By my count, there are 20 teams with nothing to play for on this, the final week of the regular season.
Seventeen teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. Some of these, like Cincinnati, Miami, Arizona, and Washington, were hardly shocking, while teams like Atlanta, Chicago, and both LAs were surprises to varying degrees, depending on your expectations.
Three playoff-bound teams have nothing at stake in their Week 17 games. Baltimore are the number one seed in the AFC, while Buffalo at the fifth seed in the AFC, and Minnesota at six in the NFC, are set. They’ll be resting players if they’re smart.
In the NFC, only one playoff entrant remains up in the air. Either Dallas or Philadelphia will win the pathetic NFC East race, while the loser will be out.
In the AFC, three teams are still in play for the final playoff spot. Tennessee has the inside track, controlling their own fate with a “win and you’re in” scenario. Pittsburgh’s path is trickier, relying on the results of other games. Oakland’s labyrinthine path requires them to win, plus two other teams to lose, plus two other teams to win. Sounds crazy, but anything is possible.
The funny thing about all of this is, with all that’s still up for grabs this week, there are very few good games on tap. If you ask me (and, well, you’re here), your best bets for a good or entertaining game are LAC/KC (Rivers vs. Mahomes), Atlanta/Tampa (lots of scoring), Philly/NYG (potentially high-scoring), and maybe Tennessee/Houston (if KC loses, Houston has a shot at the 3-seed).
It should go without saying that the very last game of the season is the biggest one of all this week. It’s the reason why Flex Scheduling was invented.
Whatever you’re looking for this week, enjoy that last week of the regular season.
And thanks for reading.
Winners in Bold:
(It’s all) Sunday
Cleveland at Cincinnati
As Cincy has sewn up the number one pick in next year’s draft, the only things at stake here might be divisional pride and Freddie Kitchens’s job. The best thing Cleveland’s players could do here would be to tank and seal Kitchens’s fate, but when’s the last time the “mistake by the lake” has done anything smart? Expect a strong effort from class act Andy Dalton, it what will likely be his goodbye performance.
Miami at New England
It’s a tale as old as this rivalry: these teams love to screw each other over. Miami could do just that by beating the Pats and putting their first-round bye (and realistically, their playoff chances) at serious risk. I expect a strong effort from New England, albeit one with as little Julian Edelman as possible, as their playoff-magic waterbug needs to rest and heal.
Chicago at Minnesota
This has all the makings of a terribly-played game. Minnesota can’t improve their playoff position, and SHOULD be resting key players, while Chicago is missing some injured starters and has nothing to play for. Give it a miss.
LAC at KC
This is a game that the home team can’t afford to take lightly for a few reasons. KC can still get the number two seed if the Pats lose, and both games are being played at the same time. Also, a loss could potentially drop them to the fourth seed if Houston wins. The playing-for-nothing Bolts will be dangerous, so KC will have to play hard right out of the gate.
NYJ at Buffalo
Buffalo has the five-seed locked down, so they’d be crazy to let Josh Allen and some of the other starters play too much (or at all).
Green Bay at Detroit
Green Bay is still in play for the either one of the top two seeds, so no letting up here.
New Orleans at Carolina
New Orleans, see Green Bay (above).
Atlanta at Tampa
Looks like Dan Quinn’s players saved his job. It also looks possible that Tampa is going to make a huge mistake and keep Jameis Winston. Believe me when I say this: next season, with all of their talent on offence and defence, and with Bruce Arians coaching, Tampa challenges for the division title, if, and only if, they have a different QB. (Phillip Rivers, anyone?)
Philadelphia at NYG
Philly barely beat Big Blue in their last meeting, against one (checks notes) Elisha Manning. With Daniel Jones back under Center, I expect that the home team will pull out all the stops to kill their division rival’s playoff hopes. This has the potential to be a high-scoring, entertaining game.
Tennessee at Houston
This will be a much different game depending on what happens with LAC/KC. Either way, Tennessee can eliminate all doubt by punching their ticket to the postseason with a win.
Washington at Dallas
Dallas royally screwed themselves (again) by losing to Philly last week. Now, they need to win AND for Philly to lose. I’m betting that Dallas holds up their end.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
With the number one seed wrapped up, the only thing for Baltimore to play for is to eliminate their hated rival. Without the home team’s offensive fireworks, I expect a hard-fought, low-scoring game.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Strangely enough, for a game that has no playoff implications for either team, an Indianapolis win would be an essential stepping stone towards a possible Oakland playoff berth. Also strange is the fact that people are still talking about Doug Marrone coming back to coach the Jags again next season, which would be insane. On the subject of coaching, Frank Reich is one of the better ones, so I expect a professional effort from his charges in this game.
Oakland at Denver
Oakland still has something to play for, but with their bad defence, and with Josh Jacobs iffy with a bum shoulder, it probably won’t matter.
Arizona at LAR
Another game that looks like a real dud. Kyler Murray is hurting, and LA has nothing to play for.
San Francisco at Seattle
This is the type of game that the league hopes for when it schedules divisional matchups for Week 17. No matter what happens in the earlier games, both teams will have something huge to play for. Seattle, at the very least, will be playing for the NFC West crown, and a first-round home game, and depending on earlier results, could still be in play for a first-round bye (long-shot) or even top seed (loonnnggg-shot). For San Fran, it’s much simpler: a win gives them the number one seed. Loser ends up the fifth seed and goes on the road on Wild Card Weekend. Having said all that, it’ll be injuries that decide this one, and Seattle is at a distinct disadvantage. While the ‘niners will be without a couple of key players on defence, they’re still in pretty good shape, while Seattle will be without LT Duane Brown, and had to coax Marshawn Lynch out of retirement (as well as signing Robert Turbin) after losing the top three RBs on their depth chart.
And finally, this: