Week 18 is about more than just playoff implications. Boardroom breaks down the NFL player incentives on the line and the records that could fall this weekend.
The final week of the NFL regular season is here. Week 18 plays out Saturday and Sunday with matchups that will determine home field advantage in each conference, division titles, and the final Wild Card spots in the NFC and AFC. But there’s more than that in play. A handful of players around the league will be more incentivized than others to put up big numbers — even if their teams have nothing to play for.
That’s because there are several NFL records and a bevy of contract incentives in play this weekend, making, in some cases, the individual battles more interesting than who wins or loses the game.
Without further ado, let’s look at the single-season records and NFL player incentives on the line in Week 18.
Patrick Mahomes needs 430 passing yards to break Peyton Manning‘s single-season record of 5,477. He’ll shoot for that when the Kansas City Chiefs try to capture the AFC’s top seed on Saturday against the Raiders. Mahomes will also receive $1.25 million if he wins MVP.
Justin Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964. Just a little something extra to keep an eye on when the Minnesota Vikings compete for the NFC’s top seed Sunday against the Bears.
In that same game, Bears QB Justin Fields can break Lamar Jackson‘s single-season record for QB rushing yards with 1,206. However, Fields, who is just 64 yards away, will reportedly be held out of action.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Falcons on Sunday, Tom Brady needs at least nine pass completions to break his own single-season record of 485, set last year. While Brady sits at 477, Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert is at 452 heading into his matchup Sunday against the Denver Broncos. So it’s possible we see two players fighting for the same NFL record in one day on Sunday.
Week 18 NFL Player Incentives to Watch
The 26-year-old former Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal with Kansas City for $2.49 million guaranteed and a ton of potential incentives. Smith-Schuster already earned an additional $1.5 million for reaching 65 receptions, and needs two more yards on Sunday against Las Vegas to reach 900 yards. If he gets there, he will earn an additional $500,000.
Smith-Schuster has also already earned $1 million by reaching 500 receiving yards and another million for reaching 650 receiving yards. In addition, he made $1.5 million for playing in 65% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps.
Assuming Juju gets to 900, he’ll be eligible for two other huge bonuses the rest of the way. If he plays in at least 50% of the team’s snaps and Kansas City wins the AFC championship game, Smith-Schuster gets an additional $1 million. If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and he plays in at least 50% of their snaps, he gets another $1 million on top of that.
As Smith-Schuster points out, it helps that he has one of the best QBs in the game throwing to him:
Christian Kirk, Zay Jones
The Jacksonville Jaguars‘ leading receivers will have more than the AFC South title to play for Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans. Kirk will receive an additional $500,000 each for reaching 80, 90, and 100 receptions, and for hitting 1,000, 1,100, and 1,200 receiving yards. He’s at 78 catches for 1,009 yards right now, meaning two catches and 91 yards earns him an extra $1 million, and an enormous 12/191 day would earn Kirk a cool $2 million.
Jones will earn $250,000 each for 70, 80, and 90 receptions. He also enters Saturday’s game with 78 catches, meaning a two-catch night earns the 27-year-old an extra quarter-million and 12 receptions brings him another $500,000.
While we’re not sure whether the Detroit Lions will have a chance at the NFC’s final playoff spot just yet — they need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams and a win over the Packers to get in — we do know Sunday will be important for Williams, regardless. The NFL’s leader in rushing touchdowns (15) is at 994 yards, and will earn an extra $250,000 if he gets to 1,000. Barring injury, Williams should get that well-earned bonus early on.
While the 5-11 Rams have nothing to play for Sunday against Seattle, the tight end who turned 30 on New Year’s Day will earn an extra $500,000 if he reaches 600 receiving yards. Already at 587, Higbee just needs one good-sized reception to pick up a nice little belated birthday present for himself.
Other Notable NFL Player Incentives: Week 18
- Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith goes into Sunday’s game against Chicago with 10 sacks. A half sack would earn him an extra $250,000, while a 2.5 sack day (getting him to 12.5 total) would get him another $250,000 on top of that.
- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie earns an additional $100,000 each for hitting 40, 50, and 60 receptions, in addition to 450, 550, and 600 yards receiving. Going into Sunday’s matchup against the Patriots, the 27-year-old has 40 catches for 404 yards.
- Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine will receive an extra $100,000 for hitting 500 rushing yards. He’d need 124 in Sunday’s crucial matchup against the Ravens. Teammate Hayden Hurst earns an additional $250,000 for reaching 60 receptions and an extra $125,000 for 500 yards. The tight end currently has 48 catches for 400 yards.
- New York Jets linebacker Carl Lawson needs one sack Sunday against the Dolphins to get to eight, which would earn him a $600,000 bonus.
- Chargers tight end Gerald Everett gets $250,000 bonuses for hitting 50, 60, and 70 receptions. He has 55 catches going into Sunday’s matchup against Denver. His teammate, DeAndre Carter, gets an extra $500,000 if he reaches 550 receiving yards. The wide receiver currently has 495.
- Packers defensive end Preston Smith needs 1.5 sacks to reach 10, which would earn him an extra $1 million as Green Bay looks to lock up the NFC’s final playoff spot Sunday night.
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