15th. They will look to play spoiler for a division rival.
- Garrett Wilson became the 26th Jet to top 1,000 receiving yards, hitting the number in Week 17. Wilson leads all rookies in yardage and has shown the ability to produce with uncertainty at the quarterback position.
- Tyreek Hill has already set franchise and career highs with 117 catches and 1,687 yards. That yardage total is 13th all-time; a 95-yard game would move him past Isaac Bruce for the seventh-best season.
- Jaylen Waddle is up to 1,311 yards, 78 yards behind Mark Clayton for the second-best total in team history.
- These two receivers have accounted for most of the Dolphins' yardage, while Raheem Mostert has set a career-high with 820 rushing yards to lead the team.
Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
If the Steelers beat the Browns and the Dolphins and Patriots both lose, the Steelers grab the seventh spot. Meanwhile, Cleveland was eliminated in Week 16. The Browns played spoiler to Washington in Week 17 and, lacking their draft pick following the Deshaun Watson trade, would surely love to spoil their hated rival's season.
- Najee Harris is on the verge of a second straight 1,000-yard season to start his career, with 954 yards.
- Diontae Johnson has an outside shot at 1,000 yards with 844. Johnson is flirting with a dubious record. With 84 receptions, he is one away from tying James Wilder's 85 for most in a season without a touchdown.
- Nick Chubb is chasing his career high, his 1,448 rushing yards are 46 away from his career high, and his 12 touchdowns have tied his career best. He is 96 yards away from the second-best season in team history, 1,544 yards from Jim Brown in 1965. Chubb sits fourth in Browns' history in rushing yards and third in career touchdowns.
- Amari Cooper had another big game in Week 17, pushing his season-long totals to 1,109 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The touchdowns are a career-high, and the yardage is 80 yards short of his high. That yardage total is the sixth most in team history.
Baltimore vs. Cincinnati
The Bengals can clinch the AFC North and stay in the hunt for the number one seed with a win over Buffalo. Meanwhile, a loss keeps Baltimore in the running for the division, to be decided in Week 18. With seeding at stake, the Bengals will have something to play for, regardless. Even if Cincinnati clinches, the Ravens will still be fighting to grab the fifth seed and the matchup with the AFC South champions.
- The Bengals can establish a franchise record 13 in a season if they win their last two games. Joe Mixon has a shot at 1,000 yards, with 787 and two games to play. Mixon would climb into fourth all-time on the franchise rush list with 70 yards; his 39 career rushing touchdowns already put him in fourth. Joe Burrow is 351 yards shy of his franchise record of 4,611 passing yards, set in 2021. His next touchdown pass will break his record of 34, also set in 2021. Ja'Marr Chase is 40 yards shy of 1,000, while Tee Higgins has already hit the mark.
- Mark Andrews has been disappointing but still has a chance at a second straight 1,000-yard season with 847 yards. His 100 yards in Week 16 were his first time over the century mark since Week 6. Injuries to Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins have taken away any other milestone chases, but motivation will be high, given the playoff standings at stake.
Houston vs. Indianapolis
Neither team possesses any extra motivation short of trying to end the season on a solid note. No game has less short-term stakes while still being loaded with long-term stakes. If the Texans lose, they pick first in the draft. The Colts are currently slotted fifth. With a loss, they can climb as high as third with help from Denver and Arizona. With a win, the lowest they can fall is sixth.
- You know. I got nothing. Dameon Pierce was a nice story, with 939 rushing yards on pace to break Steve Slaton's franchise record of 1,282 rookie yards until he missed the season's final four games. The next rusher on the team is Royce Freeman, with 102. Davis Mills backslid across the board from his rookie season. Brandin Cooks' 593 yards are one of his lowest career seasons. Sometimes a lost year is just a lost year.
- Michael Pittman Jr has a chance to become the tenth player in team history to top 100 catches, with 96 on the season. At 893 yards, 1,000 is in sight as well. That's about it.
Tennessee vs. Jacksonville
The Saturday Night contest is for control of the AFC South and the fourth seed in the conference. The winner takes all; the loser is out. Motivation will be no question.
