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NFL Week 18 Biggest Winners, Losers: Jordan Love Making The Leap

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) throws under pressure from Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones (93) on Jan. 7. (Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

The 2023 NFL regular season’s final full slate of games wrapped on Sunday. There were several games with playoff implications and several stand-out players and disappointing performances. Here are the biggest winners and losers of Week 18:

Winner: Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers

There might not have been a bigger winner than Jordan Love in Week 18. In his first win-or-go-home game, Love played arguably the best game of his career.

While the Green Bay Packers only scored 17 points, Love couldn't have been more impressive. He completed 27 of 32 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Several incompletions were drops from his receivers as Love couldn't have been more on the money.

As good as Love’s stats were, the film was even better. He made several throws into tight windows and threw his receivers open. Whenever the Packers needed a big play, Love delivered. In a hard-fought NFC North matchup against the Bears, Love was easily the best player on the field.

In his first year as a starter, Love led the Packers to a 9-8 record, and they will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. That will be a tall task for Love, but he's shown that he can play at a high level and can go toe-to-toe with just about any quarterback in the league.

It's hard not to come away from Week 18 thinking that the Packers have done it again and found their next franchise quarterback.

Loser: Jacksonville Jaguars

At one point, the Jacksonville Jaguars were 8-3 and nearly shoo-ins to make the NFL playoffs. But instead of potentially contending for the No. 1 seed, the Jaguars are out of the playoffs altogether. Since their 8-3 start, the Jaguars won just one more game; a home game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. 

Even after their five-game losing streak, all the Jaguars needed to do was defeat the 5-11 Tennessee Titans in the final week to win the AFC South. Instead, they gave up 28 points to one of the worst offenses in the NFL and will watch the playoffs at home. 

It was a comedy of errors for the Jaguars in Week 18. Evan Engram dropped a pass on third down and tipped the ball up into the air and into the arms of a Titans defender. A few plays later, the Titans scored a touchdown to take a 21-10 lead. But Engram wasn’t the only one to make a mistake. 

Doug Pederson had several coaching errors that cost his team in Week 18. Instead of kicking a field goal down 21-10 from the 30-yard-line, Pederson decided to go for it on fourth-and-6. Of course, that didn’t work and took points off the board. Pederson also burned a timeout in the fourth quarter on a first-and-20 for the offense. 

Later on in that drive, Pederson went for it on fourth-and-goal, down 28-20. He called a quarterback sneak with banged-up quarterback Trevor Lawrence. On the previous play, the Jaguars ran a sprint right option with only one receiver out in the route. 

The Jaguars didn’t show up for a game they had to win. Their tackling was atrocious and the effort level on both sides of the ball just wasn’t there. Jacksonville finishing 9-8 is highly disappointing and there need to be some hard conversations about the franchise’s direction moving forward. Not making the playoffs this season after that start is unacceptable. 

>>READ: Don't Blame Trevor Lawrence

Winner: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

In what was likely his last game with the Tennessee Titans, Derrick Henry went out with a bang. It was a typical AFC South game for Henry, who rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Henry averaged a whopping 8.1 yards per carry and ripped off a 69-yard run that led to a touchdown a few plays later.

Not only did Henry have a huge game, but he was the catalyst for the Titans’ upset of the Jaguars. The offense had one of its best performances of the season and it all started with Henry. 

He'll likely continue his career somewhere else next season, but this was some going-out party for Henry and the Titans.

Loser: Arthur Smith, HC, Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons were one of the most frustrating and disappointing teams in the NFL this season. Armed with three top-10 picks at running back, wide receiver and tight end, the Falcons had one of the league's most boring and dry offenses. 

That was the case again in Week 18 after the Falcons scored just 17 points and were eliminated from playoff contention by the Saints.

The quarterback situation was a mess for the Falcons all season as they went back and forth between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Henicke. Both quarterbacks regressed and the aforementioned high draft choices Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts were underused.

Making matters worse, Smith had the audacity to chew out Saints coach Dennis Allen at the end of the game for scoring a late touchdown. It was a bad look for a coach whose team underperformed all year long and looks to be on the way out.

After multiple years of not being able to figure out the quarterback situation despite being an offensive-minded coach, it’s time for the Falcons to move on from Smith. 

Winner: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

The goal for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18 was simple; beat the Washington Commanders and finish as the NFC’s No. 2 seed. That outcome was in question after the Commanders blocked a field goal and intercepted Dak Prescott in the first half. But Prescott and the Cowboys bounced back and got a blowout win, 38-10.

Prescott was under a ton of pressure during the 2023 season after leading the league in interceptions last season. Prescott vowed not to have double-digit interceptions during the 2023 season and made good on his promise. Prescott finished with nine interceptions and led the league in touchdown passes (36). This was arguably the best season of his career, leading the Cowboys to their third straight 12-win season.

Prescott had a massive game against the Commanders, throwing for 279 yards and four touchdowns while completing 31 of 36 passes. 

This was the seventh time this season that the Cowboys have scored 38 or more points. There might not be a quarterback in the NFL who has consistently played at a higher rate than Prescott has. He won't be the NFL MVP, but he certainly should be in the conversation.

Loser: Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles were in a tough spot heading into Week 18. In all likelihood, the Eagles would be the No. 5 seed because the Cowboys were 13.5-point favorites over the Commanders. Philadelphia needed to win and have Dallas lose to win the NFC East. But rather than going out and putting on a show on offense, the Eagles laid a dud.

The Eagles were outscored 24-0 in the first half. Jalen Hurts completed just 7 of 16 passes for 55 yards and took two sacks. He also threw a bad interception and was forced to leave the game due to a gruesome finger injury that could impact his play in the Wild Card round. 

The past two months have been a struggle for Hurts, who has just four passing touchdowns in his previous five games. Three of those came in a Week 17 loss to the Cardinals, which essentially gave the division to Dallas.

Hurts finished the season with 15 interceptions and just 23 passing TDs. The Eagles have lost five of their last six games, and Hurts didn't take the leap Philadelphia was hoping for this season.