By: David Dzienis
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When these teams met two weeks ago it looked like Matt Ryan and the Falcons were going to walk away with an upset. That didn’t happen. Tom Brady led the Bucs on a second half comeback that included 5 scoring drives in a row. Tampa Bay has already locked up a playoff spot but would love to win and keep the 5th seed, so they get to play the winner of the lowly NFC East in the first round. Atlanta is looking towards next year's draft already and an offseason full of questions.
Prediction: Atl 21-T.B. 27
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
These bitter rivals haven’t seen each other since week 2. That game saw Josh Allen throw up historic numbers and it may be needed again against one of the league's elite defenses. Buffalo may sit some starters since they are guaranteed the 2nd or 3rd seed. Miami is a win-and-in team this week. They can still qualify with a loss if the Ravens, Browns, or Colts lose. They won’t be able to rely on FitzMagic this week as he is out with Covid.
Prediction: Mia 20-Buf 28 (If Allen starts)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
The last time these teams met was a complete thrashing by the Steelers in a dominant 38-7 win in week 6. Sadly, that game is not the one on everyone’s mind as Mason Rudolph is starting for Pittsburgh. It’ll be his first game facing Myles Garrett since the infamous helmet swing. Rudolph is getting the start as the Steelers rest some banged up starters for the playoffs. They are guaranteed either the 2nd or 3rd seed. Cleveland is barely holding on to the 7th seed and would love to get a win to guarantee them their first playoff appearance in 18 years. They can still get in with a loss if the Colts lose, or if the Ravens, Dolphins, and Colts all win but the Titans lose.
Prediction: Pit 20-Cle 17
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are suddenly hot, but not as hot as the Ravens have been. Baltimore has been one of the most dominant teams in the last month and will need to keep it up to secure a playoff berth. They will face a Bengals team that’s missing most of their weapons. Cincinnati would love nothing more than spoiling their division foes season and ending on a hot streak. They are eliminated from the playoffs and will probably look for some o-line help to protect their QB next year. The Ravens are in with a win and can also qualify with a loss if either the Colts or Browns lose.
Prediction: Bal 24-Cin 21
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
One of the four games of the week with zero playoff implications features two of the worst offenses in the league. Cam Newton inherited a roster with no wideout or tight end talent. Sam Darnold may be playing for his career since the Jets have secured the number 2 pick in the draft (anyone else see Justin Fields tear Clemson apart?). This game should draw in exactly zero viewers that aren’t diehards.
Prediction: N.Y.J. 13-N.E. 10
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
Another division rivalry with no playoff aspirations features two of the league’s worst defenses. The difference between the Vikings and Lions is offensive health. While Minnesota will be without Dalvin Cook due to the death of his father, they do still have Adam Thielen pushing for 1000 yards and Justin Jefferson trying to break rookie records this week. The Lions could be without Matthew Stafford, DeAndre Swift, and Kenny Golladay. This shouldn’t even be close, but we all know division matchups usually stay tight.
Prediction: Min 31-Det 27
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
This game features two squads still in the hunt for a playoff spot despite having a losing record. The winner of this game will be praying for a Washington loss Sunday night to Philadelphia while the loser gets to look forward to next year's draft. The first meeting between these teams ended in a Dallas win by 3 points. Most would say they had the biggest loss that day when QB Dak Prescott went down with an injury that would end his season. Can Andy Dalton work his magic and get his team to the playoffs as he often did in Cincinnati (despite never winning any of those playoff games)?
Prediction: Dal 24-N.Y.G. 23
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
A divisional bout that last year decided the winner of the division means much less this season. San Fran has been banged up all year and are out of playoff contention. Seattle has a very slim chance for the number one seed, needing both New Orleans and Green Bay to lose, as well as beating the 49ers. That slim chance means we get to see Russell Wilson and company do their thing. The 49ers are going to need some playmakers to step up against a revamped Seahawks defense if they want to play spoiler to Seattle’s dreams of a first round bye.