- Trevor Lawrence is 99 yards away from his first 4,000-yard season and 466 yards away from Mark Brunell's 4,367, the second-highest single-season total in franchise history. Lawrence's 24 touchdown passes are already the second most in a season. Blake Bortles' 35 franchise records of 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns are safe.
- Travis Etienne has already cleared 1,000 yards; at 1,108, he is well away from any significant thresholds.
- Christian Kirk topped 1,000 receiving yards in Week 17, and 1,009 yards is also far from any critical thresholds. The franchise has never had a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and 1,000-yard receiver in the same season.
- Derrick Henry is the Titans' offense and the only player close to significant thresholds. At 1,429 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, he is 111 yards and three touchdowns away from his second-best season in each category. His 379 receiving yards are a career-high. At 1,808 total yards, he has a shot at his second career 2,000 yards from scrimmage season.
LA Chargers vs. Denver
The Chargers can not fall below the sixth seed, but they need to keep pushing, as climbing into the fifth spot would mean a first-round matchup with the AFC South champion Jacksonville or Tennessee. Meanwhile, staying in the sixth seed would see the team travel to AFC North champion Baltimore or Cincinnati. Denver is eliminated from playoff contention and does not have their draft pick after the Russell Wilson trade. They are only interested in playing spoiler, as they nearly did in Week 17 against Kansas City.
- Justin Herbert has taken a step back from his 2021 season in both yards and touchdowns, though his 68.2% completion is a career-high and his 662 attempts are ten shy of his previous high.
- Austin Ekeler's 102 catches are a career-high; he needs 14 receptions to tie Christian McCaffrey's running back single-season record of 116. His 881 rushing yards are 30 short of his career high, and his 13 touchdowns set a new career high. One of the best seasons of his career.
- Mike Williams has a slim chance of recording his third 1,000-yard season, needing 137 yards.
- Injuries sapped Keenan Allen's counting numbers, but he is just 18 yards behind Charlie Joiner for third most in career franchise history.
- The Broncos' offensive season has been utterly forgettable. Russell Wilson turned in one of his worst statistical seasons, but with 40,300 career passing yards, he passed Johnny Unitas on the all-time list. Next up is Joe Montana, 251 yards away.
- Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton would need huge days to hit 1,000 yards, with 818 and 796 yards, respectively.
Kansas City vs. Las Vegas
The Chiefs are pushing hard for the top seed in the AFC, needing help from the Bills and unable to take a loss. The Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17. They fall into the same draft band as the Falcons, able to pick as high as sixth and as low as ninth.
- Patrick Mahomes II is 429 passing yards from Peyton Manning's single-season record of 5,477 and 185 total yards from Drew Brees's single-season record of 5,562. The second record should fall.
- Isiah Pacheco's 766 rushing yards are 109 away from Abner Hayes' 875 for the third most by a rookie in team history.
- Travis Kelce's 104 receptions are one behind his career high, and his 12 touchdowns set a career-high. He is 12 receptions from Zach Ertz's single-season tight end record of 116 and 116 yards from his tight end record of 1,416.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster has a shot at 1,000 yards with 898.
- Josh Jacobs has the second-highest single-season rushing total with 1,608, and he is 151 yards behind Marcus Allen's team record of 1,759. This game is likely to be Jacobs' last with the Raiders, and he would depart fifth on the franchise's all-time rushing yardage list (4,695 yards) and third all-time in touchdowns (40).
- Davante Adams set a new Raiders franchise record with 1,443 receiving yards. His 95 receptions are 12 behind Darren Waller's record 107, and his 14 touchdowns are second behind Art Powell's 16.
Dallas vs. Washington
The Cowboys still have a chance at the NFC East championship and the overall number-one seed in the NFC with a win and an Eagles loss. The Commanders were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Browns and the Packers' win over the Vikings. The Commanders sit with the 15th pick in the draft and have a chance to get into the top ten.
- Dak Prescott's early season injury cost him a shot at most meaningful counting stats, though his 22 touchdown passes are just one away from the third-best total of his career. His 69.2% completion is a career-high and second in the league behind Geno Smith's 70.2%.
- Tony Pollard has been a revelation and sits 12 yards from 1,000, while Ezekiel Elliot is 134 yards away from the same mark. The NFL has seen teammates hit 1,000 yards seven times, most recently with Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram II in Baltimore in 2019. Elliott has the longest active streak of rushing touchdowns, scoring in nine straight games, halfway to Ladanian Tomlinson's NFL record of 18.
