NFL: The Most Important Plays from Week 17

Joe Rapolla Jr.Featured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2012

NFL: The Most Important Plays from Week 17

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    Week 17 brought us a tremendous amount of excitement as we bid farewell to an NFL season that was fighting for its life last summer. 

    Despite losing, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos crept their way into the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys held destiny in their own hands', but couldn't find the strength to pull out victories. The Indianapolis Colts played poorly one final time to secure Andrew Luck, I mean, the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. 

    Here are some of the most exciting and defining plays of this NFL season's final week. 

5. Victor Cruz Burns the Cowboys

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    This play set the tone for the entire game and is really quite indicative of Victor Cruz's season. The wideout, who is playing in his second season with the New York Giants, claimed the receiving title with a deafening performance on Sunday Night Football. 

    In a game where the Giants faced their arch division foe, the Dallas Cowboys, for the NFC East title, Cruz accumulated 178 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. 

    This brought his season total for receiving yards to 1,536, good enough to claim the title as the league's best receiving wideout. 

4. Jimmy Graham Makes a Sick One-Handed Catch

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    For playoff-bound teams, Week 17 is all about building momentum; Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints have tons of it after beating their division rivals, the Carolina Panthers. 

    Graham, much like Victor Cruz, capped off an amazing catch by any receiver's standpoint, a downright unforgettable one for a tight end. 

    The big man racked up over 1,300 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns while becoming one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. The only right end who competed with him in terms of dominance was the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, who was a red-zone machine. 

3. Ray Rice Torches the Bengals

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    Ray Rice. Need I say more? 

    Rice has been in the league for four years, and aside from his rookie season where he fought some injuries and shared playing time, he's been amazing every year. 

    This run was a huge statement. The Baltimore Ravens clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC with this win, and showed their division rival who is boss. 

    Rice finished the year with 1,364 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, in addition to his 704 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.

2. Matt Flynn's Entire 6 Touchdown Game

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    Matt Flynn, the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, put together one hell of a highlight reel and certainly made the most of his chance to start. 

    With starter Aaron Rodgers taking a rest before the playoffs, Flynn took the snaps in a game that meant nothing for the Green Bay Packers. With the No. 1 seed already secured, they were playing for mere pride and competition. 

    Flynn ousted the Detroit Lions in a game that lacked virtually any defense.

    None of the touchdowns were terribly eye-catching, yet Flynn's precise play most certainly established him as one of the hottest quarterbacks who will be a free agent after this season.

    His performance also may have cost Aaron Rodgers the MVP, as the country saw how much talent Rodgers has to work with everyday.  

1. David Akers Throws a Touchdown Pass to Michael Crabtree on a Fake Field Goal

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    This was, without question, the coolest play of the week and a very important one at that. 

    The playoffs are something that the San Francisco 49ers and their fans have not seen in quite a long time. This season marked the return of dominant football in San Francisco, and the 49ers have been the surprise of the NFL season. 

    The Niners flawlessly ousted the St. Louis Rams, and in doing so, secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. 

    It is only fitting that kicker David Akers threw a touchdown as well; he is not only the team's, but the league's leading scorer. 

    This play just screamed, "watch out for those Niners, they're savvy!"