NFL Week 18 Recap

This week leaves everything in the balance: the final week of the regular season, with many seeds still up for grabs and teams chomping at the bit for the last two spots. Unlike other recaps, which are presented in chronological order, this one will be organized based on relevance to the playoffs. With that said, let’s get the unimportant games out of the way quickly.


Buccaneers 17, Falcons 30

It’s a meaningless game for both sides. The Bucs have already locked up a playoff berth and home field in the first round, while Atlanta is just looking to see what they have in Desmond Ridder. If today was any indication, the Falcons have a pretty bright future with him. Ridder skied the ball all day long, and the Falcons cruised to victory to give closure to the season. It comes with the asterisk of being against a backup defense, but they’ll take what they can get down there.


Panthers 10, Saints 7

Two teams with stout defenses and terrible offenses that are both out of the playoffs. It was expected to be a horrible game, and it turned out to be such. The poor fans in attendance should demand a refund for their time, as nothing they witnessed can be called football. Instead, it was a freak show demonstrating how bad the NFC South is. Carolina just gave themselves a worse draft pick, and nothing else happened here.


Chargers 28, Broncos 31

The Chargers should sound the alarm. They lost to the Broncos. And this wasn’t even with their backups in; Herbert played for most of the game, and the 1st team defense got most of the reps today. Russ Wilson proved that he was… kinda sorta worth that massive deal by torching that injury-riddled chargers D to market himself for next year. It doesn’t matter for LA in the long run, though, as they had locked up the #5 seed either way with this game.


Texans 32, Colts 31

Most people glancing at this game would brush it off as a meaningless match between two terrible teams with no relevance to their lives. However, for us, this is a golden matchup. Yes, my friends. None other than THE SEASON FINALE OF TANK BOWL!!!

This game brought forth every ideal that Tank Bowl represents. Indianapolis would fail harder for everything the Texans did to fail in this game. The first overall pick must be earned; it cannot be given. In this affair, both trash heaps would race as far down the desolate warehouse of Lucas Oil Stadium, stopping for nothing in the art of trying to hand the other victory. Indianapolis had the lead late, though. Everything was going according to plan for the Texans. Down to a 4th and 20 with one minute left, a hail Mary was all that stood between them and the First Overall Pick. But Indy has a few tricks up its sleeve. They conveniently plant a double agent in the endzone to muff the hail Mary, causing a touchdown for the Texans. Even better, Houston chose to go for two, and they got it. Oh, so now they show up? Not any other time, but here on this random Sunday when it would only hurt them in the long run? This team lost at losing. They can’t even tank right. They’ve ruined it. They’ve ruined it all! Now they must watch what happens in Chicago.


Vikings 29, Bears 13

This game is probably the least meaningless out of the five covered thus far. On the line is a chance for the Bears to secure infamy and for the Vikings to solidify a date with the Giants for next week. Fortunately for the Bears, Justin Fields was told to hit the pine today. Nathan Peterman, the Bills legend himself, got the start. The Bears may have lost this game in a blowout, but they have won a different, much more important prize. THE FIRST OVERALL PICK! Congratulations on your tank bowl. Step forward and receive your free Anderson- or whoever you desire.

Our first stop in the playoff picture takes us to the #1 seed in the AFC, which is still up for grabs. Kansas City can clinch it with a win, but Buffalo still has a shot if the Chiefs lose.


Chiefs 31, Raiders 13

Unfortunately, that last scenario will not happen, as the Chiefs figured out how to finish off the opponents they should crush. The rest of the game was a brief lesson in Japanese imperialism: completely dominating the opponent, committing countless war crimes, and infiltrating the civilian ranks with those of your own. Okay, Kansas City, we get it. You want the #1 seed. Take it! Arrowheads fly as the Chiefs get a much-needed bye week to regroup for whoever comes out of the Wild Card.


The next stop takes us to the AFC South. This one is self-explanatory. Tennessee and Jacksonville: win or go home.

Titans 16, Jaguars 20

If Tennessee wins, it’ll be more difficult for them, as they have elected to start Josh Dobbs again. I would be incorrect if I said it was a terrible effort against the Jags. The defense did a solid job, capitalizing on the Jags’ miscues and imposing their will physically, keeping the Titans in the game. However, the same cannot be said about their offense, which resembled 11 parking cones instead of a competent unit most of the game. Three turnovers by the offense, one leading to the go-ahead touchdown. It’s the perfect ending to a season of incredible disappointment for Tennessee. The Titans have missed the playoffs.

