Vince’s View: NFL Predictions for Week 18 with playoff spots and positions up for grabs

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 18 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 17 Straight-Up Record: 13-3 (81%)
Week 17 Against The Spread Record: 11-5 (69%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 143-83 (63%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 125-101 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) during a NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns on September 26, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 26-6.

WEEK 18 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, January 8Kansas City at Denver
V-Picks: Broncos +11.5; Kansas City wins
ESPN/ABC4:30
Dallas at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Eagles +3.5; Philadelphia wins
ESPN/ABC8:15
Sunday, January 9Pittsburgh at Baltimore
V-Picks: Ravens -3.5; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Cincinnati at Cleveland
V-Picks: Bengals +6; Cleveland wins
FOX1:00
 Green Bay at Detroit
V-Picks: Packers -3; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
 Tennessee at Houston
V-Picks: Titans =10; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
 Indianapolis at Jacksonville
V-Picks: Colts -14.5; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
 Chicago at Minnesota
V-Picks: Vikings -4; Minnesota wins
FOX1:00
 Washington at New York Giants
V-Picks: Football Team -7; Washington wins
FOX1:00
 Seattle at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -5.5; Arizona wins
FOX4:25
 New Orleans at Atlanta
V-Picks: Saints -3.5; New Orleans wins
FOX4:25
 New York Jets at Buffalo
V-Picks: Bills -16.5; Buffalo wins
CBS4:25
 San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -3.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:25
 New England at Miami
V-Picks: Patriots -6; New England wins
CBS4:25
 Carolina at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -8.5; Tampa Bay wins
CBS4:25
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Chargers -3; Los Angeles wins
NBC8:20

NFL’S SEASON FINALE TO DECIDE FINAL THREE PLAYOFF BERTHS

Welcome to Week 18, the NFL’s Season Finale.

The music stops playing this weekend and there are only three remaining chairs – three final postseason berths. With one week to play, 18 teams are in Super Bowl contention. The last time there were more entering the final week of the regular season was 15 years ago (20 in 2006).

The 2021 regular season concludes with 14 of 16 games featuring at least one team either in the playoffs or in playoff contention.

In the AFC, five teams are fighting for the final two playoff invitations. In the NFC, two clubs have a shot at the final playoff reservation. Only the GREEN BAY PACKERS have secured their playoff seeding, clinching the NFC’s No. 1 seed and only first-round bye.

The Season Finale kicks off on Saturday with a doubleheader on ESPN and ABC: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) visit the DENVER BRONCOS (7-9) at 4:30 PM ET and the DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5) travel to meet the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7) at 8:15 PM ET.

For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week are division contests. The last matchup on the 2021 regular-season schedule features the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) at the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). The winner will earn the final spot in the NFL Playoffs.

FOUR TEAMS FIGHTING FOR NO. 1 SEED IN AFC: Only one team in each conference gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In the AFC, four teams enter the final weekend with an opportunity to earn that right, which includes homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The TENNESSEE TITANS (11-5) have the most direct path to that coveted No. 1 seed, win at HOUSTON (4-12) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). But don’t sleep on the Texans, who have won two of their past three and defeated Tennessee in Week 11.

The Chiefs can secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed for a second straight season, but they need to first win at Denver on Saturday and hope for a Titans loss the next day. And if Houston defeats Tennessee in the early window on Sunday, and the Broncos defeat the Chiefs, the door opens for both the CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6).

For the full Week 18 playoff scenarios, click here.

BRADY CAN ADD TO HISTORIC RESUME: When the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (12-4) host the CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), quarterback TOM BRADY has an opportunity to accomplish something only two players have done in 31 years.

Brady leads the NFL in passing attempts (682), completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). Only DREW BREES (2008) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (2013) have led the league in all four categories since 1991.