- CeeDee Lamb is nine behind Michael Irvin's franchise record of 111 receptions. Lamb's 11 receptions last week were the second time he has hit that number this season, joining Amari Cooper, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant as the only Cowboys since 1995 to hit that number twice a season. Lamb's 1,307 are the ninth most in a Cowboys season, but he is only 89 yards from Michael Irvin's 1,396 for the third-highest total.
- The Commanders officially have nothing to play for with their playoff elimination. Ron Rivera was asked if the team would give rookie Sam Howell a game, and Rivera was non-committal.
- Terry McLaurin is the Commander's statistical leader, and his 1,117 yards are just one shy of his career-best season. A strong finish can push him into a top-ten receiving season for the franchise, with Art Monk's 1,226 representing the threshold.
- Jahan Dotson has a chance to set a franchise mark for rookie receiving touchdowns; his seven are one behind Charlie Brown's rookie franchise record of eight in 1982.
NY Giants vs. Philadelphia
It would have been shocking to say a month ago, but the Eagles are still playing for the NFC East and overall one seed. Meanwhile, the Giants locked up their playoff positioning in Week 17. The Giants will be the sixth seed regardless of a win or loss. It is an opportunity to sit their starters.
- Miles Sanders has turned in a top-10 rushing season for the franchise, with 1,236 yards. A top-five season is within reach, with Brian Westbrook's 1,333 less than 100 yards away.
- A.J. Brown is just 8 yards away from Mike Quick's franchise record of 1,409 receiving yards. Brown has had his best statistical season, and his 11 touchdowns are three short of Terrell Owens' franchise record 14.
- It would take a big game, but with 88 receptions, the 100-catch mark is in sight for DeVonta Smith.
- Saquon Barkley's 1,312 yards are a career-high, but a top-five season in Giants history is in sight with Tiki Barber's 1,387 mark. Even if the Giants play their starters, expect a quick hook in this one. If the starters sit, the Giants have split work between Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell. Brightwell has lost some of the role he held in the Giants' offense, but that could indicate an increased opportunity, given the low stakes.
Detroit vs. Green Bay
The final NFC wildcard falls between the Lions, Packers, and Seahawks. The Packers are in with a win. If the Lions win and the Seahawks lose, they get the spot. A Seahawks win and a Lions win gives the Seahawks the spot via the head-to-head tiebreaker. No doubt motivation in this game.
- Jared Goff has put together one of his best seasons. His 4,214 passing yards are his third-best and 477 short of his career high. His 29 touchdown passes are his second-best and three short of his career-high 32, a number that also represents the second-best total in team history.
- Jamaal Williams sits just six yards shy of 1,000 on the season. The team has not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush's 1,006 in 2013. His 15 rushing touchdowns are one shy of Barry Sanders' team record 16.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown became the sixth Lion to hit 100 receptions. Eight receptions would put him into a tie with Brett Perriman for the third most in team history.
- Aaron Rodgers has a string of four consecutive 4,000-yard seasons that will end unless he throws for 510 yards. The Lions have a bottom-five passing defense, but Rodgers's career high is 480 yards.
- Rodgers' future with the franchise seems to be in limbo every offseason, but it is worth noting he sits just 2,805 yards away from Brett Favre's career franchise record
- Aaron Jones had his first 100-yard day since Week 10 to push his season total to 1,073. He is 31 away from a career-high.
Minnesota vs. Chicago
The Bears are playing for the potential number one overall pick with a loss and a Texans win. The Vikings are looking at the third seed but still could move up to second with a win and the 49ers' loss.
Justin Jefferson is the most disappointing fantasy performer from Week 17. He may have also lost his shot at history. His 15-yard game moved his season total to 1,771 but set him 193 yards away from Calvin Johnson's single-season record. Dalvin Cook has over 1,000 rushing yards for the season but is 44 yards from 6,000 for his career. Kirk Cousins is two touchdown passes short of a third straight 30-touchdown season.
- Justin Fields' hunt for Lamar Jackson's quarterback rushing yards record is the item to watch. Fields is 63 yards behind Jackson's 1,206-yard mark. The Bears are just trying to get through the end of this season.
Carolina vs. New Orleans
The Panthers' loss to the Buccaneers settled the NFC South and eliminated both teams from the playoffs. The Panthers have the most incentive to lose in terms of draft positioning. The Saints owe their first-round pick to the Eagles and come in off a three-game win streak. Their selection currently stands tenth, and tiebreakers make it hard to move much higher. Meanwhile, the Panthers own their pick, landing in a similar position as the Falcons and able to move between sixth and ninth.
- Alvin Kamara crossed 5,000 career rushing yards in Week 17 and ranks third in franchise history. His 49 career rushing touchdowns are three behind Mark Ingram II for the team record. Kamara had one of the most disappointing years of his career; his 92.1 scrimmage yards and four total touchdowns were the lowest of his six-year career.
- Chris Olave stands shy of 1,000 receiving yards with 982. He is fourth behind Michael Thomas (1,137), Marques Colston (1,038), and Willie Snead IV (984) in rookie yardage.
- D.J. Moore sits 122 yards away from his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Moore has at least 73 yards and a touchdown in four of his last five games, accumulating 43% of his yards during that span.
- With 846 yards, D'Onta Foreman has a chance at cracking 1,000.
Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay
With a win over Carolina in week 17, Tampa Bay locked up the NFC South and is locked into the fourth seed in the NFC. They have every incentive to rest their starters. Meanwhile, the Falcons are playing for pride and looking to give Arthur Smith his second straight seven in the season. The best draft pick the Falcons can get is sixth, while the worst they can do is ninth.
- Tyler Allgeier sits exactly at 900 yards. A 100-yard game gives him a 1,000-yard rushing season. No other player is near a significant statistical milestone.
- The Buccaneers have not had a meaningless final game since Tom Brady joined the team, with playoff positioning up for grabs each of the last two seasons. With the Patriots, Brady usually played the final game with conservative game plans.
- Mike Evans cleared out his annual 1,000-yard milestone with a 207-yard performance against the Panthers. He became the first player in NFL history to start a career with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
- Chris Godwin is two catches away from his first 100-reception season and 32 yards away from his third 1,000-yard season.
Arizona vs San Francisco
This game is one to monitor, given the west coast involvement. The 49ers are still pushing for the number one seed in the NFC but need an Eagles loss. Philadelphia and Dallas are likely moved to the afternoon window to account for this, but if they kick in the early window, the 49ers' fate could be decided. Meanwhile, the Cardinals sit with the fourth pick and could reach as high as two or as low as sixth. They have lost six straight and are playing out the string.
- Christian McCaffrey passed 1,000 rushing yards in Week 17 and 1,800 scrimmage yards. He has an outside shot at his second-best career yardage season of 1,965 though the 49ers are unlikely to push him too hard. He delivered a renaissance year for a player that fantasy managers had not seen since 2019.
- Brandon Aiyuk leads the team and is hunting a 1,000-yard receiving season, currently sitting with 956.
- Despite the Cardinals' elimination weeks ago, the team has been riding James Conner like a feature back, and he topped 1,000 scrimmage yards in Week 17. A shin injury did knock him out of the game, and the team should be conservative, given the stakes. The team lacks other players hunting milestones, and the offense has struggled since Kyler Murray's season ended in Week 14.
LA Rams vs. Seattle
The Seahawks' playoff dreams are on life support. They need to beat the Rams and need the Lions to beat the Packers. The Rams are eliminated and owe their pick to the Lions. They will have plenty of incentive to play spoiler.
- It is not a round number, but one that is interesting nonetheless. Geno Smith sits at 4,069 passing yards, 150 yards away from Russell Wilson's best season as a Seahawk.
- Ken Walker III is at 936 rushing yards, 64 shy of 1,000, and has rushed for nine touchdowns. He would become the 14th Seahawk to record a 1,000-yard season with at least ten touchdowns.
- Tyler Lockett returned from injury in Week 17, recording 15 yards to put him at 979 as he looks for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
- The Rams do not have any players chasing milestones, but it should be noted Cam Akers has averaged 72.28 yards per game with six touchdowns in the seven games since Week 11. Those numbers would translate to 1,229 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has crushed the second half of the season in a lost situation.
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