Art by Leah Bae
OK, everyone take a deep breath.
As expected, Week 18 of the 2021-22 NFL Season delivered some nail-biting exchanges. The Las Vegas Raiders survived a late surge by the Los Angeles Chargers and won 35-32 in overtime. In another overtime game, the San Francisco 49ers claimed the last playoff spot in the NFC by squeaking out a 27-24 win against the Los Angeles Rams.
In a shocking twist, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had won just two games all season, defeated the Indianapolis Colts 26-11. The Colts, unable to get the win they needed to clinch a postseason berth, coughed up their spot to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the Baltimore Ravens 16-13. Elsewhere, the Tennessee Titans overcame the Houston Texans 28-25 to earn the number one seed in the AFC and a coveted first-round bye.
There was movement in the NFL Picks standings as well. Staff writer Alec Matulka jumped into second place after going 10-6 in Week 18, while Creative Director Ali Levens was relegated to third. Digital Editor Karl Winter has a five-game lead at the top of the table. Staff writers Joe Doonan and Austin LeDe’ remain in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) (Saturday, Jan. 15 at 1:30 p.m., PST)
“I see this game as two teams who can score in a number of ways and have inconsistent defenses. The Raiders have overcome more adversity than any other team this year, so to make it this far is a great accomplishment, but I’m not sure how they’re going to slow down the variety of weapons that Joe Burrow and the Bengals can throw at them.” — Karl
“I think the Bengals’ explosive offense will be too much for the Raiders’ poor defense, but it will still be a close game.” — Austin
New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6) (Saturday, Jan. 15 at 5:15 p.m., PST)
“The Patriots just simply do not have enough offense to keep up with Josh Allen and the Bills.” — Austin
“The Pats in the playoffs. Need I say more?” — Ali
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) (Sunday, Jan. 16 at 10 a.m., PST)
“Repeating as champions in any major league is a really, really hard thing to do. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in the NFL since 2003-2004. I think someone will stop the Bucs, but I don’t think it will be the Eagles. Although, it would be really funny and anticlimactic if it was.” — Alec
“C’mon. The Eagles made it in by the skin of their teeth… beak? Obligatory Toooooommm!” — Ali
Graphic by Ali Levens
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5) (Sunday, Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m., PST)
“I am hoping the Cowboys can actually win a first-round playoff game. That will do wonders for their egos.” — Ali
“This may be my hatred of the Cowboys coming out, but I really think the Cowboys record is better than their team is. There’s no doubt this team has plenty of talent, but they haven’t been great against good teams; they’ve just beaten the bad teams, which they play a lot, being in the NFC East. I like how the Niners matchup, and I think they pull this one out, but just barely.” — Joe
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) (Sunday, Jan. 16 at 5:15 p.m., PST)
“I really wish the Chargers were in this game over the Steelers. The Chiefs blew them out in the regular season and despite the best efforts of TJ Watt, I think the Chiefs will win easily again.” — Joe
“Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons is nothing short of amazing, but the Steelers have no business being in the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger himself said—albeit sarcastically — ‘We have no chance.’” — Karl
Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5) (Monday, Jan. 17 at 5:15 p.m., PST)
“I suppose it really depends what type of Cardinals team we get in this game. Will we get the ‘seven straight wins to start the season’ Cardinals? Or the ‘lose to the Lions’ Cardinals? I’m hoping we get the former.” — Alec
“The Rams are simply too stacked to drop a first-round game against a divisional opponent that they’ve historically owned. Their Week 18 loss will be a wakeup call and they’ll find a way to win. This might be a more interesting matchup if Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins hadn’t gotten injured this season, but the Cardinals will have to wait until next season for their potential championship run.” — Karl
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Email Alec Matulka: email@example.com