Prediction: S.F. 27-Sea 33
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
The Bears are on a streak that has seen their offense on fire. They will need it to continue against the Packers if they want to stay in the playoff picture. A win will guarantee them a trip. They could also get in if Arizona loses to the Rams. The Pack won’t be able to rest their starters as they would have liked. They currently hold the number one seed but need a win or a Seattle loss to secure it. So the question is will MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers keep his stellar season going or will upstart Mitchell Trubisky force Chicago into making a hard choice on his 5th year option?
Prediction: G.B. 24-Chi 27
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are looking forward to next year as they are out of playoff contention. They have seen positive signs, despite the losing season, in Matt Rhule’s first season as coach. The main concern is CMC coming back healthy and as dangerous as always. The Saints have wrapped up the NFC South but can still take the number one seed in the NFC with a win, a Packers loss, and a Seahawks win. Can Teddy Bridgewater pull off the upset and make a case for returning to the helm next year or will Brees and company put together another dominant performance despite the absence of their top two RBs?
Prediction: N.O. 21-Car 20
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
Both of these teams could still make the playoffs. The Rams would get in with a win or a Bears loss. The Cardinals are in more dire straits as they need a win to get in. This has been a very inconsistent year for both of these squads. We have seen some dominant football from the Rams, but we have also seen some duds from them, such as last week’s performance against Seattle. The Cards started off as one of the hottest offenses in the league until Kyler Murray had a minor injury slow him down. Since then, they have completely fallen apart. Which team will get back on track and secure a playoff seed?
Prediction: Ari 24-L.A.R. 30
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Atlanta Falcons ruined everyone’s hopes of a week 17 rematch between rookie of the year candidate Justin Herbert and MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. Now that the Chiefs have secured the number one seed, they will sit their shot-caller, along with a few other starters. This match had all the makings of a shootout but will now have very little meaning as the Chargers look to next year and the Chiefs prepare for the playoffs.
Prediction: L.A.C. 27-K.C. 21
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
If the Texans had a winning record, DeShaun Watson would be in the MVP race. Despite losing his top target this offseason, and then his top target this season for the final 5 games, the man has been a complete monster. Sadly, due to few weapons and no defense, this team is out of the playoff race and has little to look forward to after trading away their first-round pick. The Titans are coming off a complete shellacking by the Packers and need to get back on track. They currently hold the division lead and can secure it with a win or a Colts loss. They can also secure a playoff spot with a Ravens or Dolphins loss. However, a loss, paired with wins by the Colts, Ravens, and Dolphins would mean the Titans would miss the playoffs entirely.
Prediction: Ten 35-Hou 20
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
The Jaguars have secured the number one pick in the upcoming draft. That means they may finally have their franchise quarterback as long as Trevor Lawrence doesn’t decide to return for another season of college ball. That also means a lot of players with nothing to lose will be playing for their jobs and hoping to knock the division rival Colts out of the playoffs. The Colts can still win their division with a win and a Titans loss. They can clinch a wild-card spot with a win and a loss by either the Browns, Dolphins, or Ravens. A loss to the 1-win Jags would mean Philip Rivers and company would be out of the playoffs and looking for answers heading into the postseason.
Prediction: Jac 21-Ind 20
Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a week 17 game with no playoff implications that could be more important for the future of the leaders of both teams than this matchup. Derek Carr already has Marcus Mariota breathing down his neck for the starting job. While he started the season strong, he has seen a decline in performance, mixed with an injury, bringing his future under scrutiny once again. The Broncos had high hopes for Drew Lock and spent almost their entire draft on finding him weapons. He has mostly been unimpressive. Much of that can be chalked up to injuries and the lack of an offseason. He gets one final shot to convince John Elway to bring him back next year.
Prediction: L.V. 17- Den 24
Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles
The WFT can make the playoffs with a win. They can miss them with a loss. It’s that simple. Will Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, who are eliminated from contention, play spoiler, and send Washington into an interesting offseason? That may all depend on who plays QB for Washington. If Alex Smith is able to go then WFT has a chance to win the division. The amazingly strong defensive line, as well as RB Antonio Gibson and WR Terry McLaurin, may need to play lights out if anyone else is at the helm.
Prediction: Was 24-Phi 31
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