NFL Week 17 preview
Vikings @ Lions
Not much going on here. Both teams have been eliminated from postseason contention. The Lions are limping to the finish, while Minnesota has been the better team. The Vikings will not have Dalvin Cook, but the Detroit defense is so bad that likely won't matter. Both teams have a chance to improve their draft position with a loss.
Dolphins @ Bills
The Bills have wrapped up the division, while Miami is trying to grab a playoff spot. The Dolphins currently sit sixth in the AFC but have the same record as four other teams. The Dolphins' defense has done a good job putting this team in the position it is in. With the way Buffalo's offense has been playing, Miami will need more from its own offense, which will be without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. That gives 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa a chance to prove he is a franchise quarterback in his first season as a pro. Winning to put your team in the playoffs is a great way to start.
Ravens @ Bengals
The Ravens are another team in the AFC wildcard picture. Obviously, a win gives them a better shot, but the Bengals probably won't go easily. Baltimore's inconsistent offense could keep Cincinnati in this, and the Bengals will take every shot they can. However, there may not be many to take. Cincinnati only managed three points in the last meeting, and that was with Joe Burrow.
Steelers @ Browns
The Browns failed to stay in the hunt by losing to the Jets last week, which allowed the Steelers to wrap up the AFC North. Cleveland has been shorthanded due to COVID issues and was simply missing too many important players to overcome. Nonetheless, the Browns have a chance to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2002 this weekend. It remains to be seen which players will be available, but it should help that Ben Roethlisberger and others will be sitting this one out for Pittsburgh. The Steelers will need to see more offensive production than they have in most recent weeks.
Jets @ Patriots
Basement battle in the AFC East. Can the Jets win three in a row? Both teams stink and have personnel issues. The Patriots have a good defense with little talent on offense, while the Jets lack talent in most places. The teams played a close game earlier this season, and this one should be very similar.
Cowboys @ Giants
The winner of this one could end up in the playoffs with a Washington loss, but neither team is good. The Giants have lacked offensive production, while the Cowboys are not the same team without Dak Prescott. The Dallas defense gives up too many big plays, a perfect storm for New York. Regardless of who wins this game, I don't want to see either of these teams make the playoffs. It would be an insult to the rest of the league.
Falcons @ Buccaneers
Tampa has secured a playoff berth, but its seeding is still to be determined. The Bucs can't win the division but can end up with any of the 5th, 6th, or 7th seeds. Atlanta's season is over after this game, and the franchise's attention will turn to the general manager and head coach search. This could also be the last time Tom Brady and Matt Ryan face each other. While Brady is expected to complete his two year contract with Tampa, Ryan's future in Atlanta may be up in the air--depending on which direction the new regime chooses to go. These teams each have a lot of talent on offense and have played in some high-scoring games over the years. As I've pointed out many times, Atlanta has had its struggles on defense this year and will have yet another difficult opponent this week.
Packers @ Bears
The NFL's oldest rivalry has some legs to it to finish the season. Green Bay can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win, while Chicago can clinch a playoff berth with its fourth straight win. Although the Bears offense has been rolling lately, they'll be hard pressed to be able to keep up with Green Bay. It will take a lights out performance from the elite Bears' defense.
Raiders @ Broncos
The Raiders were eliminated from the AFC playoff picture with a loss to Miami last week. The Broncos have nothing to play for but positivity to carry into next season. The Denver offense hasn't been great this season but has a good matchup against the Raiders' defense this week. It should be a good game for Drew Lock to make his case as the franchise quarterback. Vegas has a chance to feel a little better heading into the offseason with a win, but both teams have quite a bit of work to do.
Jaguars @ Colts
I'm not sure how often teams have finished the regular season against the team they started it against, but I'm willing to bet it doesn't happen that often. The Jaguars lone win this season came in Week 1 against the Colts. The game was pretty close throughout, as Jacksonville took advantage of two Philip Rivers' interceptions and staged a small comeback in the fourth quarter. The Jags would take the lead on a pick-6 with just over four minutes left. Things have changed since then. Jacksonville's season is over, and it has secured the No.1 overall pick in the 2021 draft. Meanwhile, the Colts have had more time to play with their quarterback and are in the middle of a playoff hunt. A win can secure a playoff berth and even win the division. But can Jacksonville play spoiler one more time?
Chargers @ Chiefs
Kansas City has wrapped up homefield advantage and a first round bye, so there's not really anything riding on this game. LA will want to see more of its offense behind Justin Herbert and an improved effort on defense. However, the Chargers will once again have a top 10 draft pick, and this may be Anthony Lynn's final game coaching the Chargers.
Cardinals @ Rams
Playoff implications all over this one. Arizona needs a win and a Chicago loss to get into the postseason. The Rams can clinch a spot with a win, but a loss may eliminate them completely. To complicate things, LA will NOT have QB Jared Goff and WR Cooper Kupp. The LA defense is elite, but if this turns into a shootout, it certainly appears to favor Arizona.
Seahawks @ 49ers
Seattle has the division wrapped up, so the focus now turns to the No.1 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks need to win this to have any shot. The San Francisco defense is sure to make that a tougher task. Robert Saleh's unit has been incredible this season, especially when you consider the players that are missing and the lack of a complementary offense. However, one of its worst performances came earlier this season against Seattle. San Fran will want to end the season on a better note, as well as try to find more offense. It's a tough ask, but not impossible.
Saints @ Panthers
The Saints are also looking to make a run at the No.1 seed. New Orleans has found a nice rhythm on offense, and the defense has transformed into a premier unit throughout the season. The Saints are definitely playing their most complete football at the right time. The Panthers have been much better than expected, but still have too many weaknesses. The offense is inconsistent, and the defense has been bad. Carolina may be able to hang around for a bit in this one, but New Orleans should be able to pull it out. **Update: Things just got more difficult for New Orleans. RB Alvin Kamara has tested positive for COVID, and the other running backs will miss this game due to contact tracing.
Titans @ Texans
The Titans are the other team fighting with the Colts over the AFC South. Since it owns the tiebreaker, Tennessee can clinch the division by beating Houston. Houston may have the offense to keep up, but a bad defense is something Tennessee can exploit all day. If the Texans want to play spoiler, they should hope for a shootout.
Washington @ Eagles
Philly has a top ten draft pick coming up and will try to deny Washington a division championship. Washington wins the NFC East with a victory, while a loss could give the division to the Giants or the Cowboys. Washington won the previous matchup between these two earlier in the season. Since then, the WFT has found more of an identity on offense to go with its stellar defense, while the Eagles have faded quickly. Jalen Hurts has given the Eagles offense a boost, but this will be one of his toughest opponents to date. If he can't make plays with his legs and the offensive line doesn't protect well, Washington should be looking at a division championship.