  • In last week’s win, Brady passed for 410 yards and three touchdowns while tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI recorded 115 receiving yards.
  • Brady has 13 career games with at least 400 passing yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (13) for the third-most such games all-time. Only DREW BREES (16 games) and Manning (14) have more.
  • Brady, who had 40 touchdown passes in 2020 and 50 touchdown passes in 2007, has reached 40 touchdown passes for the third time in his career, joining AARON RODGERS as the only quarterback ever with three career seasons with at least 40 touchdown passes. Brady also joined DREW BREES (2011-12) as the only quarterbacks all-time with at least 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons.
  • Gronkowski registered his 31st career game with at least 100 receiving yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY GONZALEZ (31) for the most such games by a tight end in league annals.

ANOTHER WORST-TO-FIRST TURNAROUND: In last week’s win, the CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Kansas City and earn the AFC North division title for the first time since 2015.

Cincinnati completed a worst-to-first turnaround, winning its division the year after finishing in last place. In 17 of the past 19 seasons (2003-21), at least one NFL team has finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last place.

This week, quarterback JOE BURROW leads the Bengals on the road at the CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-9), the latest installment in the Battle of Ohio series (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • In the Week 17 win, Burrow passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns while rookie wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had 11 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the Bengals’ Week 17 win over Kansas City.
  • Burrow, who had 525 passing yards and four touchdown passes in Week 16, is the second quarterback all-time with at least 450 passing yards and four touchdown passes in consecutive games, joining JAMEIS WINSTON (Weeks 14-15, 2019).
  • Burrow has 971 passing yards in his past two games, surpassing PHIL SIMMS (945 in Weeks 5-6, 1985) for the second-most passing yards by a quarterback in a two-game span ever. Only DAK PRESCOTT (974 in Weeks 3-4, 2020) had more.
  • With 266 receiving yards last week, Chase broke the NFL’s single-game rookie record, previously held by JERRY BUTLER (255 on Sept. 23, 1979).
  • Chase also established the league’s single-season rookie record last week. With 1,429 receiving yards this season, he surpassed JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020).
  • Chase, who also had 201 receiving yards in Week 7, is also the first rookie ever and the fifth overall player in the Super Bowl era to record multiple games with at least 200 receiving yards in a season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers CALVIN JOHNSON (2011 and 2012) and DON MAYNARD (1968) as well as JOSH GORDON (2013) and ALSHON JEFFERY (2013).
  • Chase leads all qualifying NFL players with 18.1 yards per reception and can become the first rookie to lead the league in that category since KENNY STILLS (20.0 yards per reception) in 2013.

PATRIOTS CAN JOIN BOUNCE-BACK DIVISION WINNERS: Both Cincinnati and Dallas have clinched division titles after missing the postseason in 2020. At least two NFL teams have now won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.

The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6), who visit the MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), can join that group this week. The Patriots would win the AFC East with a win and a Buffalo loss.

  • Last week, New England’s BILL BELICHICK became the second head coach all-time with 20 seasons of 10-or-more wins, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA (20 seasons).
  • The Patriots, who scored 54 points in Week 7 and 50 last week, are the first team since the 2014 GREEN BAY PACKERS to score at least 50 points twice in season.
  • Also in last week’s win, New England rookie quarterback MAC JONES completed 22 of 30 attempts (73.3 percent) for 227 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a 128.1 rating. Meanwhile, defensive back J.C. JACKSON recorded his eighth interception of the season.
  • Jones has nine games with a completion percentage of 70-or-higher, tied with DAK PRESCOTT (nine games in 2016) for the most such games by a rookie quarterback all-time.
  • Jackson has 25 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2018 and is the fourth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 25 interceptions in his first four seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LEM BARNEY (32), LESTER HAYES (25) and EVERSON WALLS (25). 

CARDINALS ONE OF FIVE TEAMS TO REBOUND INTO POSTSEASON: So far this season, five teams have clinched playoff berths after missing the postseason in 2020 – Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, New England and Philadelphia. Since 1990 – a streak of 32 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

The Cardinals finish their regular season at home against the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-10) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX). Arizona can also join the group of new division winners that missed the playoffs last season with a win and a Los Angeles Rams loss.

