Last year, sitting at 8-8 entering Week 18, the Seattle Seahawks hosted the Los Angeles Rams. A win wasn't enough to get them into the playoffs. They needed some help from the Lions, who were facing the Packers on Sunday Night Football. Of course, everything worked out as the Seahawks made the playoffs, losing to the 49ers in the Wild Card round. This year, the same must be done. Except this time around, they need help from another NFC North team, Chicago Bears.
Unlike Seattle, Los Angeles was able to clinch their playoff spot with a win over the Giants. Although one could argue they should have lost, the Giants' missed game-winning field goal punched the Rams ticket into the Wild Card round, most likely landing them a date in Detroit, which should make for a spicy first-round matchup. Their opponent this week, the San Francisco 49ers, clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Commanders.
As for the last place Arizona Cardinals, they are simply just having fun. Guaranteed a top 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Cardinals look to continue playing spoiler. Completing the comeback last week over the Eagles essentially ruined their chances of winning the NFC East and hosting a playoff game. This week, they would love nothing more than to eliminate their division rival on home turf.
Week 18 NFC West standings: Seahawks win + Packers loss = Wild Card birth
Coming off a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers responded as expected. Winning against the Commanders clinched them home-field advantage for the playoffs and a much-needed bye week. In the win, HB Christian McCaffrey sustained a calf injury. The extra week off will not only serve him well but the rest of this team that has often had injury issues in years past. Resting their starters this weekend against the Rams, the 49ers now fully focus on their playoff push.
Post bye week, the Rams have won 6 of their last 7 games. In fact, you could argue they should have won all 7 as that one loss came in overtime against the Ravens in Baltimore. Nonetheless, this team is clicking at the right time. Despite a subpar performance against the Giants, Matthew Stafford has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC. Having found gems through the draft, the Rams offense isn't as bland as many thought entering the season. They too will be resting their starters this weekend, looking ahead to where they will be traveling next weekend.
Despite having three Pro Bowlers on the defense, the Seahawks rank in the bottom half of all major defensive statistics. Coming off an atrocious performance in Week 17, expect the Seahawks to play with a sense of urgency that was on display against Philadelphia and Tennessee. They need to set the tone early on defense in order to keep this game in the balance. Although the Cardinals are 4-12, they play hard and most importantly, cannot be overlooked. I expect the Seahawks offense to find success. This matchup, similar to last weekend, will come down to defense.
Looking to avoid the season sweep, the Arizona Cardinals look to finish the season strong by ending the Seattle Seahawks' playoff dreams. This game will feature two of the worst rushing defenses in the league. Arizona currently ranks 32nd and Seattle, 30th. In weeks past, the Seahawks have lost the time of possession battle, limiting their offensive opportunities and putting more pressure on an already struggling defense. Of course, James Connor will be a player to watch. However, whoever is able to control the clock, win the field possession battle, and establish the run will ultimately walk away from this game as the winner.