Crucial Matchups: Three Teams in a High-Stakes battle for Playoff Berths

Which teams are facing a must win in Week 18?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Seattle Seahawks
Pittsburgh Steelers v Seattle Seahawks / Conor Courtney/GettyImages
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Becoming a Super Bowl champion is a dream for athletes in the NFL. Their hard work and dedication during the off-season prime their minds for the tasks ahead. Stout performances throughout the get rewarded with access to the post-season. Only the best teams advance for a chance to compete for the Vince Lombardi trophy. There is limited time for the franchises to claim the prize. We can expect Week 18 to be a madhouse for teams on the brink of a berth.

Which franchises have the hardest route to the playoffs?

NFL Franchise #3 Houston Texans
49% Chance of Clinching Playoffs

Injuries have placed DeMeco Ryans’ team behind schedule during the last few weeks. C.J. Stroud entered the NFL concussion protocol after a tough loss to the New York Jets. The Houston Texans struggled to find their rhythm after Week 13. Case Keenum and Davis Mills filled in for the rookie, but could not duplicate his results. It placed the rebuilding team amid a fierce playoff hunt with little time to change the outcome.

An impressive return to the gridiron helped fans revive hope in Houston’s post-season aspirations. C.J. Stroud reminded the league why he is a Rookie of the Year Candidate and the future of the Franchise. He helped the Texans defeat the Tennessee Titans 26-3. The win set the Texans up to clinch a divisional win on the road against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. Capturing a much-needed victory on the road is a challenge for Houston. They must play their best game to continue their historic turnaround season.

#2 Pittsburgh Steelers
22% chance of clinching the playoffs

A roller-coaster season has helped Mike Tomlin prepare for a pivotal moment on Sunday afternoon. Inconsistencies on offense cost the Pittsburgh Steelers several games throughout the season. It led to the firing of Matt Canada and surfaced questions about leadership. Despite the chatter, the Steelers remained focused and persevered through the noise. An ankle injury sidelined Kenny Pickett during a vital stretch of the season. Mitchell Trubisky did his best to lead the offense, but the Steelers eventually called on Mason Rudolph to reprieve the former first-rounder.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Baltimore to take on Harbaugh and the first-seeded Ravens. Securing a win will be a challenge thus far. This season, the Ravens rank second in defensive rating (89.6) and an explosive offense. Lamar Jackson will sit out, giving the Steelers an advantage. Assistance from other franchises will help the Steelers achieve their goal. The Colts, Bill, or Jaguars must suffer a loss even if they beat their rivals on Sunday.

#1 Seattle Seahawks
27% of making the playoffs

Clinching a spot in the NFC playoff bracket requires extra work from teams gazing from the outside. The San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams secured their ticket to the next stage of the season. Only two spots are remaining. The winning of the NFC South will earn the fourth seed - forcing the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks to fight for the seventh seed.

An upcoming matchup against the Arizona Cardinals seems like an achievable victory for Pete Carrol’s unit. They played hard last week against the Steelers, but their efforts came up short. Geno Smith and his offense are determined and will be ready to test a confident Cardinals defense. This season, Seattle ranks 12th in offensive grading (75.8) and 15th in defense (73.4). They must play well enough to steal a win and need the Packers to lose against the Chicago Bears.

The road to the Super Bowl is long but fair. Franchises must prepare for the grueling post-season by handling business. Inconsistencies this week will send teams home for the off-season. We are anxious to see which group of gridiron warriors advance to the next stage.

All statistics courtesy of pff.com