  • Last week, Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON passed for four touchdowns with no interceptions and a 133.0 rating in the Seahawks’ win. Including the postseason, Wilson now has 112 career wins, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (112) for the most wins, including the postseason, by a quarterback in his first 10 seasons in league annals.
  • Wilson has 17 career games with at least four touchdown passes, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers PEYTON MANNING (17) and DAN MARINO (17) for the most such games by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history.

ST. BROWN BROTHERS MEET IN DETROIT: Brother wide receivers EQUANIMEOUS and AMON-RA ST. BROWN will square off when the GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3) close the regular season at the DETROIT LIONS (2-13-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • AMON-RA ST. BROWN, the league’s December Offensive Rookie of the Month, is the first rookie in NFL history to string together five games of eight-or-more receptions, a streak he brings into the season finale.
  • Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS leads the NFL with a 111.1 passer rating this season. Rodgers, who also led the league with a 121.5 rating in 2020, can become the first player to lead the NFL in that category in consecutive seasons since Rodgers did it from 2011-12.
  • Last week, Green Bay’s MATT LAFLEUR became the first individual ever to win 39 regular-season games in his first three seasons as an NFL head coach, surpassing GEORGE SEIFERT, who had 38 from 1989-91.

TAYLOR GUIDES COLTS INTO JACKSONVILLE: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-7) look to keep their playoff hopes alive on the road against the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-14) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

  • Last week, Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR totaled 114 scrimmage yards (108 rushing, six receiving) and one rushing touchdown. He now has 2,076 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns (18 rushing, two receiving) this season.
  • Taylor last week, at 22 years and 348 days old, became the youngest player with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in a season all-time.
  • Taylor, who was selected in the second round (41st overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (1983) and DAVID JOHNSON (2016) as the only players with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in one of their first two career seasons in NFL history.

CLUTCH CARLSON KEEPS RAIDERS IN CONTENTION: On 32 occasions this year, more than any season in NFL history, a game-winning score on the final play has decided a game. Last week, Cincinnati rookie EVAN MCPHERSON and the Raiders’ DANIEL CARLSON each kicked game-winning field goals with no time remaining in the fourth quarter.

This week, Carlson and the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) host the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) in a win-or-go-home 2021 NFL regular-season finale on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

RAMS EYE NFC WEST TITLE, NEED WIN OVER RIVAL 49ERS: So far this season, 46 games have been decided with a winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, the fifth-most in a season all-time. Only 2013 (49), 2015 (49), 2003 (48) and 2002 (47) had more. In addition to Cincinnati and Las Vegas, the LOS ANGELES RAMS and TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS each scored go-ahead game-winning touchdowns in the final minute of regulation in Week 17.

  • This week, those Rams (12-4) can capture the NFC West division title with a victory over the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-7) at SoFi Stadium (4:25 PM ET, FOX). The 49ers with a win would return to the playoffs.
  • Last week, Los Angeles wide receiver COOPER KUPP registered six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown while defensive lineman AARON DONALD recorded half a sack in the team’s road win.
  • Kupp has 138 receptions this season and surpassed ANTONIO BROWN (136 receptions in 2015) and JULIO JONES (136 in 2015) for the third-most receptions in a season in NFL history. Only MICHAEL THOMAS (149 in 2019) and Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (143 in 2002) had more.
  • Kupp has 1,829 receiving yards in 2021 and became the fifth player with at least 1,800 in a season in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers CALVIN JOHNSON (1,964 in 2012) and JERRY RICE (1,848 in 1995), as well as ANTONIO BROWN (1,834 in 2015) and JULIO JONES (1,871 in 2015).
  • With at least five receptions in 20 consecutive games, Kupp has tied with JARVIS LANDRY (20 games from 2017-18) and MICHAEL THOMAS (20 from 2018-19) for the third-longest such streak in NFL history. Only ANTONIO BROWN (36 from 2013-15) and DEANDRE HOPKINS (23 from 2018-20) have longer streaks.
  • Donald has 98 career sacks since entering the NFL in 2014, tied with teammate VON MILLER (98) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DERRICK THOMAS (98) for the fourth-most sacks by a player in his first eight NFL seasons since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (124 sacks), DEMARCUS WARE (111) and JARED ALLEN (105) have more.

PITTS FINISHING SEASON IN REMARKABLE FASHION: Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS has 1,018 receiving yards this season. Last week, he joined Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 in 1961) as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

  • Pitts, whose ATLANTA FALCONS (7-9) host the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-8) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), also has 66 receptions in 2021. He is the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 65 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).
  • New Orleans can clinch a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season with a win over Atlanta in combination with a San Francisco loss.

BUFFALO HEADING TO PLAYOFFS ON ARM, LEGS OF ALLEN: Quarterback JOSH ALLEN rushed for two touchdowns last week to help the BUFFALO BILLS (10-6) clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive season.

  • Allen, whose club hosts the NEW YORK JETS on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), has five games with at least two rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2018, tied with JALEN HURTS (five) for the most such games by a quarterback in his first four seasons in the Super Bowl era.
  • Allen also has six rushing touchdowns this season and joined CAM NEWTON as the only quarterbacks ever with at least five rushing touchdowns in each of their first four seasons.
  • With 101 touchdown passes and 31 rushing touchdowns, Allen is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 touchdown passes and 30 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons.

PLAYOFF PUSH: All 16 games are divisional contests in Week 18 and there are still 18 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LVI. There hasn’t been more teams still alive for postseason berths entering the league’s final week since 2006 (20 teams).

Six division titles have been secured, three of which feature a team that did not win their division in 2020 – the AFC North  (CINCINNATI BENGALS), NFC East (DALLAS COWBOYS) and NFC South (TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS).

The NFC West, coming down to the ARIZONA CARDINALS or LOS ANGELES RAMS, is also guaranteed to have a new winner in 2021, while the AFC East could have a new winner if the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS clinch the division this weekend.

This would be the second-consecutive season in which there are five new division winners.

Additionally, both Cincinnati and Dallas won their division after missing the postseason in 2020, while both the AFC East (New England) and NFC West (Arizona) can also have a division winner that missed the postseason last year. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.

Cincinnati clinched the AFC North after finishing in last place in the division in 2020. In 17 of the past 19 seasons, at least one team finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last.

The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES also clinched a postseason berth this year after finishing in last place in their division last season.

Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.

For the Week 18 playoff scenarios, click here.

— NFL —

PASSING THROUGH THE RECORD BOOKS: Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters the final week of the season leading the league in completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). This would be his fourth season leading the league in passing yards (2017, 2007, 2005) and his fifth season leading the league in touchdown passes (2015, 2010, 2007, 2002). 2007 was the only other season in which he led in both categories.

Brady is also within striking distance of the all-time single-season records for both passing yards and completions.

The players with the most passing yards in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Peyton ManningHOFDenver20135,477
Drew BreesNew Orleans20115,476
Tom BradyNew England20115,235
    
Tom BradyTampa Bay20214,990*
*Entering Week 18

The players with the most completions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONCOMPLETIONS
Drew BreesNew Orleans2016471
Drew BreesNew Orleans2011468
Tom BradyTampa Bay2021456*
Drew BreesNew Orleans2014456
*Entering Week 18

Brady, who had a career-high 5,235 passing yards in 2011, can join DREW BREES (five seasons) as the only players in league history with at least 5,000 passing yards in multiple seasons.

Second-year quarterbacks JOE BURROW – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – and JUSTIN HERBERT – the No. 6 overall selection last year – can also reach the 5,000-yard milestone on Sunday.

In Week 18, they can join PATRICK MAHOMES (5,097 in 2018) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (5,084 in 1984) as the only players ever to record at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons.

The players with at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Patrick MahomesKansas City20185,097
Dan MarinoHOFMiami19845,084
    
Justin HerbertL.A. Chargers20214,631*
Joe BurrowCincinnati20214,611*
*Entering Week 18

A sampling of other notable quarterback milestones that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS enters this week with 3,977 passing yards this season. With 23 passing yards at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rodgers will become the sixth quarterback ever to record at least 4,000 passing yards in 10 different seasons.
  • Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has 2,875 passing yards in 2021. With 125 passing yards at Arizona on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Wilson will become the second quarterback ever to record at least 3,000 passing yards in each of his first 10 seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING.
  • Indianapolis quarterback CARSON WENTZ has 10 touchdown passes against zero interceptions in seven road starts this season. With no interceptions at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Wentz will become the first quarterback ever to start eight road games in a season without throwing an interception.  