Eliminated: Tennessee Titans

What a disgrace. From having the world in their hands at 7-3 to losing seven in a row to choke away the division. Hopefully, this losing streak will result in some much-needed change in Nashville.

If you’re in Duval, you know darn well what this means. The Jags have made it back to the playoffs.

Playoff Bound: Jacksonville Jaguars

This is honestly an outstanding job by the Jags. They went from 3-7 and looking down the barrel of another lost season to rebounding to win five of six to win their division and knock off the longtime stalwart. This team competed in one of the first Tank Bowls, and now they’re competing in January. It’s a testament that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, regardless of the odds. They’re interesting going into next week. Really interesting.


Our next stop takes us to the AFC North, where chaos and unprecedented are the names of the game. Cincy can avoid all the confusion with a win, although they’ve technically locked up the division already. However, if they somehow lose to Baltimore and they wind up playing each other in the wild card round, the location of the playoff game would be determined by a coin toss.

Ravens 16, Bengals 27

If the Ravens are to pull this one out and make the almighty coin flip a reality, it will be much more complicated since backup Tyler Huntley is also out for this game. This means they must rely on their new golden goose, Anthony Brown. Oh boy. This is the point in Baltimore’s plan where everything dies. Cincinnati barely had to maintain a pulse to win this game. That’s how abysmal the Ravens were on the offensive front. And even worse, thanks to this loss, they no longer get the luxury of facing the AFC South champion in the playoffs. They get a rematch at Paul Brown Stadium against the Bengals next week. Lord have mercy.


The next stop on the docket is the 7th seed in the AFC. The Patriots have the easiest path with a win-and-clinch scenario but face a tall task in a rejuvenated Bills squad looking for someone to beat up on. Miami can clinch if the Patriots lose by beating the Jets. If New England and Miami lose, the Steelers can sneak in with a win over Cleveland. The Patriots get it via tiebreaker if all three teams at play lose.

Browns 14, Steelers 28

Don’t tell Pittsburgh, but there is still a shot that they can make it in. Far from playing down to their competition, the Steelers marched onto the field and owned the NFL’s equivalent of a penal colony for 60 straight minutes. Cathartic justice for Deshaun was the name of the game, as he was as inept as ever and gifted the Steelers golden opportunities. Now Pittsburgh must wait for the Jets and Buffalo to do their part.


Jets 6, Dolphins 11

It certainly was anticlimactic in a game that means a lot to the Dolphins. Due to injuries and ineptitude in the case of the Jets, the quarterback battle for this fine matchup is… Joe Flacco versus… Skylar Thompson. If that doesn’t spell awful football, I don’t know what does. Fortunately for Miami, they could barely beat the injury-riddled team starting their third-string quarterback to improve their chances and knocking out Pittsburgh.

Eliminated: Pittsburgh Steelers

This was a rebuilding year. That cannot be denied. However, the Steelers’ push to a winning record should be admired. Next year, they’ll be better. I’m looking forward to it. At least Tomlin avoids a losing season.


Patriots 23, Bills 35

It all comes down to this for New England. With Miami’s win, the Pats needed to win to stay alive. Unfortunately, they were not only running into the Bills but a Bills team somehow even more motivated than usual, thanks to Damar Hamlin’s miraculous recovery. New England would keep it close for 40 minutes, but by the time the 4th quarter rolled around, the dam broke, and Buffalo imposed their will just like the last three times they’ve played. This is when a reality sets in for the Bostonians. They will be out of the playoffs again.

Eliminated: New England Patriots

Too inconsistent. That’s what I’d call the Patriots. A team that would smoke the likes of Detroit and Cleveland with their third-string quarterback in but then falls apart against the eventual Tank Bowl champion, the Bears. Another lost year for Belichick, who isn’t getting any younger.

By process of elimination, the Dolphins are the last men standing. They limp into a playoff spot that no one wanted to win.

Playoff Bound: Miami Dolphins

Congratulations, Miami. You barely secured the final spot after starting the year 8-3. Now you get the privilege of playing the part of the sacrificial lamb next week in Buffalo, especially if Tua isn’t playing. Showtime.


The next stop on our tour involves the #1 seed in the NFC. This one gets a bit complicated, as the team that controls their destiny here still hasn’t clinched their division. The NFL has done us a solid by flexing the games relevant to this to the 4:25 window for maximum drama. Philadelphia controls their destiny with win-and-clinch but will face a scrappy Giants team looking to play spoiler. If the Eagles lose to New York and the Niners win, San Fran gets the #1 seed. Add a Dallas win to that scenario, and the Cowboys get the NFC East and the #2 seed. If Philly and the Niners somehow lose, the Cowboys can get a first-round bye with a win over the Commies.

