The NFL’s final slate of games this regular season kicked off Saturday with two AFC faceoffs.
The games marked the league’s return to action for the first time since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s hospitalization, and featured tributes to the player on and off the field. The contests also had major implications for the NFL playoffs.
Chiefs vs Raiders:
Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders players paid tribute to Hamlin, wearing shirts and hoodies of the 24-year-old ahead of their Week 18 matchup at Allegiant Stadium in Nevada.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams were among the players to pay tribute to Hamlin.
Before the game, the public address announcer read a statement of support for Hamlin and received a roar from the crowd.
NFL playoffs: The Chiefs cruised past the Raiders 31-13, clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC conference.
Kansas City will have a first-round bye in the playoffs and can secure the AFC Championship at home if the Buffalo Bills lose to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
If the Bills win against the Patriots and make it to the AFC championship game along with the Chiefs, the game will be played at a neutral site.
Jaguars vs Titans:
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans held a moment of prayer for Hamlin prior to kickoff Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field. Players from both teams came together and joined arms at midfield while taking a knee in a show of support for Hamlin.
The stadium announcer read a similar PA address to that read at the Chiefs-Raiders game.
The Jaguars also posted video of their field crew highlighting the number 3 on their field in a tribute to Hamlin’s jersey number. You’ll see that gesture taken at stadiums across the league Sunday.
NFL playoffs: The Jaguars beat the Titans 20-16 in this “win-and-in” contest, meaning they clinched the AFC South division and a spot in the playoffs.
The game turned on a dramatic fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a touchdown, with Jags star defender Josh Allen scooping up a bounding ball and returning it for the score.
This marks the Jaguars’ first playoff appearance since 2017.
With the loss, the Titans’ once strong playoff hopes have now completely diminished. The team suffered seven straight losses to end the regular season.