— NFL —

CATCHING HISTORY: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP leads the NFL in receptions (138), receiving yards (1,829) and touchdown receptions (15) this season and is within striking distance of the all-time single season record for most receptions and receiving yards.

The players with the most receptions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Michael ThomasNew Orleans2019149
Marvin HarrisonHOFIndianapolis2002143
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams2021138*
*Entering Week 18

The players with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Calvin JohnsonHOFDetroit20121,964
Julio JonesAtlanta20151,871
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19951,848
Antonio BrownPittsburgh20151,834
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams20211,829*
*Entering Week 18

A sampling of other notable wide receiver records that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS ranks second in the league with 117 receptions, third with 1,498 receiving yards and fifth with 11 touchdown receptions. With a touchdown reception at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Adams will become the sixth player ever with at least 12 touchdown receptions in four of his first eight seasons. 
  • Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS enters this week with 946 receiving yards this season. With 54 receiving yards against Carolina on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Evans will become the first player ever with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first eight seasons.
  • Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON ranks second in the league with 1,509 receiving yards and fourth with 103 receptions. His 2,909 career receiving yards are the most-ever by a player in his first two seasons, while his 191 career receptions are the third-most. With 91 receiving yards against Chicago on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Jefferson will become the third-fastest player ever (33 games) to reach 3,000 receiving yards. Only ODELL BECKHAM JR. (30) and CHARLIE HENNIGAN (31) reached the mark in fewer games.

    With nine receptions, Jefferson can also tie JARVIS LANDRY (33 games) as the third-fastest player to reach 200 receptions. Only Beckham Jr. (30) and MICHAEL THOMAS (32) reached the mark the fewer games.

— NFL —

RECORD-BREAKING BACKS: Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR leads the league with 2,076 scrimmage yards, 1,734 rushing yards, 20 scrimmage touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns. He is the first player in league history to record 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 scrimmage touchdowns in a season prior to turning 23.

Last week marked Taylor’s ninth game this season with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, the most in the league. If he accomplishes the feat again at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Taylor will become the fourth player ever to record at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in 10 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
Shaun AlexanderSeattle200511
Emmitt SmithHOFDallas199511
Jamal AndersonAtlanta199810
    
Jonathan TaylorIndianapolis20219*
*Entering Week 18

Los Angeles Chargers running back AUSTIN EKELER ranks second in the league with a career-high 18 touchdowns (11 rushing, seven receiving) this season.

With a touchdown at Las Vegas on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Ekeler – who went undrafted out of Western State in 2017 – can surpass LEGARRETTE BLOUNT (18 touchdowns in 2016) and ARIAN FOSTER (18 in 2010) for the third-most touchdowns in a single season by an undrafted player in the common-draft era. Only PRIEST HOLMES (27 in 2003 and 24 in 2002) has more.

The undrafted players with the most touchdowns in a single season in the common-draft era:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONTOUCHDOWNS
Priest HolmesKansas City200327
Priest HolmesKansas City200224
Austin EkelerL.A. Chargers202118*
LeGarrette BlountNew England201618
Arian FosterHouston201018
*Entering Week 18

Ekeler also enters the season’s final week ranking fourth among running backs with 1,459 scrimmage yards (847 rushing, 612 receiving). With 41 scrimmage yards on Sunday night, Ekeler – who had a career-high 1,550 scrimmage yards in 2019 – can become the third undrafted player in the common-draft era with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in multiple seasons, joining Foster (four seasons) and Holmes (three).

— NFL —

ROOKIE TAKEOVER: Last week, Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE recorded 266 receiving yards, the most in a single game by a rookie in NFL history. He now has 1,429 receiving yards on the season, surpassing JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020) for the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.