Cowboys 6, Commanders 26

If the Cowboys knew they still had a shot at the #1 seed this week, they certainly didn’t show it. Dallas walked into the Commies’ FedEx landfill and laid one of the most enormous eggs the nation’s capital has seen since their hockey team in game sevens. Dallas got utterly owned by a third-string quarterback, which raises serious questions. Super Bowl contenders, god, they might not even make it out of the first round. This team will get slaughtered by Brady next week if everything doesn’t go right for them. How Bout Them Cowboys?!


Cardinals 13, 49ers 38

It’s a bittersweet moment for the Cardinals and the NFL, as this was JJ Watt’s last game. The 49ers didn’t get the memo. They are selfish and need to solidify claims to future legitimacy so that they will show no mercy. However, the Cardinals win another special prize. The 2022 Injury Bowl! Be careful with it, Arizona. It’s fragile. Kingsbury and Keim are likely around next season, so we can only lament another lost season.


Giants 16, Eagles 22

Let me skip the whole whoop and buzz. The Eagles have clinched the NFC East thanks to the Cowboys’ loss. They still have the #1 seed to play for, so they kept their starters against a Giants team with nothing to play for. Their defense did its job by shutting down Davis Webb for most of the game. Unfortunately, their offense laid a massive egg for the second week in a row with Jalen Hurts playing. They better get their act together for two weeks from now, or else it might be one-and-done for them. They clinch the #1 seed, but a pretty weak one.


Our final stop on this tour is the last playoff spot to be locked up; the 7th seed in the NFC. The teams at play are the Seahawks, Lions, and Green Bay. Seattle plays in the earlier window and does not control their destiny, but it can knock out Detroit with a win over the Rams. Green Bay is win-and-in regardless of what happens with Seattle, but if the Seahawks lose, Detroit can complete a remarkable return to prominence by beating Green Bay to secure the #7 seed. If all three teams somehow tie, the Seahawks make it in via tiebreaker.

Rams 16, Seahawks 19 (OT)

Seattle must take care of business to stay alive. They did just that against the Rams. It looked a little hairy thanks to the Rams’ defense getting the better of Geno Smith throughout the game, but Seattle overcame the Rams thanks to sheer defensive will. The Seahawks survive to scoreboard-watch the Packer game, but the Lions aren’t so lucky.

Eliminated: Detroit Lions

I know they made a furious surge back to relevance, but this is where my sympathies end. Do you want to make the playoffs, Detroit? Don’t give up 37 points to the Carolina Panthers. Try again next year, do not pass go, and do not collect your first playoff win in 50 years. It was nice knowing you.

Lions 20, Packers 16

If there’s any sympathy to be had for the Lions, it’s because they can still play spoiler and bring joy to us all by knocking Green Bay out of the playoffs. It was looking dicey earlier in the game, but it was all over when the offense started humming in the 2nd half. The Lions weren’t playing for anything other than team pride, so the riskier stuff from the back of the playbook went on display today. It paid off in spades. Green Bay had no answers for any part of Detroit’s game plan in the 4th quarter. The entire game felt like one big party for Detroit… and for the Seahawks watching on their couches clinching a playoff berth.

Playoff Bound: Seattle Seahawks

Congratulations, Seattle. You get the privilege of getting beat like a drum by the Niners next week. However, as they say, you have a shot if you make the dance. The Seahawks are hoping to let the world know this.

This means misery for the Cheeseheads, who have missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Eliminated: Green Bay Packers

A horrible start, followed by a 5-game winning streak and hope abounds, only to falter in a primetime home game to your little brother to the south. Detroit should be the one playing spoiler. They are beginning to rise and replace Green Bay on the NFC North totem pole. This might be the last time Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb play at Lambeau. What a shame.



The football gods love a good feast. Black Monday is their holiday. Let us lament those in the coaching and executive ranks that have fallen this season.

Matt Rhule (Panthers HC, 2020-2022)

He looked good at the time of his hire. He had done yeoman’s work at Temple and Baylor, and many Panthers fans thought he would do the same in Carolina. Unfortunately, he did the opposite. Baffling playcalling and decision-making, his awful two-QB system, and the stereotypical College control freak wholly overmatched at the pro level. However, I don’t feel bad for him at all. In part due to that ridiculous contract that Tepper will have to buy out and also because Nebraska threw a dump truck full of cash at him just weeks after his firing. He’ll do better back at the collegiate level.

