With the playoffs looming in what should be an epic postseason, let's quickly take some time to look back at the best regular-season games of 2018. I mean, this list is winding down to the most inevitable conclusion possible ... That the best game of the year was -- no doubt -- that high-scoring affair everybody is still talking about. That's right: The Bears' 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers, when Trubisky underwent "The Mitchening" that led Chicago to the NFC North crown. All right, that did not make the list. Here's what did ...
People were still not quite convinced that these Cowboys were for real, even though they had been rolling since acquiring Amari Cooper from the Raiders, riding a four-game win streak into this Sunday afternoon bout. Trading a first-rounder for Cooper was a bold move panned by many -- myself included. And when the 'Boys rolled into Philadelphia, most expected the defending champions to get back into the NFC East title hunt and the Cowboys to, you know, take the Cowboy way out. Yeah ... Cooper caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three (THREE) touchdowns. The final one of those scores came in overtime, after Dallas received the kickoff and took nearly the entire period to move down the field before Dak Prescott "connected" with Cooper. I mean, should it have been a pick-six for the Eagles? Sure. But it wasn't, so ... scoreboard, Cowboys.
The game seems kind of silly now, especially since we know the way things turned out. But there was a time in 2018 when Ryan Fitzpatrick (Fitzmagic, if you will) was the biggest thing in football. Yep, even bigger than Patrick Mahomes. Don't @ me. Fitz tossed for 417 yards and four touchdowns in this upset that kicked off a wild season. The journeyman gunslinger followed this up with four touchdowns in a win over the Eagles the following week, and then three more against the Steelers in a losing effort in Week 3. Of course, he also had three picks in that loss to Pittsburgh. Live by the Fitzmagic, die by the Fitztragic.
One of the league's top offenses against one of the league's top defenses? Sign me up. The Chiefs had to convert two fourth-down plays to force overtime, and Patrick Mahomes was indeed up to the task. The first conversion, on fourth-and-9, saw Mahomes escape from the pocket before delivering an across-the-body-on-the-run dime to Tyreek Hill -- one of the most memorable plays of the regular season. (Side note: This was also the game where Mahomes delivered a picture-perfect no-look pass. Dude's kinda talented.) In overtime, Harrison Butker converted a 35-yard field goal and K.C. stuffed Lamar Jackson and Co. to prevail. This compelling clash in styles produced a back-and-forth battle throughout, with neither team ever holding more than a seven-point advantage. The best part: We could get a rematch in the Divisional Round.
In a wild game that saw both teams erase 10-point deficits, the Rams took a two-point lead with 2:05 remaining. Packers fans -- and there were many at the Coliseum -- thought their hero was going to get one last chance to rally his team. In fact, every football fan in America was actively anticipating Aaron Rodgers' inevitable game-winning drive. Then Ty Montgomery attempted to return the ensuing kickoff -- against team orders, per Michael Silver -- and fumbled the game away. In related news, Montgomery was traded two days later. This game wasn't without fantasy controversy, either: Following Montgomery's fumble, Todd Gurley took a pitch from the 21, broke into the open field and ... decelerated before allowing himself to get tackled at the 4, setting up one snap in victory formation to end the game. Fantasy enthusiasts fretted Gurley's selflessness. And the Pack essentially stopped being a thing for the rest of 2018. Meanwhile, the win gave the Rams their first 8-0 start since 1969.
It appeared as though the Chargers were going to Charger. After earning a Week 13 win in Pittsburgh and surviving a scare at home against the lowly Bengals, the Bolts hit the road and quickly fell behind 14-0 under the prime-time lights of "Thursday Night Football." With the Chiefs owning a 28-14 lead midway through the fourth, "choking Chargers" takes littered the interwebs. But then, Los Angeles authored an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a TD plunge from Justin Jackson. (Don't worry -- other people probably don't know who he is, either.) After forcing a three-and-out, the Chargers got the ball back and marched 60 yards for another score, this one courtesy of Mike Williams. With four seconds left, L.A. eschewed the game-tying extra-point attempt and went for the jugular. Philip Rivers went right back to Williams for the successful two-point conversion, sending the Bolts into the kind of exuberant on-field celebration you don't normally see in the NFL.
