NFL Week 18 winners, losers: 49ers' Brock Purdy sheds irrelevancy for playoffs

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Week 18 winners, losers: 49ers' 'Mr. Irrelevant' enters playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Eighteen weeks of NFL football are behind us. The bracket is set and we're just six days away from playoff football.

In Week 18, we witnessed the Houston Texans fumble away the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams win over the country and 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy do what he does best: Win.

Without further ado, let’s go over the winners and losers from the past week of football:

Loser: Houston Texans

The Texans had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft nearly signed, sealed and delivered all season. They were 1-12-1 after 14 games and 2-13-1 entering Week 18. A loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday would clinch the top pick of the draft.

Instead, the Texans went rouge and defeated the Colts in dramatic fashion. Quarterback Davis Mills connected with receiver Jordan Atkins for a 28-yard touchdown on fourth-and-20 in the final minute. Houston's two-point conversion was successful and enough to beat Indianapolis 32-31.

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The Chicago Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field to finish the season 3-14, so the top pick in the draft now belongs to the Windy City.

Texans coach Lovie Smith likely knew he was getting fired after the game. (Which he was.) Did he go for the game-winning two-point conversion to spite ownership or was it just the ultimate football guy move to do anything to win?

Either way, Chicago just might throw a parade for the former Bears and University of Illinois head coach.

Winner: Chicago Bears

The Bears are on the clock.

Losing 10 straight games to end the season is never ideal, but it actually might be for a team that has discovered quarterback Justin Fields is for real.

Chicago will be answering calls all offseason for the No. 1 overall pick in hopes a quarterback-needy team trades an enticing package for the opportunity to select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Taking the right trade can set the Bears up for the next few years.

Just how elated were the Bears to nab the top pick? Bears chairman George McCaskey was handing out treats to fans after the game.

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Loser: Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders entered the season with lofty expectations, only to bench the best quarterback in franchise history with two games remaining and finish with a losing record (6-11) for the fourth time in six years.

It was more bad news for owner Mark Davis and his haircut in Week 18.

The Raiders found out quarterback Jarrett Stidham dicing up the 49ers’ defense last week probably was more of a fluke than anything, as he was humbled by the Kansas City Chiefs and logged a 76.0 passer rating in Las Vegas’ 31-13 loss.

And to put salt in the Raiders' wound, the Chiefs did … this:

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Winner: Jamaal Williams

If you didn’t know anything about Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams before this week, first off, you were missing out. But you definitely know about him now.

Williams went viral during “Sunday Night Football” for introducing himself in the Lions' starting lineup as “First Swagg Kazekage, leader of the hidden village of the den,” a reference to the anime television series “Naruto.”

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Then, after Detroit triumphed 20-16 to eliminate the Green Bay Packers -- Williams’ former team -- from playoff contention, the running back went through a variety of emotions in a postgame interview with NBC Sports' Melissa Stark.

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He also shattered the Lions’ single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 17, one more than Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders in 1991. Big winner.

Loser: Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks are a playoff team and, as owners of the Denver Broncos’ first-round pick from the Russell Wilson trade, will be selecting No. 5 overall in April.

If that doesn't sting Wilson enough, former NFL castaway Geno Smith claimed the Seahawks’ single-season franchise record for passing yards (4,282), a list Wilson had topped since 2015.

Smith first will focus on the Seahawks’ wild-card round matchup against the 49ers, but then will head into the offseason as an intriguing free agent. Wilson, after a terrible 5-12 season, still is locked into the massive five-year extension he signed in September with plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Broncos' coaching search.

Winner: Damar Hamlin

There is no greater winner this week than Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

Hamlin, who is making steady progress after he went into cardiac arrest on the field last Monday, watched the Buffalo Bills' 35-23 victory over the New England Patriots from his hospital bed in Cincinnati.

When Bills return man Nyheim Hines took the opening kick back for a touchdown to ignite an emotional crowd at Highmark Stadium, Hamlin posted a four-letter tweet from his hospital bed.

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A perfect moment.

Winner: Brock Purdy

With 12:11 remaining in the 49ers' 38-13 rout of the Arizona Cardinals, coach Kyle Shanahan opted to take the rookie Purdy out of the game to rest him for the playoffs.

That sentence is pretty remarkable considering Purdy's journey. He went from "Mr. Irrelevant," the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, to winning a spot as the 49ers' third quarterback out of training camp to now, the 23-year-old quarterback tasked with conducting Shanahan's offense that is one of the top favorites to win Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: 49ers QB Purdy feels playoff ready after improbable rise

Purdy is the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to go 5-0 in his first five starts, joining Ben Roethlisberger (won his first 13 starts in 2004) and Mike Kruczek (won his first six starts in 1968). He is the second rookie to notch at least two touchdown passes in six straight games. The other? Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert in seven consecutive contests two years ago.

The script is almost too good for Hollywood. And the best chapters have yet to be written.

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