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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Daniel Chavkin

Rest and Injuries in the NFL Means Week 18 Will Be Full of Odd QB Matchups

Week 18 in the NFL is a bizarre landscape, as some teams are preparing for the playoffs while others are just trying to get to the offseason. That mindset lends itself to a lot of backups playing for teams that don’t have to worry about playoff implications.

Therefore, many games this weekend will feature two teams playing quarterbacks that weren’t their intended starter to begin the season.

The Kansas City Chiefs have locked up the No. 3 seed, so they will start Blaine Gabbert over Patrick Mahomes vs. Los Angeles Chargers backup Easton Stick, who’s filling in for the injured Justin Herbert. The Cleveland Browns also know they will be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, so they are resting Joe Flacco and instead starting Jeff Driskel vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still starting Jake Browning with Joe Burrow out for the year.

Veteran quarterback Blaine Gabbert will make his first start of the season on Sunday.

Denny Medley/USA Today network

Both top seeds will rest their starters, as the Baltimore Ravens will go with Tyler Huntley over Lamar Jackson against Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC. Sam Darnold, not Brock Purdy will lead the San Francisco 49ers against Carson Wentz and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC.

Some games just have teams starting depth quarterbacks because they have no other options or are looking towards the future. In the Denver Broncos-Las Vegas Raiders game, Jarrett Stidham will make his second start in a row against rookie Aidan O’Connell. When the New York Jets travel to play the New England Patriots, it will be Trevor Siemian vs. Bailey Zappe.

The Minnesota Vikings have already determined Nick Mullens will start against the Detroit Lions, who may rest Jared Goff for Teddy Bridgewater after winning the NFC North. Meanwhile, the New York Giants have already confirmed that Tyrod Taylor will start vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

The final week of the NFL season has always had a unique vibe to it, and that is no different this year.

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