Well, enough with the "Hey, at least they didn't lose" stuff from Week 1. The Browns got an actual win -- and what a win it was. Cleveland trailed 14-0 early in the game, but Baker By God Mayfield replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor and rallied his club for its first win in 635 days. Mayfield completed 17 of his 23 passes for 201 yards (and caught a two-point conversion, to boot), kick-starting a new era in Cleveland that has Browns fans buzzing as they head into the offseason. And not only did Dawg Pound constituents get a win in this Thursday night game, but they got free Bud Light out of the deal, as well. I mean, having a franchise quarterback to cheer for is nice, but free beer!
The Texans and Colts were knotted up at 34-34, with 27 seconds left in overtime, as both teams had notched a field goal in their respective opening OT drives. Indy was facing a fourth-and-4 at its own 43-yard line. Pre-Doug Pederson football says you punt the ball, take like the 90th tie of the season and all sides go home happy. Or at least somewhat satisfied? Kind of like the way you feel after devouring a slice of pizza from the food court: It's probably not the thing you wanted, but it's not going to kill you. That wasn't Frank Reich's M.O. on this Sunday, though. The Colts coach went for it. And failed. The Texans took over, Deshaun Watson hit -- who else? -- DeAndre Hopkins for a 24-yard gain and Ka'imi Fairbairn nailed a 37-yarder for the win. Andrew Luck and Watson combined for 839 passing yards in this wild affair. Strangely, both teams ended that day at 1-3. Three months later, the 11-5 Texans are preparing to host the 10-6 Colts on Wild Card Weekend.
One of the most hotly anticipated showdowns of the year actually lived up to the hype. Think more "Into the Spider-Verse" and less "Aquaman" on this one. This matchup produced the kinds of thrills more associated with a March Madness contest than a regular-season NFL game -- there were seven scores in the final 16 minutes of the game, for God's sake! The Patriots expertly drained the clock down the stretch to ensure Patrick Mahomes wouldn't get another crack at it, and Stephen Gostkowski nailed the game-winning field goal as time expired. (I mean, it's a huge surprise that somebody managed the clock better than Andy Reid, but I'm telling you, it did happen.) This game had it all -- even a Tom Brady rushing score! His touchdown in the fourth quarter made it 37-33 with 5:35 left. There were three more scoring drives after that, including a 75-yard Tyreek Hill lightning strike. Insane.
Might seem odd for a Bears fan to have this game so high, but it really was remarkable. Chicago looked freaking unbeatable in the opening half of the Matt Nagy era, racing out to a 20-0 lead. Fresh trade acquisition Khalil Mack looked like Bobby Boucher in "The Waterboy" the way he manhandled the Packers. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers was carted off the field in the second quarter with a knee injury -- a terrifying sight for Packer Backers in the season opener. Of course, Rodgers came back in the third quarter and rallied Green Bay to victory, completing 17 of his 23 second-half passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Still, this was the high point of Green Bay's season. Meanwhile, the Bears learned from this brutal defeat, won 12 of the next 15 games and took the NFC North crown. So enjoy reminiscing about this Week 1 win, Packers fans.
The Rams and Chiefs were supposed to play this game in Mexico City, but poor field conditions caused a relocation to L.A. On Monday night. In an event that seemed better suited for the silver screen. The teams combined for 105 total points, with this being the first game in NFL history to feature dual 50-burgers. Ric Flair was on the sidelines. I mean, you couldn't ask for anything more. I know cynics said, "How about some defense?" But the two Ds combined for eight sacks, seven takeaways and three touchdowns, so cram it. This game was an absolute delight. Now, it didn't turn the NFL on its ear, like many pronounced in the immediate aftermath. The Rams scuffled down the stretch, while the Chiefs continued to lose prime-time games. But I look at it like Starrcade '97, when Sting finally beat Hollywood Hogan. Sure, the aftermath (or booking decisions, in my WCW comp) took away some luster. But for that moment in time, it was one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed.