NFL Sunday Week 18 Games Ranked By Watchability

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Each week this season, OutKick has gotten you primed for an NFL Sunday on the couch by telling you which games deserve the most attention. Sadly, this is the final week of the NFL season which means the final week of the NFL Sunday Watchability rankings.

And, unfortunately, the majority of games this weekend feature heavy favorites and games of little meaning. But for the final time, here we go…

NFL Sunday Games Worth Watching From Opening Kick Until Final Whistle

  • New England Patriots (8-8) at Buffalo Bills (12-3), 1:00pm (CBS)

Main Storyline: Obviously, this game matters most because it is the first time the Bills will take the field since the terrifying incident with safety Damar Hamlin. Thankfully, Hamlin’s health appears to be improving. This game is worth watching from before opening kickoff because the Bills will certainly honor Hamlin.

But this piece is also about what happens on the field and this game carries large significance. The New England Patriots need to win the game to clinch a playoff berth. Buffalo needs to win to keep the neutral site AFC Championship in play. If they win this game and meet KC in the AFC Championship game, then it will be played at a neutral site. If they lose, then a potential AFC Championship between the two teams would be played in KC. So big game all around, for many different reasons.

  • New York Giants (9-6-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3), 4:25pm (CBS)

Main Storyline: If I’m being entirely honest, none of the late afternoon games is worth watching from beginning to end. But if I have to pick one, I guess I’ll go with this one. The Eagles need to win to clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. They are 14-point favorites because the Giants are playing for … nothing. New York is locked into the #6 seed in the NFC. They are planning to rest their starters and use this as a quasi-bye to get ready for the postseason.

The Eagles should win easily, but because it locks up the #1 seed, I’ll put it here. Really a disaster for the NFL that all of their late-window games are so devoid of intrigue.

  • Detroit Lions (8-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-8), 8:20pm (NBC)

Main storyline: I wrote about why this game being put on Sunday night is extremely unfair to the Seattle Seahawks. And, hopefully, Seattle loses on Sunday. That would make this a “win or go home game.” It’s already that for the Green Bay Packers, who clinch a playoff berth with a victory. But the Lions would be eliminated by the time this game kicks off if the Seahawks defeat the Rams. Which, as 6.5-point favorites, they should.

Regardless, this is one of the better games this weekend. Even if Detroit is eliminated, you have to think Dan Campbell and the gang really want to end Aaron Rodgers and rival Green Bay’s season. I think he’ll have the guys geared up either way.

Aaron Rodgers is 18-7 against Detroit in his career, but has lost the last two including early this season on NFL Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers is 18-7 against Detroit in his career, but has lost the last two including on an earlier NFL Sunday this season. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Games To Flip To During Commercials Of Better NFL Sunday Games

  • New York Jets (7-9) at Miami Dolphins (8-8), 1:00pm (FOX)

Main storyline: This game might matter. It might not. If the Patriots beat the Bills, it doesn’t matter. If the Patriots lose to the Bills, the Dolphins can get into the playoffs with a win. They won’t know the result of that game until after (or during) this one, so Miami will certainly be trying everything to win.

But, they’re going to have to do it with their third-string quarterback, a seventh-round rookie, Skylar Thompson. The Jets have decided to start Joe Flacco with Mike White hurt, rather than go back to disaster Zach Wilson. This game is definitely worth monitoring during commercials of the Bills-Patriots game, especially if Buffalo looks like they are going to win.

  • Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4), 1:00pm (CBS)

Main storyline: With the NFL cancelling the Bengals-Bills game, the Bengals have clinched the AFC North. However, if Baltimore wins this game AND they face Cincinnati in the Wild Card round, the league will flip a coin to decide the home team. This game is worth keeping an eye on for that subplot alone.

That scenario would occur if the Ravens win this game and the Los Angeles Chargers lose. Then, the Ravens would be the #6 seed and the Bengals would be the #3 seed. Wild that the #3 seed in the AFC could play their first playoff game on the road, but we are in unprecedented territory. If the Bengals win, it’s a moot point.

  • Cleveland Browns (7-9) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8), 1:00pm (CBS)

Main Storyline: There is a chance this game will factor into the playoff picture. If the Patriots and Dolphins both lose, then Pittsburgh can somehow sneak into the postseason. Yes, the same Pittsburgh team that was 2-7 and seemed headed for the first losing season of Mike Tomlin’s career would be in the playoffs. With a rookie quarterback.

