The NFL’s regular season is coming to an end. Week 17 approaches, there is still an awful lot to be decided. The addition of the seventh playoff spot creates more drama and intrigue. Several teams will see their season’s come down to this final week. Those teams can punch their ticket to the playoffs, or they can suffer a winter of regret if they miss out. It promises to be a dramatic conclusion to the regular season:
Week 16 saw the Green Bay Packers march ever closer to the one seed. The Pack dismantled the Tennessee Titans in the snow at Lambeau Field. It was a masterful performance from Aaron Rodgers, who is undoubtedly the favorite for MVP. In Week 17, Green Bay must travel to Soldier Field to take on the battling Chicago Bears. A win in the Windy City will clinch the bye-week for Green Bay; conversely, a defeat opens up a pandora’s box of possibilities.
Why? Well, the New Orleans Saints ended their two-game slide on Christmas day. Alvin Kamara’s six touchdowns were enough for New Orleans to surge past the Vikings. In doing so, New Orleans won the NFC South. Currently, New Orleans is the second seed in the NFC. A banged-up team could do with grabbing the one seed. The Saints are a game back from the Packers; they travel to Carolina this Sunday. A win coupled with a Packers loss would not be enough for New Orleans.
The Saints require a little help from the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle labored to a hard-fought win over the LA Rams. That win gave Seattle the NFC West title. As it stands, Seattle occupies the third seed, however, if results break their way, Seattle could jump to take first place in the conference. Seattle needs to beat San Francisco; then, they need both New Orleans and Green Bay to lose.
All three teams can still tie at 12-4, a Green Bay loss paired with New Orleans and Seattle winning would do that. In that case, the first-round bye would belong to New Orleans. A lot can change for these three challengers to win Week 17.
The destiny of the fourth seed is still unclear. Washington is atop the NFC East; however, they have lost two in a row, plus they’ve released their second-year quarterback. Alex Smith’s status is still unclear; therefore, it looks like Taylor Heinicke will start against the Eagles on Sunday night. If Washington wins, they are into the playoffs as the fourth seed.
On the other hand, a defeat provides an opportunity to the Cowboys and Giants. Those two teams play each other this Sunday. The winner will watch Washington’s game desperately praying for a favor from the Eagles. It is in Washington’s hands, although, if they slip up, the door will open for the winner of the game at MetLife stadium.
Tampa Bay’s dominant win over the pathetic Detroit Lions confirmed their place in the playoffs. Right now, they are the fifth seed. The fate of the final two spots comes down to three teams. The struggling Rams take on the ailing Arizona Cardinals. It could be a clash of backup quarterbacks as both Kyler Murray and Jared Goff are injured.
The battling Bears are on the outside looking in. An Arizona loss will be enough for Chicago regardless of their result against Green Bay. A Chicago win will also win them a place in the playoffs. For the Cardinals, it is simple, win and they’re in the playoffs. It is the same for the Los Angeles Rams. It is a massive clash in Hollywood; it is season-saving for both Arizona and LA.
The road to fabulous Florida now runs through Kansas City. The Chiefs’ last gasp victory over Atlanta resulted in the Chiefs winning the one seed. The Chiefs can now rest for two weeks before they play a meaningful game.
Buffalo retook second place after they squashed the Patriots on Monday night. Buffalo will either finish in second or third in the AFC. The Steelers occupy third place, plus, they won the AFC North after that comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts. Pittsburgh is in the same position as Buffalo regarding their playoff seeding.
Now, it gets complicated; both the Titans and Colts lost in Week 16. Both teams still own the same record, yet Tennessee holds the lead due to their’ better conference record. Therefore, Tennessee sits fourth; meanwhile, the Colts are on the outside. Both teams should win their final game if that happens Tennessee will win the AFC South.
The Colts would need help in that situation. Firstly, Indianapolis needs help from the hopeless Texans while winning at home against the Jaguars. That is the most straightforward route to the playoffs for the Colts. If both teams win, Indy needs help from elsewhere. Sadly, they might not get any help from Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will play the Browns on Sunday. It is a nothing game for Pittsburgh, they’ve announced that Mason Rudolph will start ahead of Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns inexplicably lost to the Jets; now they are under a ton of pressure. Luckily for them, if Pittsburgh rests more starters, the Browns will be favorites to win that game.
All Cleveland needs is a win to end their playoff drought. They can still get in with a defeat if Indianapolis loses at the same time. Nevertheless, given the fact that Pittsburgh is resting its starting quarterback, the Browns should win. No excuses Cleveland.
Baltimore’s route is also in their own hands. John Harbaugh’s team is surging right now; they take on the Bengals this Sunday. For Baltimore, like Cleveland, it is simple. A win guarantees Baltimore January football.
If those teams take care of business, it will come down to the Colts and Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins eliminated the Raiders on Saturday night. They are now on the brink courtesy of the FitzMiracle. Miami travels to Buffalo in Week 17; a win in Western New York will punch Miami’s ticket to the playoffs. It will not be easy; Buffalo is playing super football right now.
Miami can clinch a playoff berth if Cleveland, Baltimore, or Indianapolis lose. However, the most challenging game belongs to Miami. It is the sternest test for Brian Flores’ young team. A defeat paired with those other three teams winning will knock Miami out of a playoff spot. The Colts’ best shot of crashing the current playoff party lies in Buffalo, though they must do their job before worrying about someone else’s result.
The NFL’s playoff rat race comes down to this final week. Heartbreak and jubilation are on the table, for some it will be a weekend to celebrate; for others, it will be a weekend of heartache. One thing is for sure; it will be a weekend to stay glued to the television. In the NFL, everything can change in one play. After a brutal 2020, the NFL regular season comes down to a most brutal, emotional, and chaotic conclusion.