NFL week 18 review & results: Bills beat Dolphins, Packers make play-offs but Jaguars miss out

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The Jacksonville Jaguars agonisingly missed out on the play-offs by losing their last game of the season, while the Green Bay Packers claimed an impressive victory in their must-win game and the Buffalo Bills beat Miami in the big clash of the night.

The final Sunday of regular season action saw the Jaguars produce the biggest stumble as their loss to the five-win Tennessee Titans opened the door for the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch play-off spots.

After having their spot confirmed, Buffalo later beat the Dolphins in Miami to claim the second seed in the AFC and two possible home play-off games.

There were no great surprises in the NFC, as the impressive Packers and battling Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed the final two spots available to set-up two hugely intriguing wildcard games next weekend.

Outside the play-offs, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots ended the worst season of his coaching career in a drab 17-3 defeat by the New York Jets – although the Atlanta Falcons beat them to the punch by firing Arthur Smith straight after their defeat by the New Orleans Saints.

Later on Monday, Scott Fitterer was sacked by the Carolina Panthers and Ron Rivera was dismissed by the Washington Commanders after they failed to reach post-season.

All young Packers need is Love

NFL week 18 review & results: Bills beat Dolphins, Packers make play-offs but Jaguars miss out
NFL week 18 review & results: Bills beat Dolphins, Packers make play-offs but Jaguars miss out

The Green Bay Packers became the youngest team to make the play-offs since the NFL began keeping records in 1978, thanks to a 17-9 victory over the Chicago Bears, with quarterback Jordan Love showing exactly why the team were ready to lose Aaron Rodgers.

Four-time MVP Rodgers failed to get the Packers over the line in the final game of last season, but Love made no mistake at Lambeau Field to cap a fine end to the campaign after a 2-5 start and make it 10 wins in a row against their oldest rivals.

Love ends his first season as a starter with 4,159 passing yards and 32 touchdowns – only Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner have ever produced better debut season numbers.

“I think everyone knew what we were capable of,” said Love. “All the games we lost were close games that we knew there were little things we could fix that would put us over the hump to win those games.”

Green Bay will visit former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his Dallas team in a mouth-watering wildcard round game after Dak Prescott’s four touchdowns gave the Cowboys a 38-10 victory at the Washington Commanders and the NFC East title.

Stafford to return to Lions’ den

One of the highlights of wildcard weekend will be Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford returning to Detroit as the Lions host a play-off game for the first time in 30 years.

Stafford spent 12 seasons in Detroit before joining the Rams in 2021 and winning the Super Bowl that season – with Jared Goff going the other way and leading the Lions to a rare post-season berth.

“I know it’s going to be rocking there,” said Stafford. “Haven’t had a play-off game there for about 30 years or whatever it is, so it’ll be a great atmosphere. It’ll be a tough task for us, but [I’m] definitely excited.”

There’s nothing rare about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being in the play-offs as they battled to an ugly 9-0 win over the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South for a third straight season – and they’ll fancy their chances as they host the faltering Philadelphia Eagles.

From the best team in the league at 10-1, the Eagles have collapsed down the stretch and their 27-10 loss at the New York Giants was their fifth in their closing six games.

Last year’s beaten Super Bowl side hold the dubious honour of being just the third team to finish 1-5 and still make the play-offs, but they are limping into a trip to Tampa Bay and have a big injury worry over quarterback Jalen Hurts, who damaged the middle finger on his throwing hand.

NFC wildcard fixtures & schedule (All times GMT)

(1) San Francisco 49ers (first round bye)

(7) Green Bay Packers at (2) Dallas Cowboys (21:30 Sunday)

(6) Los Angeles Rams at (3) Detroit Lions (01:00 Monday)

(5) Philadelphia Eagles at (4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (01:15 Tuesday)

Jaguars fall at the final hurdle

Over in the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars suffered the biggest disappointment of the day as they lost 28-20 at the Tennessee Titans, who entered the game with just five wins and nothing to play for.

A win would have given the Jags the AFC South title, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence summed up their season when he was stopped inches short of the goal line in the fourth quarter as Jacksonville saw their promising season end with a whimper.

Jacksonville had been in control of the division when 8-3, but lost five of their last six to hand the division to the Houston Texans – who beat the Indianapolis Colts 23-19 on Saturday night – and a home play-off game against the Cleveland Browns.

That means rookie quarterback CJ Stroud gets into the play-offs in his debut season, where he will face 38-year-old former Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco – who was without a team a few months ago but came off the couch to become the fourth starting quarterback of the season for the Browns.

Bills claims second seed with Miami win

NFL week 18 review & results: Bills beat Dolphins, Packers make play-offs but Jaguars miss out
NFL week 18 review & results: Bills beat Dolphins, Packers make play-offs but Jaguars miss out

The Buffalo Bills struggled for large parts of the season but have finished strong – with their 21-14 victory at the Miami Dolphins their fifth straight win as they claimed the AFC East title and crucial second seed.

Much like their entire season, the Bills struggled for a lot of the game in Miami, with drops, mistakes and Josh Allen turnovers looking like costing them until two fourth-quarter touchdowns saw them win their division for the fourth year running.

Crucially that means the Bills will play at home in next week’s wildcard round as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Dolphins have to travel to Arrowhead to face the defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs.

AFC wildcard fixtures & schedule (All times GMT)

(1) Baltimore Ravens (first round bye)

(7) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Buffalo Bills (18:00 Sunday)

(6) Miami Dolphins at (3) Kansas City Chiefs (01:00 Sunday)

(5) Cleveland Browns at (4.) Houston Texans (21:30 Saturday)

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