Frank Reich (Colts HC, 2018-2022

This one had been overdue for a while. It’s not a statement about Reich’s style. He was a good coach. Unfortunately, he was past his expiration date with the Colts. Reich’s coaching had worn off, and the inability to find a franchise quarterback ultimately doomed him. He’ll get another chance somewhere else.


Jon Robinson (Titans GM, 2016-2022)

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. For one, he did a good job reviving the Titans from the worst team in football to a perennial playoff contender. However, these past few years, he’s made some awful decisions that have led to the Titans spiraling down the drain. His magnum opus was the AJ Brown trade, where he shipped off a generational talent at the Wide Receiver position to draft a guy that doesn’t come close to Brown in terms of potential. However, I don’t know how much I can fault him for his firing. It doesn’t seem like the sacking was due to his job but rather due to a power struggle with Vrabel turning sour. He’s going to get another shot somewhere else.


Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos HC, 2022-2022)

When a coach gets fired before even completing a season with a new team, somebody screwed up big-time. Hackett came in with massive red flags from the beginning. He had managed god-awful offenses in Buffalo and Jacksonville before getting carried by a two-time MVP in his previous Green Bay role. His stint with the Broncos only proved the haters and pessimists right. The Hack was utterly overmatched, managing the worst offense in the league and being so bad at clock management that he had to hire an assistant to help him with it. That assistant ended up becoming the interim head coach. It’s no secret that The Hack was on thin ice after the first few weeks. Still, Denver’s complete inability to generate any offense caused George Paton to pull the trigger early and fire him after the Christmas Day fiasco against the Rams. Now watch them get Sean Payton next year.

Lovie Smith (Texans HC, 2022-2022)

We knew this guy was a placeholder, but to fire him after one year? Is it his fault that he had no talent to work with and his bosses were hellbent on tanking? Heck, he had Houston hanging in there with contenders by the end of the year! This decision and David Culley’s firing last year prove this organization’s backwardness. They will begin the hunt for their 5th head coach in 4 years—truly great asset management. As for Smith, he’ll probably get an opportunity in the coordinator ranks. Bears fans are already clamoring for a return to Chicago so he won’t be out in the cold for very long.


Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals HC, 2019-2022)

This was one that people could see from a mile away. Kingsbury was another example of a hot coaching prospect going to the NFL level and failing to rally his men. It’s funny how having Patrick Mahomes as your college quarterback can boost your potential. With Kingsbury at the helm, the Cardinals had abysmal second-half collapses every year. In Kingsbury’s career with Arizona, the Cardinals won four games in December or January. Four out of a potential Seventeen. That’s alarming and damning of his style of coaching. He got carried by Kyler last year, and he’s probably going to get another shot somewhere because he had coffee with Sean McVay in a past life. What a waste. The Cardinals are an organization in need of a total overhaul. Now watch them hire from within and learn nothing.


Todd Downing (Titans OC, 2021-2022)

Oh, so now you fire this guy? Not when anything could have been done, but after the season ends, when you need a scapegoat? Take a long walk off a pier Tennessee. May you never win that pathetic division again and get owned by Jacksonville for the next decade!


Mike LaFleur (Jets OC, 2021-2022)

If you had told me after the Jets beat the Bills in week nine that this guy would not only be fired at the end of the year but hated by most of the fanbase, I would have chucked you in a straightjacket. Yes, the quarterback carousel didn’t help, but LaFleur didn’t do himself any favors. Ridiculously predictable playcalling. Hugely over-reliant on the run game, and Garrett Wilson, check downs and draw plays on 3rd and long—a complete and total hack on offense. Hopefully, the new offensive coordinator will have the talent to work with next year.

This is a very underwhelming Black Monday. The 7th seed is the reason why. Maybe we shall see more coaches fall come playoff time. I’M LOOKING AT YOU, McCARTHY AND STALEY.


And so concludes another whimsical year of NFL football. There were epic chokes and games that will be remembered forever… for differing reasons. I want to thank the NFL for such a season of wonders to cherish. I want to thank the Mirror and our editors for giving me an audience to post this recap every week. And, most of all, I’d like to thank you, the reader. The demand for these recaps, not only from within the school but outside it, is the primary reason I didn’t stop posting these after week five. Next year, I’ll be there.


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