Around the NFL: Doctors Remove Damar Hamlin's Breathing Tube, Week 18 Playoff Outlook, Clinching Scenarios, More

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Around the NFL: Doctors Remove Damar Hamlin’s Breathing Tube, Week 18 Playoff Outlook, Clinching Scenarios, More

Chicago Bears

It’s the final Friday of the NFL regular season, and there’s plenty to play for in Week 18 regarding playoff spots and seeding. But before we get into that, I want to open this ATNFL with the best news of the day: More remarkable progress in Damar Hamlin’s recovery.

The Bills shared on Twitter this morning that doctors at UCMC removed Hamlin’s breathing tube overnight. The Bills added that per physicians at UCMC, Hamlin’s neurological function remains intact and that Hamlin has been able to talk to his family and care team.

This is just really fantastic news, and I’m so happy for Damar, his family, his teammates, and everyone involved in this, whether from close or afar.

Bills Playing for Three this Weekend

There’s plenty to play for this weekend for many teams in the NFL, but the Buffalo Bills will be playing for much more than playoff seeding or football this Sunday when they take on the New England Patriots. Instead, they’ll be “playing for three.”

“We’ve talked about it and, obviously, we wanna go out there and play for three,” said Bills quarterback Josh Allen, via The Athletic. “It’ll be a huge driving force and the emotion and the love of the game that we play and for each other.”

The Bills will be playing Week 18 and the rest of the season for their friend and teammate, whose recovery has trended into an incredibly promising direction over the past 24-48 hours but still has a long way to go.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that Hamlin would want it that way:

“Damar would have wanted it that way” McDermott paraphrased. “…that includes our game against New England this week. That has helped and then the news today as Josh alluded to was a huge help to getting us back to focus on the game this weekend.”

Week 18 AFC Playoff Picture and Implications

Let’s take a look at where the AFC playoff picture (x= clinched playoff berth, y = clinched wild card spot, z = clinched division, * = clinched No. 1 seed):

  1. Chiefs xz (13-3)
  2. Bills xz (12-3)
  3. Bengals x (11-4)
  4. Jaguars (8-8)
  5. Chargers x (10-6)
  6. Ravens x (10-6)
  7. Patriots (8-8)

As you can see, two spots are up for grabs in the AFC heading into Week 18 this weekend. The first is the No. 4 seed which will go to the winner of the AFC South, either the Jaguars or the Titans. If the Jaguars beat the Titans this week, they lock up the AFC South and the fourth seed. If the Titans win, they win the AFC South and the fourth seed. However, if the Titans win, the Jaguars can still get into the playoffs with some help. With a loss to the Titans, Jacksonville would need a Steelers loss to the Browns, a Patriots loss to the Bills, and a Dolphins loss to the Jets.

The other spot, which could fall to the Jaguars in the scenario I described, is the final wild card spot, which the Patriots currently hold at 8-8. New England can punch its ticket to the playoffs with a win over Buffalo, but there’s a path with help even if they lose. That would require a Dolphins loss to the Jets, a Steelers loss to the Browns, and a Titans loss to the Jaguars. The Steelers can clinch the final wild-card spot with a win over the Browns, a Patriots loss to the Bills, and a Dolphins loss to the Jets.

As far as things go in the AFC North with the Bengals and the Ravens, who currently hold the third and sixth seeds, the Bengals can clinch the AFC North with a win over the Ravens. But a Ravens win over the Bengals is where things get sticky. That would put the Bengals at 11-5 and the Ravens at 11-6. According to an NFL statement released on Thursday, the Bengals would win the division with a higher winning percentage despite one less game played. But, if the two teams were to match up in a wild card game, a coin toss would determine the home field.

Lastly, as far as the No. 1 seed goes, or more specifically, home-field advantage in the AFC title game, if the AFC Championship features two teams that have played an unequal number of games this season, the game will be played at a neutral site.

Week 18 NFC Playoff Picture and Implications

Let’s take a look at where the AFC playoff picture (x= clinched playoff berth, y = clinched wild card spot, z = clinched division, * = clinched No. 1 seed):

  1. Eagles x (13-3)
  2. 49ers xz (12-4)
  3. Vikings xz (12-4)
  4. Buccaneers xz (8-8)
  5. Cowboys x (12-4)
  6. Giants x (9-6)
  7. Seahawks (8-8)

The NFC picture is a little clearer than the AFC’s, but by no means finalized. Let’s start with the one spot still up for grabs this week, the final wild card. The Seahawks, Lions, and Packers all have a shot at that, and here’s how things would have to play out for each team to punch their ticket:

  • Seahawks: clinch wild card berth with a win over the Rams and a Packers loss to the Lions.
  • Packers: clinch wild card berth with a win over the Lions.
  • Lions: clinch wild card berth with a win over the Packers and a Seahawks loss to the Rams.

So, somehow (thanks, Minnesota), the Packers have clawed back and control their destiny. Win and in for Green Bay, it’s that simple.

If Green Bay loses to the Lions, the Lions still need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams, and vice versa. The Seahawks, even if they win, need the Lions to beat the Packers to make it into the playoffs. (Luis: Got all that? Good!)

The Eagles can clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over the Giants OR a Cowboys loss to the Cardinals and a 49ers loss to the Commanders. But if the Eagles lose and the Cowboys beat the Commanders, Dallas will win the NFC East.

That would leave the No. 1 seed up for grabs between the Cowboys and the 49ers. A 49ers loss, a Dallas win, and a Philadelphia loss would give the Cowboys the No. 1 seed. If the scenario plays out in which the Cowboys win the NFC East, but the 49ers beat the Cardinals, then it’s San Francisco who would have the No. 1 seed.

Extra Points

  • If the AFC Championship details are a little confusing, the NFL Research department made a handy infographic with potential scenarios and outcomes that Ian Rapoport shard on Twitter. I would recommend throwing this one in the Twitter bookmarks.
  • Some good reading here on the disastrous season and state of the Indianapolis Colts over at The Athletic this morning:
  • In more scary football-related news, former Broncos, Browns (and other NFL teams), and Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis is reportedly in critical condition after saving his children from downing in the ocean off the coast of Florida.
  • Peyton’s uncle, Greg Hillis, posted this update on Facebook on Thursday evening:

“I just wanted to let everyone know on Razorback Nation that Peyton is doing better,” Greg Hillis wrote. “He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but doctors say he is improving. I just wanted to head off any rumors that may be started. I’m sure he would want everyone to know that he appreciates all of the prayers being thrown up on his behalf!!!”

  • Scary stuff, man. I’m just glad to hear that the children are safe and Hillis is improving.
  • If you haven’t checked out many Jamaal Williams media availability clips, you should. Williams is pretty funny. Williams needs just one touchdown on Sunday to tie Barry Sanders’ franchise record, and Williams spoke about how much he loved playing with Sanders’ character on the ‘NFL Street 2’ video game.
  • If you missed any of the World Juniors action, Tab summed up what you need to know about current and (hopefully future) Blackhawks prospects at the tourney:
  • Zach LaVine trade rumblings march …


Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.