NFL Week 18 Recap: Completing the Puzzle
The Jacksonville Jaguars completed a golden achievement, and the Buffalo Bills played their hearts out for Damar Hamlin
Though Week 18 served as the final week of the NFL season, the week where the last pieces of the playoff puzzle would be filled in, it was also the first bit of NFL action to take place after Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest. The week saw everyone tracking Damar's process, which improved vastly to the point where he was finally talking on his own, which served as the best news of the entire season. With that, the Buffalo Bills took the field in front of their home fans in Orchard Park, and they were looking to win for Hamlin.
They definitely got off to an epic start!
The game began with Nyheim Hines actually returning the opening kickoff 96 yards all the way for a touchdown. Just 14 seconds in and the Bills were up 7-0! I and everyone else had the exact same though: "That was for Damar." Emotion and adrenaline in this sport lead to awesome moments like this, and that was just a taste, Hines did this again in the second half! The Bills won, 35-23, over the New England Patriots, who were vying for the last remaining playoff spot in the AFC. The Patriots had the win and in scenario, but their loss ended up resulting in their season being over. Why is that, you ask?
New England's season ended due to the fact that the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers both won their games prior to the Patriots' loss. The Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns, 28-14, but before their game ended, Jason Sanders made a clutch field goal that ended up winning the game for Miami over the New York Jets; the final score ended up being 11-6 after the Dolphins picked up a meaningless safety. So with all of that, the Dolphins nabbed the last playoff spot, while the Steelers' season was over. Though at 9-8, head coach Mike Tomlin's streak is alive, he has never had a losing season as coach of the Steelers. For the Dolphins, this is their first playoff appearance since 2016.
The final week began with the Kansas City Chiefs blasting the Las Vegas Raiders to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC, and with the Bills' aforementioned win a day later, we can now see a scenario where the AFC Championship could be at a neutral site should these two teams face each other. The true main event that Saturday was the AFC South Championship between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans, and it started a bit slow for the Jags, as Tennessee led for the entire time. However, down three, the Jags intercepted Joshua Dobbs and returned it to the house, giving them a lead that they would never relinquish. The Jags won, 20-16, clinching the AFC South for the second time in franchise history, and their first division crown since 2017. As for the Titans, their season ends on a very stunning down note; losing seven straight games after starting 7-3 and having a stranglehold over the division.
The NFC's scenarios were just bit simpler, as the #1 seed and the last spot were all that needed to be solved. The third time was the charm for the Philadelphia Eagles, as their 22-16 win over the New York Giants gave them the #1 seed, while the Dallas Cowboys were defeated, 26-6, by the Washington Commanders. That game actually ended up being vital to the Seattle Seahawks' playoff scenario, as they ended up going to overtime against the Los Angeles Rams following Jason Myers' missed field goal. With Washington's win, Seattle had to win, because a loss or a tie would end their season. Thankfully for Seattle, they received a second chance, a closer field goal made by Myers that kept hope alive for the Seahawks.
So the Seahawks had to watch the final game remaining to see if they were going to be playoff bound. Here's how that went:
Seattle's win eliminated the Detroit Lions from playoff contention, but the Green Bay Packers still could get in with a win. Unfortunately, the Lions decided to take advantage of a famous old saying: "If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me." The Packers did lead for the most part, but it was all field goals and blown opportunities. The Lions found the end zone first to go up 13-9, but the Packers struck back with a touchdown of their own. The Lions next drive saw them get in the red zone, and a very dumb penalty by Quay Walker made it goal-to-go for Detroit, who capitalized when Jamaal Williams (an ex-Packer) scored his second touchdown of the game. The Packers' next drive ended with an Aaron Rodgers interception, and the Lions got the first downs they needed to not only clinch the game, but end the Packers' season.
So that's that for the Packers. I can't help but be happy with the effort we had. We had no right to be alive in the final week, but thanks to a game effort in the last month after a tumultuous start, and everything going right, we had a chance to get in. Even though we were immensely undermanned, we still got close. This ending, IMO, was less frustrating than the previous year, because despite no expectations, we nearly got there. We were left with this very emotional scene with Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb walking together, and I swear, I literally wept. Those two have been through so much together. They've been through many battles on the football field together. "4th and 8" was the first thing that entered my mind, that famous touchdown play from the final week of the 2013 season. Again, I can't help but be happy with how this Packers team actually tried. We came up short, but we proved that against all odds, the effort can be there.
So the Seattle Seahawks are playoff bound. Their first season in the post-Russell Wilson era, and they are in the playoffs. Literally everyone had this team playing for the draft after they traded Russ for the arm and leg that they received from the Broncos. Yet the Hawks had a great start, and though they fizzled a bit afterwards, they won at the right time to get in the playoffs. Wow. Even crazier, the Seahawks got in with Geno Smith as QB. Ay caramba!
Speaking of the draft...
I still can't believe this. The Chicago Bears clinched the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Houston Texans had a huge stranglehold on the #1 pick as late as Christmas Eve, yet they won two of their final three games, with their 32-31 win over the Indianapolis Colts taking them out of the running, as the Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings. As a result, the Bears, at 3-14, finished a half game worse than the 3-13-1 Texans, giving the Bears the #1 pick. This is the first time the Bears will draft #1 since 1947, and as for the Texans, well, they wouldn't wait for Black Monday, as they fired Lovie Smith as their head coach during Sunday Night Football.
That's it. The 2022 regular season is over. What a season it was, but now, it's playoff time! Super Wild Card Weekend will kick off on Saturday, January 14 with the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Seattle Seahawks, followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. On Sunday, January 15, the Buffalo Bills will host the Miami Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings will host the New York Giants, and the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals will be back in Ohio for the second straight week. Finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who finished 8-9) and the Dallas Cowboys will play each other on Monday, January 16.
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