Which Teams Will Rest its Starters in Week 18? 2023 NFL Playoff Picture and Fantasy Football Scenarios

The final week of the regular season is always... interesting.

We all know only JV fantasy football leagues play their championship in NFL Week 18. However, some league commissioners aren’t as sharp as others, so it may not be your fault if you play this week. Other leagues do two-week playoff matchups, so you may be forced into navigating the Week 18 Fantasy Football land mines.

Either way, whether it’s fantasy football or gambling-related, let’s see which teams are resting its starters and look at the overall playoff picture as the curtains come to a close on the 2023 NFL season.

We also look at each team’s path to the postseason and their percent chance of making the playoffs, according to The New York Times.

This article will be updated throughout the week once we learn more about player availability in Week 18.

2023 NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE

CLINCHED PLAYOFF SPOT AND SEEDING

Baltimore Ravens (No. 1 AFC) – Even though the Ravens have locked up home-field advantage, John Harbaugh has yet to commit to resting his starters — even though it would make sense to give them an extended break before the bye week. I wouldn’t expect much from Lamar Jackson & co.

San Francisco 49ers (No. 1 NFC) – Kyle Shanahan said he won’t rest many starters, except for Christian McCaffrey, who’s dealing with a calf injury.

Kansas City Chiefs (No. 3 AFC) – The Chiefs will be the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs whether they win or lose in Week 18, which means Patrick Mahomes and other key starters will sit out for Kansas City. Blaine Gabbert will start at QB.

Cleveland Browns (No. 5 AFC) – With the Ravens clinching the AFC North, the Browns will sit its starters in Week 18 vs the Bengals. Old man Joe Flacco will get some much-needed rest, as Kevin Stefanski said Jeff Driskel will start at QB.

CLINCHED PLAYOFF SPOT (NOT PLAYOFF SEEDING)

Dallas Cowboys

All signs point to the Cowboys and Eagles playing their starters because they are competing for the NFC East crown. The Cowboys have the Commanders in Week 18 and control their destiny to win the division.

Detroit Lions

The Cowboys (refs) ended Detroit’s chances for the No. 1 seed, and they are a long shot for the No. 2 seed. Still, Dan Campbell has said he has no intention of resting his starters in Week 18.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Cowboys and Eagles will play their starters because they are competing for the NFC East title. The Eagles play the Giants and are currently behind the Cowboys in the NFC East standings.

UPDATE: D’Andre Swift (illness) is not expected to play

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are locked into the sixth or seventh seed, so they’ll likely bench any player who’s banged up. But expect most to play in Week 18 against the 49ers.

Miami Dolphins

A win against the Bills on Sunday Night Football clinches the AFC’s second seed, the AFC East title, and home field against any team not named the Ravens.

UPDATE: Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle) and Jaylen Waddle (ankle) are NOT expected to play

IN THE HUNT (CURRENT SEED)

Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 4 AFC, 77% Chance at Playoff Berth) vs. Tennessee Titans (ELIMINATED)

If the Jags take care of the Titans, they’ll lock up the No. 4 seed and the AFC South. If they lose, then they may need a little help to get in.

UPDATE: Trevor Lawrence is ACTIVE; Christian Kirk is INACTIVE.

Buffalo Bills (No. 6 AFC, 88% Playoffs) vs. Miami Dolphins (No. 2 AFC – 100% playoffs)

The Bills got off to a slow start and because of it, they are not a lock to make the playoffs right now despite playing some of the best ball in the AFC over the last month. They control their own destiny and will win the AFC East with a win over the Dolphins.

However, if the Steelers (3.5-point favorite vs. a Ravens team that is probably resting starters) and Jaguars (5.5-point favorite vs. 5-11 Titans) both win, Buffalo would miss the playoffs with a loss. If either team loses, the Bills are in as a wildcard even without winning the AFC East.

The Dolphins will make the playoffs regardless of a win or loss, but would drop from the two to the six seed should they drop this game.

Houston Texans (No. 8 AFC, 48% Playoffs) vs. Indianapolis Colts (No. 7 AFC, 52% Playoffs)

Both of these teams will be cheering on the Titans to defeat the Jaguars because the winner of this game will take home the division. Either way though, the winner will make the playoffs, the loser will be bounced.

Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 9 AFC, 28%) vs. Baltimore Ravens (No. 1 AFC)

The Steelers will make things easier for themselves if they take care of business in Baltimore against a team resting its starters. They would still need either Buffalo and/or the Jags to lose, or the Colts-Texans to tie. If they lose, they are near-locks to be eliminated.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 4 NFC, 56%) vs. Carolina Panthers (ELIMINATED)

It’s simple: if the Bucs win, they are in. If they lose, they are out.

Green Bay Packers (No. 7 NFC) vs. Chicago Bears (ELIMINATED)

The Packers will get into the playoffs if they beat the team they’ve owned for the existence of the franchise.

Seattle Seahawks (No. 8 NFC) vs. Arizona Cardinals (ELIMINATED)

Seattle must win to remain in contention, but they need some serious help to get into the dance. To make the playoffs, the Seahawks would need to win and also they would need the Bears to beat Green Bay.

Minnesota Vikings (No. 10 NFC) vs. Detroit Lions (No. 3 NFC)

Even with a win, the Vikings aren’t in. They need to win and get some help to make the playoffs. They need Green Bay and Seattle to lose, along with at least one of Tampa Bay and New Orleans.

Atlanta Falcons (No. 12 NFC) vs. New Orleans Saints (No. 9 NFC)

The winner of this game will win the division (and earn the No. 4 seed) if the Panthers beat the Buccaneers. However, the loser (and likely both) are completely eliminated if the Bucs beat the Panthers.

The Saints could still earn a wildcard spot even if the Bucs win. They would need to win, plus Seattle and Green Bay would both need to lose.

UPDATE: Alvin Kamara is INACTIVE

ELIMINATED FROM THE NFL PLAYOFFS

These teams are eliminated and are preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft. Expect most of these teams to play their starters during the final week of the season.

This will be updated throughout the week, if necessary.

Carolina Panthers
Washington Commanders
New England Patriots
Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants
Los Angeles Chargers
Tennessee Titans
New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals
Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos
Chicago Bears

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