With 45 receiving yards at Cleveland on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Chase will surpass BILL GROMAN (1,473 in 1960) for the most receiving yards by a rookie all-time.

The rookies with the most receiving yards in a single season all-time:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Bill GromanHouston Oilers19601,473
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati20211,429*
Justin JeffersonMinnesota20201,400
*Entering Week 18

Four rookies – Miami wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE (99 receptions), Detroit wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN (82), Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE (79) and Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS (70) – each have at least 70 receptions this season. The 2021 season is the first with four-or-more rookies reaching 70 receptions, surpassing the 2014 season (three players).

Waddle’s 99 receptions are the second-most receptions by a rookie in league annals. With three receptions against New England on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), he would surpass ANQUAN BOLDIN (101 receptions in 2003) for the most receptions by a rookie all-time.
The rookies with the most receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Anquan BoldinArizona2003101
Jaylen WaddleMiami202199*
Michael ThomasNew Orleans201692
*Entering Week 18   

Harris leads all rookies with 1,612 scrimmage yards (1,172 rushing, 440 receiving) this season and can become the fifth rookie in NFL history with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.

The rookies with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRUSHING YARDSRECEIVING YARDS
Saquon BarkleyN.Y. Giants20181,307721
Marshall FaulkHOFIndianapolis19941,282522
Edgerrin JamesHOFIndianapolis19991,553586
Billy SimsDetroit19801,303621
     
Najee HarrisPittsburgh20211,172*440*
*Entering Week 18   

Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS ranks third among all tight ends with 1,018 receiving yards this season and with at least 59 receiving yards against New Orleans on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) for the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in NFL history.

Pitts has 66 receptions in 2021 and with four receptions, can become the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 70 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).

— NFL —

SACK ATTACK: Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. WATT leads the league with 21.5 sacks in 2021, followed by Chicago’s ROBERT QUINN (18 sacks), San Francisco’s NICK BOSA (15) and Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT (15). Cincinnati’s TREY HENDRICKSON (14) and Dallas rookie MICAH PARSONS (13) also have at least 13 sacks with one week to play.

The 2021 season has a chance to become the seventh season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, and first since 1998 to feature five-or-more players with at least 15 sacks. 

The seasons with the most players with at least 15 sacks since 1982:

SEASONPLAYERS WTH 15+ SACKS
19897
19866
19985
19925
19845
19835
  
20214*
*Entering Week 18 

With a sack at Baltimore on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Watt will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL STRAHAN (22.5 sacks in 2001) for the most sacks by a player in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The players with the most sacks in a season since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMESSACKS
Michael StrahanHOFN.Y. Giants20011622.5
Jared AllenMinnesota20111622
Mark GastineauN.Y. Jets19841622
Justin HoustonKansas City20141622
T.J. WattPittsburgh20211421.5*
*Entering Week 18 

Both Quinn and Hendrickson enter this week having recorded a sack in 12 games this season. If either player records a sack in Week 18, they will join DEMARCUS WARE (14 games in 2008), JUSTIN HOUSTON (13 in 2014) and CHANDLER JONES (13 in 2017) as the only players since 1982 to record a sack in 13 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with a sack in a single season since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
DeMarcus WareDallas200814
Justin HoustonKansas City201413
Chandler JonesArizona201713
    
Trey HendricksonCincinnati202112*
Robert QuinnChicago202112*
*Entering Week 18

With two sacks at Philadelphia on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/FOX), Parsons can surpass JEVON KEARSE (14.5 sacks in 1999) for the most sacks by a rookie since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The rookies with the most sacks since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONSACKS
Jevon KearseTennessee199914.5
Aldon SmithSan Francisco201114
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis200213
Micah ParsonsDallas202113*
*Entering Week 18

In addition to Parsons, two other rookies have at least eight sacks this season – Miami linebacker JAELAN PHILLIPS (8.5 sacks) and New York Giants linebacker AZEEZ OJULARI (eight). This season can become the first season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, in which three rookies recorded 10-or-more sacks.

— NFL —

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