Buffalo, New York
Here are five things to keep in mind as the NFL enters the final weekend of the regular season.
The massive support for Damar Hamlin is only set to increase as the final games of the regular season begin.
There may be some uncertainty, doubt and fear as players take the field for the first time since the Buffalo Bills defenseman sustained a life-threatening injury during his game earlier this week. There will be many visible emotions, and any signs of injury will be met with bated breath.
However, Bills coach Sean McDermott says this weekend’s games will be “a celebration of life” as Hamlin has shown continued signs of improvement. NFL players and fans will see his number 3 in Buffalo Bills Blue or Red on 30-yard lines in stadiums across the country. Players will wear Love for Damar 3 jerseys before the game, and Bills players will also have a #3 patch on theirs game jerseys.
Top of the conference fight: We can witness history. For the first time, a conference title game will be played on a neutral site.
The Buffalo Bills game against the Cincinnati Bengals in which Hamlin was injured will not be completed. This means the two teams will finish the regular season with a game fewer than the other playoff teams, affecting their ability to secure home field advantage should they advance to the AFC Championship game. So if either or both of these teams make it to the title game, we could see the title game played at a neutral venue depending on different circumstances. The Kansas City Chiefs lead the conference with 13:3. The scores are 12-3 and the Bengals are 11-4.
Scratch to get in: The New England Patriots are in the driver’s seat for the final wildcard spot in the AFC. If they beat the Bills, the Patriots are in, but they have to do it on an extremely emotional day in Buffalo. If they lose, the Miami Dolphins would get the first jump to last place with a home win over the New York Jets.
If the Patriots and Dolphins both fall, the Pittsburgh Steelers would jump to seventh and last place if they beat the Cleveland Browns at home. It would also mean head coach Mike Tomlin would not have a losing season for the first time in his 16-year career.
The AFC South title is at stake in Jacksonville on Saturday night. The red-hot Jaguars host the tumbling Tennessee Titans. Winner secures 4th place and hosts a first round playoff game next week.
The Philadelphia Eagles are hoping a third time is a spell for them to win the NFC East and top seed in the NFC playoffs. To do so, they must beat or tie a New York Giants team that has already secured 6th place and will start the playoffs away. If the Eagles fall again, the Dallas Cowboys would claim the NFC East crown with a win over the Washington Commanders and the Eagles would slip to a wild card.
Seventh and final is a three-team race between the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. The Packers and Lions play each other Sunday night at Lambeau Field. For Green Bay, it’s simple: win and you’re in. The Lions and Seahawks both need a win and some help to get into the postseason party.
The end of each season means there is one last chance for players to get their name in the record books. Let’s start with the QBs.
Patrick Mahomes needs 430 passing yards to break the 5,477 passing record in a season set by Peyton Manning in 2013.
Tom Brady only needs one finish to break the all-time single season record for most finishes in a 485 season set by … Tom Brady in 2021. Surprise!
Justin Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to break the single-season record of 1,964 yards set by Calvin Johnson in 2012. The Minnesota Vikings star has surpassed the mark once this season, against the Lions in Week 4.
Ryan Stonehouse has a chance to become the greatest single-season player of all time. The Titans star can break the record for the highest single-season punting average of 51.4 yards set by Sammy Baugh back in 1940. Stonehouse’s current average is 53 yards per punt.
The final game of the regular season is a smash hit not only for players on playoff teams, but also for players who can earn large sums of money in the form of incentives, sometimes on a single catch. Here are some of those players, according to fantasy football and sports betting analyst Sal Vetri.
Christian Kirk needs two catches for a $500,000 bonus and 91 yards to trigger a $500,000 bonus.
Zay Jones needs two catches for a $250,000 bonus and 98 yards for a $500,000 bonus.
Za’Darius Smith needs a sack to make $750,000.
Preston Smith needs 1.5 sacks to make $1 million
Tyler Higbee needs 13 yards to reach a $500,000 bonus.
Gerald Everett needs five catches to rake in $250,000.
Everett caught more than 5 catches in 50% of his games.
Jamaal Williams needs six rushing yards to reach 1,000, which would net a $250,000 bonus.