Week 17 has finally arrived. Certainly every football fan’s favorite week of the regular season. Although by the end of the day, many of those fans are less-than happy with their team’s result. This year, there will certainly be some broken hearts as there are six teams fighting for the final three playoff spots. In the AFC we have Baltimore, Tennessee, Buffalo and the Chargers fighting for the two wild card spots. In the NFC, just one spot remains, which will be battled for by the Falcons and Seahawks. Below are the week 17 games which hold the strongest playoff implications.
CAROLINA PANTHERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS
This clash of NFC South powerhouses is probably the biggest game of the week. For Carolina, it is an opportunity to win the division. However, this will be a tall task. Carolina has lost both games to New Orleans this year, so they will have to win in Atlanta and the Saints would have to lose in Tampa. Pretty unlikely but hey, we have seen crazier things. Carolina has already clinched a playoff spot and will likely be playing either the Rams or the Saints in the first round.
There is even more on the line for the Falcons in this game. At 9-6, a win or a Seahawks loss will give the last remaining seed in the NFC to Atlanta. It is impossible to know what to expect from this game as the Panthers tend to play like either a Super Bowl team or a division 3 high school team. It is difficult to know what to expect from them heading into this week. However, I do like Atlanta’s chances because they are at home. I also think Matty Ice and Julio Jones may be able to pick apart the Panthers secondary, which ranks 19th in the league in pass yards allowed per game.
CINCINNATI BENGALS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS
Cincinnati is playing for nothing but pride this weekend as their dreadful season has them eliminated from the playoffs. However, I do expect Cincinnati to give it a valiant effort this week as they would love to help eliminate their division rival from the playoffs. For Baltimore, all they have to do is win to make the playoffs, as they have a one game advantage on the rest of the teams fighting to get in. The Ravens could lose and still make the playoffs as they have own the tie breaker with the Chargers. If the Ravens, Bills, and Titans all finish 9-7 then they would be eliminated because Tennessee and Buffalo both own the tie breaker over Baltimore.
BUFFALO BILLS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS
The Bills have probably the slimmest chances to snag an AFC wild card spot. They do hold a tie breaker over the Ravens if both teams finish 9-7. This will be pretty unlikely as the Baltimore has a very winnable home game vs Cincy. If the Ravens win then Buffalo will need both Tennessee and the Chargers to lose. On paper, this looks like a pretty winnable game. However, much like the Panthers, both of these teams are rather inconsistent. It is hard to know what to expect in this match-up. I do believe that Buffalo is the superior team and that they will be able to win this game.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT TENNESSEE TITANS
Jacksonville does not have much to worry about in this game as they will likely be AFC’s three seed. However, this is a huge game for the Titans. Luckily they own a tie breaker over all three of the other teams fighting to get in. A win would guarantee a playoff spot. If they lose, the Ravens win AND Buffalo or the Chargers win then the Titans would be eliminated. So they really need to win in order to avoid any risks. A win will be a tall task despite being the home team. Jacksonville’s defense is probably the best in the league. I expect starting corners AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey to completely shut down the passing game. It will be up to Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry to lead the Titans to this week 17 win
OAKLAND RAIDERS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Raiders will be playing to spoil this weekend. As arguably the league’s biggest disappointment, Oakland has to be itching for next season. If it makes them feel better, they can drastically decrease their division rival’s chances of making the playoffs with a win. A win will not guarantee a spot in the playoffs for the Chargers. They will need a loss from the Titans as well because Tennessee own the tie breaker. However, if they end up with the same record as the Bills then they will have the tie breaker and earn the 6th seed. LA should win this game rather easily as Oakland has struggled on both sides of the ball this year. I do not think Oakland has the ability to stop Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen on the road. Advantage LA.
ARIZONA CARDINALS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Weird to imagine the Seahawks not in the playoffs. For Seattle to make it in, they will need to win and need Atlanta to lose against Carolina. Both things could happen of course, but the chances are not that high. Seattle cannot control what happens down in Atlanta this week, but they can help themselves by earning a win. At home I do expect Russell Wilson and company to get the win. But Arizona has quietly been playing some pretty solid football as of late. Even though I expect them to win, I also expect Atlanta to win which would eliminate Seattle due to a head to head tie breaker in Atlanta’s favor.
*Questions or comments? Find me on twitter @MLBfromNH (Kevin Civiello)*
*Feature pic credit goes to panthers.com*