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NFL week 18 winners and losers: How the playoff picture shook out

Let’s review wild final weekend of regular season

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The final game of the 2021-22 NFL regular season was a classic Chargers vs. Raiders overtime game that will go down in the books. The winner advances to the playoffs, the loser is done for the year. The Chargers led one of the more impressive drives to score and force overtime - a 19-play, 83-yard drive capped by a Mike Williams touchdown. Williams then caught the 47-yard first down on one of the Chargers’ six fourth-down conversions.

The two teams exchanged field goals in overtime, and they were both well aware of the circumstances surrounding a tie. If the teams tied, they would both be playoff-bound, so why risk it? Well, Rich Bisaccia and the Raiders still wanted to win the game, especially after Brandon Staley called a timeout as the Raiders were allowing the clock to bleed. Daniel Carlson kicked the 47-yard field goal to secure the win. It was one of the better Sunday Night Football games in recent memory.

The playoffs are set.

Next weekend will have three straight days of playoff football that culminates with Monday Night playoff football. There are two divisional teams playing each other in the playoffs, and it should be an exciting week of play. Here are the winners and losers from Wek 18.

Winners

San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the 49ers squad earned a place in the NFC playoffs after a 27-24 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams. With a torn ligament in his throwing thumb, Garoppolo finished 23 of 32 for 316 yards to go along with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Star offensive weapon Deebo Samuel had eight carries for 45 yards and a touchdown to go along with four catches for 95 yards. The defense stepped up in overtime as rookie Ambry Thomas intercepted a deep pass from Matt Stafford to Odell Beckham Jr. to secure the victory.

Luckily for the Rams, the Cardinals lost at home to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, so the Rams earn the crown of NFC West champions but fail to secure the second seed and are now the fourth seed in the NFC. The 49ers will play the Cowboys next week at Jerry World. The Rams will now host the Cardinals in the Wild Card round; the Cardinals defeated the Rams 37-20 in week four on the road and lost to the Rams a few weeks ago on Monday Night Football 30-23 in Glendale.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers needed quite a bit to clinch a playoff berth in Week 18. Firstly, they needed the Jacksonville Jaguars, a +14.5 home dog, to defeat the Colts who were facing a win and in situation. That seemed unlikely, but they also had to defeat the Baltimore Ravens on the road. It was a good chance that the game would be Ben Roethlisberger’s last time as a professional quarterback, but the Colts had something else in mind.

Indianapolis blew its opportunity and lost 26-11 to Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh put themselves in position to defeat the Tyler Huntley-led Ravens in overtime. Roethlisberger led a 15-play, 65-yard drive to set up a 36-yard game-winning Chris Boswell field goal. Roethlisberger converted on a critical fourth-and-9 to set up Boswell. The kick was good, and the unlikely Steelers put themselves in a position to possibly extend their season into the playoffs. The only way Pittsburgh doesn’t make the playoffs is if the Chargers and Raiders tie. Pittsburgh must have sweated through their steel when Justin Herbert forced overtime, and then after Daniel Carlson and Dustin Hopkins traded field goals in overtime.

It appeared that the Raiders may be content with a tie (possibly), but Brandon Staley called a timeout, and then Josh Jacobs ripped off a 10-yard run on third-and-4 to set up the Carlson 47-yarder. Why Staley called the timeout, I’m not certain. Breath a sigh of relief Pittsburgh, you’re in the playoffs. Sadly, you have to travel back to Kansas City, where you recently lost 36-10.

T.J. Watt

The younger Watt brother tied Micahel Strahan’s sack record at 22.5.

Earlier in the game, Watt seemingly sacked Tyler Huntley and tied the record, but statisticians claimed the tackle wasn’t a sack and just a tackle for a loss. Despite that hiccup, Watt tied the record later in the game, but he could have realistically set a new one. Many will point to how Brett Favre possibly took a dive on Strahan’s record-setting sack back in 2001; but that’s neither here nor there, the record is now shared by Strahan and Watt.

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee did not make it easy, but they narrowly escaped Houston with a 28-15 victory. The win was incredibly valuable because it secured the Titans as the top seed in the AFC, giving Mike Vrabel’s team the sole first-round bye. Davis Mills and the Houston Texans battled and fought to win the football game, but it was just too little, too late.

It was a fast-paced second half, and the Titans end the game happy with all roads in the AFC going through Nashville. The Kansas City Chiefs must be very upset after they just missed the first-round bye after defeating the Broncos 28-24 on Saturday.

Losers

You blew it! You had it all, and you blew it!

This is in reference to the Indianapolis Colts, who faced a win and in situation against a 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars team. Jacksonville has struggled to mount any offense all season, but they quickly came out of the gate attempting to play spoiler with their division rival. Rookie Trevor Lawrence opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was concluded with a Laquon Treadwell touchdown.

If you’re a Colts fan, it’s still alright…it’s just a 7-0 deficit. However, Jacksonville was relentless on defense. They sacked Carson Wentz six times and forced two turnovers. Jacksonville controlled the clock and defeated the would-be playoff team 26-11. This could be one of the biggest disappointments in recent football history. The loss, coupled with a Pittsburgh Steelers win over Baltimore, eliminated the Colts from playoff contention.

The Colts had an opportunity to play post-season ball, but they were upset and were clearly outplayed. A ton of credit deserves to go to Jacksonville, who had nothing to play. This loss created a great opportunity for so many other AFC teams to make the playoffs. Indianapolis controlled their destiny and they blew it.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals started the year 7-0 and have now won only one of their last five games. The Cardinals were at home against a 6-10 Seahawks’ team in Week 18. Arizona would have won the NFC West if they found a way to defeat Seattle, but the Cardinals blew another game and lost 38-30. Running back Rashaad Penny of Seattle rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown, with a 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to all but seal the game for Seattle. Arizona has backpedaled their way into the playoffs. The Cardinals will play the Rams in the Wildcard round.

New England Patriots

New England had a shot at winning the AFC East today, but they needed the Buffalo Bills to choke against the Jets - a choke-job similar to the Colts against Jacksonville. New England didn’t receive that gift, but it wouldn’t have mattered because the Patriots lost 33-24 against the Miami Dolphins who dictated most of the game.