If that happens, there is no debate: Tomlin is the NFL’s Coach of the Year. I already believe Tomlin is the NFL’s second-best coach, but this hopefully would cement it for the non-believers. No one does more with less than Mike Tomlin, including somehow getting Ben Roethlisberger’s fat, old, washed ass into the playoffs last season.

  • Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) at Denver Broncos (4-12), 4:25pm (CBS)

Main storyline: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: we don’t know if this game matters! Presumably, the Chargers want to secure the #5 seed in the AFC. They definitely want to play Tennessee or Jacksonville — a team with a worse record than them — over Cincinnati, Buffalo or KC.

But, if the Ravens lose to the Bengals, then the Chargers clinch the #5 seed no matter what. In that case, they will treat this game like a bye week and starting getting ready for the AFC South winner. But, if the Ravens pull the upset, expect the Chargers to change course and go for the win. You can use this information to leverage a bet, if you like. I wrote about that here.

  • Los Angeles Rams (5-11) at Seattle Seahawks (8-8), 4:25pm (FOX)

Main storyline: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: we don’t know — OK, you get the point. But the good news is that it matters to Seattle at kickoff. They need to win and then become the biggest Lions fans outside of Detroit on Sunday night. They need a victory and a Packers loss to get into the dance.

I don’t know how motivated the Rams are to win this game. Baker Mayfield is playing for his NFL future, so he definitely cares. A lot. This could be Sean McVay’s last NFL game as coach of the Rams, if he decides to hang it up after the season. Does he want to go out as a winner? Probably, but he also probably isn’t scheming up a top-tier gameplan if he knows it’s his last one and it’s meaningless. Especially for a coach who was preparing a Super Bowl gameplan less than 12 months ago.

Kenneth Walker III and the Seattle Seahawks need some help on NFL Sunday to make the playoffs.
Kenneth Walker III and the Seattle Seahawks need some help on NFL Sunday to make the playoffs. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

I Guess It’s OK If This Game Pops Up On NFL RedZone

  • Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at Washington Commanders (7-8-1), 4:25pm (FOX)

Main Storyline: You’ve probably realized by now that the tier names don’t really apply this week. But, it’s the last week of the season and I’m too lazy to change them. This game has slight significance, but barely. Dallas is almost certainly going to be the #5 seed in the NFC. The only way they aren’t is if they win this game and the Eagles somehow lose as 14-point favorites to the Giants. In that case, Dallas would win the NFC East. But, they can’t get the #1 seed unless San Francisco — another 14-point favorite — also loses.

Still, Dallas will be motivated to win on the off-chance that Philly loses because that would give them a home playoff game instead of a trip to Tampa to face Tom Brady. For the Commanders, they’re starting their rookie quarterback, fifth-round pick Sam Howell. There’s enough intrigue here to at least monitor this game.

If You’re A Fan Of These Teams, I Guess You Might Care. But I Don’t.

I don’t have anything for this tier this week. Either the games matter, or they don’t.

If These Games Show Up On My TV, I’m Punting It Off My Back Deck

And these games just don’t matter.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) at Atlanta Falcons (6-10), 1:00pm (FOX)

Main Storyline: More games will be in this tier than usual because, frankly, they have 0 meaning. Starting with this one. Tampa Bay is locked into the #4 seed and despite Todd Bowles saying they would play their starters, I don’t expect them to play the entire game. Atlanta is out of the playoffs and already looking at next season. But you can make this game matter by betting on it, like me.

  • Minnesota Vikings (12-4) at Chicago Bears (3-13), 1:00pm (FOX)

Main Storyline: Minnesota is nearly certain to finish 3rd in the NFC, so there’s not much here for them. The Bears are starting Nathan Peterman. Nathan. Peterman.

  • Houston Texans (2-13-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1), 1:00pm (CBS)

Main Storyline: This game technically has meaning since Houston needs to lose to “earn” the #1 pick in the draft. I cannot think of another reason to watch even one second of this disastrous matchup.

  • Carolina Panthers (6-10) at New Orleans Saints (7-9), 1:00pm (FOX)

Main Storyline: Sam Darnold vs. Andy Dalton in a meaningless game. Enough said.

  • Arizona Cardinals (4-12) at San Francisco (12-4), 4:25pm (CBS)

Main Storyline: Technically, San Francisco can still get the #1 seed in the NFC. However, that would require two-touchdown favorite Philadelphia to lose, and they’re not going to. The Cardinals are onto their third-string quarterback, David Blough. Oh, and the 49ers are two-touchdown favorites themselves. Yuck.


Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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