The NFL’s schedule changes for Week 18 will feature exactly what the league wanted: a Sunday night showdown for a playoff berth.
To finish off the NFL’s first 17-game season, the Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders game was flexed from daytime to prime time. Both AFC West rivals are 9-7 and the winner will advance to the postseason.
Also in the mix for the final wild-card slot in the AFC — New England owns one of them — are the Colts, the Steelers and the Ravens. If Indianapolis wins next Sunday at Jacksonville, it’s in. Pittsburgh (7-7-1) must win out; it plays Monday night at home against Cleveland, then visits Baltimore (8-8) and still could fall short.
Baltimore needs all sorts of help but is mathematically alive and must break a five-game slide on Sunday against Pittsburgh.
The league also switched two games from Sunday to Saturday. Kansas City, already the AFC West champion, will be at Denver, followed by Dallas at Philadelphia. Neither of those games has the strong postseason implications of Chargers-Raiders.
The Chiefs (11-5) could get the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a victory but would need Tennessee (11-5) to lose at Houston. Denver is out.
Dallas (11-5) has won the NFC East and Philadelphia (9-7) owns an NFC wild card.
The other games in Week 18 are AFC West champion Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland; NFC North winner and top seed Green Bay (13-3) at Detroit; Seattle at Arizona, which owns a wild-card berth at 11-5 and still could win the NFC West; New Orleans (8-8 and in the mix for an NFC wild card) at Atlanta; the New York Jets at AFC East leader Buffalo (10-6); San Francisco (9-7 and also in contention for an NFC wild card) at NFC West leader Los Angeles Rams (12-4); New England (10-6) at Miami; Carolina at NFC South winner Tampa Bay (12-4); Chicago at Minnesota; and Washington at the New York Giants.