Week 18 Playoff Motivation and Incentives (Fantasy Football)

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In addition to the usual analysis that it takes to win in NFL DFS and prop betting (matchups, usage, roster percentages, etc.), understanding playoff motivation and individual player incentives can help take our Week 18 prep to the next level. We’ll take a look at the NFL playoff picture and then dive into which players might be playing for a statistical roster bonus in Week 18.

Note: There are two Saturday games this week (KC @ LV and JAX @ TEN)

AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)

Scenario: If the Chiefs beat the Raiders on Saturday and the Bills lose, the Chiefs will lock up the #1 seed.
Analysis: The #1 seed is extremely valuable now that this is the only team that gets a Round 1 playoff bye. Expect the starters to go all out.

2. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

Scenario: Buffalo still has a chance at the #1 seed in the AFC if they beat the Patriots and the Chiefs lose to the Raiders on Saturday. This one is difficult given that KC plays on Saturday and Buffalo plays on Sunday. As a result, Buffalo will know whether or not they have a shot at the top seed well ahead of kickoff.
Analysis: The Bills will absolutely play to win if the Chiefs are upset by the Raiders, but there is some risk they sit starters if they don’t have a shot at the top seed. That said, Cincinnati can still move up to the #2 seed, and Buffalo can drop to #3 if they lose. So despite the mild risk that they rest guys, the expectation is they will try to lock up the #2 seed and guarantee themselves a Wild Card and Divisional Round game at home.

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3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

Scenario: Mathematically, Cincy still has a slim shot at the #1 seed, but they need a lot to go right. Their primary motivation is winning the AFC North, which they can with a win over the Ravens on Sunday. That win will guarantee they don’t finish below the #3 seed. If they lose, they’ll drop to a Wild Card spot.
Analysis: With the division on the line, we can expect the starters tog go all out, but there’s still a lot to get sorted out after Monday night’s game against Buffalo was postponed. As described below, if that CIN/BUF game from Week 17 is declared a “no contest” the Bengals are locked into the #3 seed and in that scenario, there is some risk that starters do not play the whole game. This is an ongoing situation.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

Scenario: The Jaguars win the AFC South with a win on Saturday against the Titans. They can also make it in as a Wild Card team if they lose and get help.
Analysis: Must win game. Expect starters to go all out.

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Mitchell Leff/Getty Imagesd

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)

Scenario: The Chargers are locked into a Wild Card spot and can’t finish worse than the #6 seed.
Outlook: LA can finish as either the #5 or #6 seed, so this is likely more about how valuable the team views that better seed. If they finish as the #5 seed, they’ll avoid BUF, KC and CIN in the first round, which is obviously valuable. Tentatively, we can project starters to play, but this is a situation to monitor throughout the week. On Monday when asked about playing starters in Week 18 he said, “”Our approach is definitely going to be to try to win this ballgame and play as well as we can play heading into the playoffs,” Staley said. “I think that there’s certainly an advantage to being the 5-seed, from where I stand, so we’re going to try and get there.”

6. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

Scenario: The Ravens have already clinched a playoff birth, but they can win the AFC North with a victory against the Bengals on Sunday.
Outlook: The #3 seed is valuable because it guarantees a Wild Card game at home rather than on the road. Expect starters to go all out.

7. New England Patriots (8-8)

Scenario: The Patriots can make the playoffs as a Wild Card team if they beat the Bills on Sunday.
Analysis: Must win game. Expect starters to go all out.

8. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Scenario: If the Dolphins beat the Jets on Sunday and the Bills beat the Patriots, the Dolphins will win the final Wild Card spot.
Analysis: Must win game. Expect starters to go all out.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Scenario: If the Steelers beat the Browns on Sunday and the Dolphins and Patriots both lose, the Steelers will be the final Wild Card spot.
Analysis: Must win game but need plenty of help. Expect starters to go all out.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Scenario: The Titans will win the AFC South with a win on Saturday against the Jaguars.
Analysis: Must win game. Expect starters to go all out.

Mathematically Eliminated:

  • Jets
  • Browns
  • Raiders
  • Colts
  • Broncos
  • Texans

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

Scenario: The Eagles must beat or tie the Giants on Sunday to lock up the #1 seed.
Analysis: Philly can mathematically still win the #1 seed with a loss if the 49ers and Cowboys both lose Sunday, but we can expect their starters to go all out to get the bye week in the playoffs. Expect the team to start Jalen Hurts, who’s missed two games with a sprained SC joint in his right shoulder.

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2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

Scenario: The Niners can win the #1 seed if they beat the Cardinals and the Eagles lose to the Giants.
Analysis:
We know the Niners are locked into a top three seed in the NFC, but that top seed is extremely valuable and the #2 seed guarantees multiple home games. Expect starters to go all out. Deebo Samuel has a good chance to return this week while Christian McCaffrey is dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, adding some question marks about whether or not they push him in this game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

Scenario: Minnesota still has a chance at the #2 seed with a win over the Bears but they need the 49ers to lose to the Cardinals.
Analysis: With a shot at the #2 seed and coming off arguably their worst performance of the year a week ago in Lambeau, expect starters to play as long as the game is competitive. Note, this game is in the early window on Sunday, and the Niners are playing in the late window. As a result, they won’t know the outcome of the SF game prior to kickoff. On Monday, HC Kevin O’Connell told the Star Tribune when asked about his guys playing, “I think it would probably be more subtle than [sitting starters], just knowing that the two seed is still available for us,” O’Connell said. “Regardless, we still have a lot to play for just from a momentum standpoint — [for] a football team that’s had some highs this year, for sure, and then one of our low moments of the season yesterday where you’d like to be able to rely on a lot of things we built here to come back together and make sure we rectify some of the issues that contributed yesterday.”

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

Scenario: The Bucs locked up the NFC South with their Week 17 win over the Panthers. They are locked into the #4 seed.
Analysis: From a post-season perspective, this game means nothing to Tampa. As of Wednesday morning, they’re 3-point underdogs against the 6-10 Falcons, so the betting markets are certainly expecting some starters to sit. However, this ESPN report suggests the Bucs will play their starters for at least a portion of the game. There’s some volatility in this situation.

5. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

Scenario: The Cowboys are locked into the post-season but can win the NFC East with a win over the Commanders and an Eagles loss to the Giants. They also have an outside chance at the #1 seed if the Eagles and 49ers both lose.
Analysis: Plenty to play for here. With the #1 seed still in reach and a chance to move up in seeding (if they win the NFC East), expect starters to go all out.

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

6. New York Giants (9-6-1)

Scenario: The Giants are not in contention for the NFC East, so they are locked into the #6 seed regardless of the outcome against Philly.
Analysis: Major rest risk with this game being meaningless for New York. They’re 14-point underdogs against the Eagles, and when asked whether or not he’d be resting players this week, Brian Daboll said “We’ll talk about it and do what’s best for the team.”

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)

Scenario: The Seahawks can clinch a Wild Card birth with a win over the Rams but need the Packers to lose to the Lions.
Analysis: Must win game but also need help. Expect starters to go all out.

8. Detroit Lions (8-8)

Scenario: The Lions can make the post-season for the first time since 2016 with a win over the Packers and a Seahawks loss to the Rams.
Analysis: Must win game but also need help. Unfortunately, the Lions will know whether or not they’ve been mathematically eliminated by kickoff given that they play on SNF. If the Seahawks beat the Rams, the Lions are out, adding some mild risk. However, given this team’s identity behind Dan Campbell, expect starters to go all out even if they are eliminated before kickoff.

9. Green Bay Packers (8-8)

Scenario: The Packers will make the playoffs with a win over the Lions.
Analysis:
Must win game. Expect starters to go all out.

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Mathematically Eliminated:

  • Commanders
  • Panthers
  • Saints
  • Falcons
  • Cardinals
  • Rams
  • Bears

 

Player Incentives

Quarterbacks

1. Justin Fields needs 64 rushing yards to break Lamar Jackson‘s single season QB rushing record.

Update: Fields has been ruled out due to a hip injury. Nathan Peterman will start for Chicago.

2. Patrick Mahomes needs 430 passing yards to break Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 5,477 passing yards. Mahomes is also the current favorite in the MVP race, notable as Mahomes will earn an additional $1.25M if he wins his second MVP award.

3. Justin Herbert needs 34 completions to break Tom Brady‘s single season completion record of 485, which was set last season. He’s currently at 452.

Running Backs

1. Jamaal Williams will earn an additional $250,000 if he rushes for 1,000 yards this year. He’s currently at 994. In addition, Williams leads the NFL with 15 rushing TDs. Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler and Jalen Hurts are all tied for second with 13.

2. Samaje Perine will earn an additional $100K if he hits 500 rushing yards. He’s currently at 376 yards.

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3. Nick Chubb is currently 160 yards behind Josh Jacobs for the league lead in rushing yards.

Wide Receivers

1. Justin Jefferson needs 194 yards to break Calvin Johnson‘s single season receiving record.

2. Christian Kirk has incentives for 80, 90 and 100 catches. He also has incentives for 1,000, 1,100 and 1,200 receiving yards. He makes $500,000 for each of the six thresholds reached. He currently has 78 receptions for 1,009 yards.

3. Zay Jones can earn $250,000 if he reaches 80 receptions and can earn an additional $500,000 for reaching 900 yards. He currently has 78 receptions for 802 yards.

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4. JuJu Smith-Schuster will make an additional $500,000 if he can surpass 900 receiving yards. He currently has 898 yards.

5. Isaiah McKenzie will make an additional $100,000 for hitting each of the following thresholds – 40 receptions, 50 receptions and 60 receptions. He’ll also make an extra $100,000 for hitting 450, 550 and 600 yards. He’s currently at 40 receptions and 404 yards.

6. T.Y. Hilton will receive an additional $50K for each regular season game he is on the team’s 46-man game day roster. Since he signed with Dallas his snap counts are 0% > 16% > 28%. Correspondingly, Noah Brown‘s snap counts in those same games are 75%, 75%, 59%.

7. Kalif Raymond can earn an additional $125,000 if he hits 600 receiving yards. He currently has 550 yards.

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Tight Ends

1. Tyler Higbee will earn an additional $125,000 if he can surpass 600 receiving yards. He currently has 587.

2. Hayden Hurst will make an additional $250,000 if he can reach 60 receptions and an additional $125,000 if he can surpass 500 yards.

3. Gerald Everett will earn an additional $250,000 if he hits 60 receptions. He currently has 55 receptions.

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Comments

-MC says:

Thx guys! Always my go to place for the ULTIMATE information!

Titan Concern says:

Titans?

Kody Ricker says:

Great read !! Thank you !!

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