The first-ever Week 18 of the NFL regular season did not disappoint.
Coming into the final week of play, five teams in the AFC were competing for two playoff spots and two teams in the NFC were competing for the last spot.
On top of that, two division winners still needed to be crowned and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which comes with a valuable first-round bye as well as home field advantage, was at risk.
After the smoke cleared, three games had gone into overtime and that had an impact on the playoff picture — the Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, and the very last game of the night, the Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders.
The end result is the Steelers, Raiders and 49ers all won in overtime and are in the playoffs, while the Ravens, Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are all out until next fall.
The team with the bitterest disappointment has to be the Chargers, who came from behind 15 points in the final five minutes to tie the Raiders and send the game into overtime, where all they needed was a tie to advance to the postseason and eliminate the Steelers.
A win or a tie was good enough to move on. A loss would end their season.
Knowing what they needed to advance didn’t prove to be an advantage for the Chargers.
However, as in the final minute of overtime, with it looking like the Raiders would be willing to simply run out the clock on a third and four at the LA 39-yard line and take the tie, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley called a timeout that mystified the fans in the stands — including a person holding a sign that read “Take the Tie” — the game’s broadcasters and yours truly.
The result of the timeout, which left 38 seconds on the clock and which Staley reportedly said after the game was about giving his team the chance to substitute personnel, was the Raiders losing their option to sit on the ball and run out the clock.
What followed was a first-down run by Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs, moving the ball 10 yards to the Charger 29, and then a 47-yard Daniel Carlson field goal, as time expired, to end the Chargers’ season.
Talk about a bad break.
For a franchise with a reputation for finding creative ways to lose, this one might just take the cake.