So here's the problem: some teams with little to play for will still treat Week 18 like a normal week. Some will put their starters in place to start the game, but hand things over to the backups as the game progresses; some will only sit certain players for certain periods of time. And some teams will sit everyone relevant. Which teams will do what?
Well, that's pretty much impossible to say until we get some sort of official word from the teams themselves. Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni told reporters Monday that he could consider seating some key playersalthough that decision might not come until halftime – the Eagles must win And have the Cowboys lose against Commanders for a chance to win the NFC East, so if Dallas gets up early, that could trigger the decision.
We can of course make educated guesses on some of these, and if you look at the Vegas lines, it looks like we already have. THE Crows are outsiders with 3.5 points at home against Steelers Saturday is a good sign that the starters should sit tight now that they've earned a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs; likewise, the 49ers are only favored by 3.5 at home against the Rams with their No. 1 seed locked in, and they have already announced Christian McCaffrey will not play due to slight calf strain. THE Chefs are 1.5 outsiders compared to the Chargersassuming Andy Reid will do what he has done in the past and rest his starters.
Among playoff teams, the Ravens, 49ers and Chiefs are three of five teams that effectively have nothing to play in Week 18, along with the Rams and Browns. The Rams' top seed in the NFC bracket could be affected by the outcome of their game, but they are most likely the sixth seed and can't go higher than that, so Sean McVay might decide he doesn't doesn't have much to play for. for one or the other.
Here's what each team's outlook looks like for Week 18, with teams in the top two categories and the bottom most likely to sit their starters this weekend:
- Teams that have nothing to play for in Week 18 because they locked up the No. 1 seed in their conferences: Ravens, 49ers
- Teams that have nothing to play for because they are effectively locked into a playoff spot: Browns, rams, heads
- The teams that absolutely must win in week 18: Invoices, Jaguar, Colts, TexansSteelers, Buccaneers, Packers, sea hawks, Saints, Vikings, Falcons
- Teams that really want to win in Week 18: dolphinsCowboys, the LionsEagles
- Teams that have nothing to play because they were eliminated from the playoffs: Bengals, Broncos, Raiders, JetsChargers, Titans, Patriots, Bear, giantsCommanders, Cardinals, Panthers
Now, all of these lower bracket teams can rest no starters even though they have nothing to play for, because, well… they don't have to worry about the playoffs to be in good health. We've already seen the Broncos and Commanders turn to backup quarterbacks (at least before the injuries), but the Bears still have a lot on the line in Week 18, as they have a very tough decision to make regarding Justin Fields' future. They'll probably keep their starters there throughout the game for at least one more look.