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Winners Club: A Look Ahead to a Football-Focused Weekend, Plus the Latest Around the NBA

The first-ever Week 18 begins Saturday afternoon and there’s plenty at stake.

Good morning! There’s no football on the docket this Thursday, though we do have the first-ever Week 18 of the NFL season this weekend to look forward to along with the college football national championship Monday night. Prepare for both and get your NBA fix in today’s newsletter.

NFL and Fantasy Football

The longest regular season ever wraps up this weekend, and there’s still plenty to be sorted out in the NFC and AFC standings before the postseason begins.

Six NFC teams already clinched a playoff berth and five teams have done so in the AFC. Technically, there are 18 teams whose playoff hopes are sealed or still alive heading into Saturday, though some need more help than others. The only thing that’s already been determined is the Packers are the NFC’s No. 1 seed—the remaining seeds in both conferences are up for grabs. Ben Pickman laid out the current standings and all of the convoluted playoff scenarios (like playing for a tie?) at stake in Week 18.

nfl

Offensive Rookie of the Year Betting Breakdown: Ja’Marr Chase has surpassed Mac Jones as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year after an historic Week 17 performance. Frankie Taddeo shares whether he’s jumping ship on his early investment in Jones or riding the Chase hype.

Many fantasy leagues concluded a week ago. Punishments were doled out for the losers, trophies and/or rings were awarded to the winners. But some fantasy managers are leaning into the NFL’s longest-season-ever mantra and have championships that stretch into Week 18. And as long as games are being played, the SI Fantasy crew has you covered.

Fantasy Players to Avoid for Week 18: With playoff berths clinched and injured players needing rest before the postseason, Jen Piacenti singles out the players who might have reduced roles—or not play altogether—in the regular-season finale.

Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: The Saints have something to play for this weekend and Michael Fabiano likes Taysom Hill as his Start of the Week at quarterback in a plus matchup against the Falcons.

Photo credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

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Fantasy Football Stat Projections: Devin Singletary is a top-five running back in Shawn Childs’s latest player projections. See who else is among the top projected scorers.

End-of-season IDP Report: Matt De Lima recaps the fantasy season for IDP managers and picks overachievers and underachievers and offers his takeaways on the year.

NBA Action

Kyrie Irving’s return to the Nets was the main story Wednesday night—and he did show out in his season debut with 22 points in a win—but it wasn’t the only highlight with 22 teams in action.

Kevin Porter Jr. hit a game-winner for the Rockets in his first game back from suspension. Kelly Oubre drained eight fourth-quarter threes in a huge Hornets win. The Mavericks beat the Warriors by 17 on the night the team retired legend Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey. Just another night around the league.

Visit si.com/betting later in the day for a preview and betting picks for Thursday’s Warriors-Pelicans and Clippers-Suns games from All HawksPat Benson and I.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts to a made basket in the second half against the Indiana Pacers.

Kyrie Irving’s Effect on Nets Title Hopes: Ahead of Irving’s return to the court, our writers discussed how his part-time presence impacts Brooklyn’s championship chances.

Zion Williamson Rehab Update: The Pelicans announced their star will continue rehabilitation for his foot injury away from the team. Williamson suffered a setback in December following his foot surgery.


That’s all for today, folks. I’ll be back in your inbox Sunday morning. You should know the drill by now, but make sure you set your lineups before Saturday’s NFL games.