Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Understanding Week 18 Playoff Scenarios for Fantasy Football Starters

Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

NBC Sports Predictor: Play SN7 for a chance to win $1,000,000. Download the app today and play for FREE!

For the majority of us, the fantasy season is over since we wrapped up our leagues in Week 17. However, there are still some players who have their championship week in Week 18 or have a two-week championship that combines both weeks’ scores.

Either way, Week 18 is fraught with pitfalls and even more questions than the typical uncertainty that this game has by its nature. Throw in a spike in COVID-19 positive cases and Week 18 is cringe-worthy.

Teams In A Must-Win Scenario
Whether you are finalizing your roster for your season-long team or want to tackle some DFS lineups, one helpful avenue to navigate is the playoff picture. The last thing you want to have is a player on your roster who plays half the game or maybe just a few snaps if your championship is on the line.

PSA: That’s why you should not have your final in Week 18. But, I digress.

Sunday 1:00 pm ET

Colts @ Jaguars
The Colts aren’t necessarily in a “must-win” situation against the Jaguars. They could still advance if they lose with some additional help from other teams, but Indianapolis will not leave their playoff hopes to chance. Expect the team to come out firing against the Jaguars.

There is a caveat in this matchup that is important to keep in mind. If they take a big enough lead, Frank Reich just may pull his starters to keep them healthy for the post-season. An early and big lead is entirely possible against the beleaguered Jacksonville Jaguars. It is not enough motivation to avoid players such as Jonathan Taylor, just something to keep in mind.

Saints @ Falcons
Despite their woes, the Saints still have a very real shot at making the playoffs. They have to beat the Falcons and then the Los Angeles Rams have to beat San Francisco 49ers to make it work.

The Saints and Falcons know each other well as division rivals. Both teams should be playing their starters. For New Orleans, the playoffs are on the line and the Falcons will try to do everything in their power to make that road harder.

Steelers @ Ravens
Not only will this game be a fun watch because of its gritty AFC North rivalry, but both teams shockingly have a chance to get into the playoffs with some help.

The Steelers should roll out their starters, especially since this is Ben Roethlisberger’s swan song. The Ravens are in a bit of pickle if Lamar Jackson misses another week, but both teams will be playing for the win for playoff contention and for simple pride.

Sunday 4:25 pm ET

49ers @ Rams
Personally, I am looking forward to this game given the rich history between Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Plus, this will be a chess match featuring all healthy starters.

For the 49ers, they are in if they win this game and the Rams will wrap up the NFC West Championship and seeding behind the No. 1 Packers.

The 49ers’ defense has been riddled with COVID-19 and Josh Norman is the only healthy cornerback. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been practicing despite his injured thumb, but he has some expletives to describe the amount of pain he was in. If he can’t go again this week, that means we’ll see Trey Lance under center. There is an opportunity for the Rams on both sides of the ball.

Sunday 8:20 pm ET

Chargers @ Raiders
The NFL schedule got this flexed perfectly. Not only do these teams despise each other and play with a hefty amount of gusto, but there are some crazy scenarios that will come out of this game.

For the purposes of fantasy starters, both teams will be playing their hearts out for a win since they are both in must-win scenarios.

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

Resting Starters or Likely To Rest Starters

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have already solidified their spot in the playoffs and a win won’t do anything for their seeding. QB Jalen Hurts wants to play, but that would be putting their starters in a sticky position when they don’t have to.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have the No. 1 seed so if the starters play, it won’t be for the whole game against the Detroit Lions.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow has already announced that he will be sitting this game as they took the AFC North. RB Joe Mixon has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and will not be playing on Sunday.

The remaining matchups are seeding implications so if you have players on these teams, make sure to double-check their status. These teams include:

Bills @ Jets

Patriots @ Dolphins

Cowboys @ Eagles

Cardinals @ Seahawks

Buccaneers @ Panthers

Chiefs @ Broncos

Titans @ Texans

Remember that starters may be pulled if a team is either up or down too much to surmount.

More Drama Unfolds with Antonio Brown
More news came out on Thursday surrounding Antonio Brown’s bizarre exit on Sunday against the Jets. It revolved around a “he said, he said” between Brown and Bruce Arians. Brown said they were trying to make him play while he was hurt, but Arians claims Brown refused to play because he wasn’t getting enough targets.

Either way, this puts the Buccaneers in a tough spot trying to compensate for his loss while also missing Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. Let’s not forget, both Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Ronald Jones are banged up, which leaves Le’Veon Bell the only healthy back on the team.

For this week, the situation gets dicey. Tampa Bay cannot go lower than the No. 4 seed. They can go up to No. 2 if they win and the Rams lose. There is a very real chance that Arians rests their starters, especially if they get an early lead.

Quick Hits/Injury Updates/COVID-19
Titans RB Derrick Henry returned to practice after missing time with a foot injury. … Rams RB Cam Akers returned to practice after missing the entire regular season with a torn Achilles. … Steelers placed Diontae Johnson on the COVID-19 reserve list. … Browns QB Baker Mayfield will have surgery on his torn labrum on January 19. … Washington activated RB Antonio Gibson from the COVID-19 list.