A returning Michael Vick can crush the New York Giants' playoff hopes.
Seeding for the NFL playoffs can fluctuate greatly during this Sunday’s final slew of regular season games, and several last-place teams will determine how the bracket shapes up.
Although all six AFC postseason bids are accounted for, the division champions are all vying for higher positioning, with both first-round byes hanging in the balance.
Anybody who wants to knock off the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC must do so in the Georgia Dome, where the No. 1 seed Falcons are undefeated this year.
After that, no seed is locked up, and two playoff spots still remain up in the air.
Four last-place teams, and a couple of average squads eliminated from playoff contention, will play a pivotal role in clearing up the foggy playoff picture.
For these clubs stuck in the basement, there’s nothing to play for other than pride and the joy of messing up their division rival's path to the Super Bowl. Will they show up to play spoiler or lie down for better draft picks?
Here’s a look at the mediocre teams participating in games with playoff implications during Week 17.
Reggie Bush can prevent the Patriots from earning a first-round bye.
These two teams don’t deserve to be associated with the other lowly squads on this list. Both are solid clubs competing to take home their eighth win, but neither will play any meaningful football games after this Sunday.
St. Louis Rams (at Seattle)
After demolishing the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks could still win the NFC West and a possible first-round bye.
A win and a San Francisco loss against the Arizona Cardinals would place Seattle on top of the division.
Additionally, they could climb up to the No. 2 seed if the Green Bay Packers fall to the Minnesota Vikings, who will clinch a playoff berth with a win of their own after trouncing the Houston Texans last week.
This game is no cupcake for Seattle. Including a 19-13 victory over the Seahawks in Week 4, the Rams have not lost to an NFC West foe this season.
In their last matchup, Russell Wilson threw three interceptions, but he has since flourished, especially at home.
It's a long shot, but every other NFC team is rooting against Seattle receiving a chance to play postseason games at Qwest Field.
Miami Dolphins (at New England)
The New England Patriots can earn a week off with a win and a loss from the Houston Texans or Denver Broncos.
If they win and both the Texans and Broncos fall, then the Patriots seize home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Don't assume that the Patriots will handily manage their part of the bargain. They only beat the Dolphins by seven during their first game earlier this month and nearly lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
Armed with a defense that ranks sixth with 19.3 points allowed per game, Miami could give New England a tough tune-up.
Last season presented an identical situation. The 6-10 Dolphins closed out the season by suffering a 27-24 loss to the 13-3 Patriots. Rushing for 113 yards, Reggie Bush gave New England all it could handle.
Jamaal Charles' return has been a bright spot in a gloomy year.
NFL games don't come any more lopsided than this one.
In the midst of a 10-game winning streak, the Broncos look to clinch a playoff bye by defeating the 2-13 Kansas City Chiefs.
When these two teams last met, Denver won a low-scoring affair by a score of 17-9, which is exactly the type of playing style Kansas City must duplicate if it has any shot of ending the season with a monumental upset.
Jammal Charles tried his best to carry the Chiefs to a win against the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts last week, but his 226 rushing yards still weren't enough.
He'll need to pile up another 200 to compete with Denver on Sunday, but it's not too likely against the league's third-best rushing defense.
If those Colts can top the Texans, Denver would grab the No. 1 seed with a win.
Since the AFC sure looks like a three-team race, the order of those squads entering the postseason could influence who represents the conference in New Orleans.
The faltering Texans could fall to Indy and Miami catching New England off guard is at least plausible, but the Broncos should utilize their easy schedule to ensure their inclusion in the second round.
Then again, this Kansas City squad features five Pro-Bowlers, so maybe there's a bounty of talent just scratching the surface.
The Cardinals will need a big game from Patrick Peterson to upset the 49ers.
It's incredibly unlikely that the 49ers will stumble against the 5-10 Cardinals, but an upset could cause catastrophic ramifications.
If San Francisco fails to take care of business and Seattle continues to dominate, it will fall from potentially holding a first-found bye to packing its bags for a road game next week.
As recently as a little over a week ago, San Francisco topped many power rankings, but now it must save face during the final week of the regular season.
After starting the season 4-0 with victories over the Seahawks and Patriots, the Cardinals have lost 10 of their last 11 contests. They notched 20 points in each of the first four games with Kevin Kolb under center, but have only reached that mark once since.
If Peyton Manning can draw MVP consideration last year after not taking a single snap, why doesn't Kolb receive consideration from those same people?
For Arizona to hold any chance this weekend, its defense, whose 22 interceptions are second only to the Chicago Bears, must wreak havoc on Colin Kaepernick. Arizona's offense won't score against San Francisco, so it's all up to the defense and special teams units to produce points.
Along with a win, the 49ers need the Packers to lose to the Vikings to reclaim the No. 2 seed. Considering they have already faltered against two of the NFC's potential No. 6 seeds (Vikings and New York Giants), they can sure use the free pass.
San Francisco has only lost once at home, and Seattle possesses the NFL's biggest home-field advantage. The team settling for a wild card bid still might enter the opening game as a favorite, but this game could shift how the NFC unfolds this postseason.
Calvin Johnson will try to up his receiving yards total to 2,000.
This potential upset does not seem all that far-fetched.
Sure, the 4-11 Detroit Lions are riding a seven-game losing streak, finding innovative ways to squander wins on a weekly basis. During that stretch, they have averaged 31.9 points allowed per game.
But the Chicago Bears offense does not look much better. Matt Forte has not rushed for 100 yards since Week 9, and their entire passing offense boils down to Brandon Marshall making catches through double teams.
Over the last seven games, the Bears are 2-5, scoring just 16.1 points per game. Their most effective method of offense stems from their playmaking defense, but that's not a reliable source of production.
For all the conjecture around Matthew Stafford's downfall, he's still leading one of the league's most potent offenses. Behind New England, Detroit amasses the NFL's second-highest total of 414.2 yards per game.
If he can tally 305 yards through the air against Chicago, Stafford will secure his second straight season with 5,000 passing yards.
A week after setting a season record for most receiving yards, Calvin Johnson remains 108 yards short of reaching the 2,000-yard plateau.
During a four-game period from Week 11 to 14, Detroit lost four games to playoff teams (Packers, Texans, Colts and Packers) by a combined 16 points. Detroit only fell by six points to Chicago in their first bout.
The Bears can land the No. 6 seed by defeating the Lions, but they will also need help from their rival. In order for them to salvage a playoff spot following a 7-1 start, they also need the Packers to overcome the Vikings.
LeSean McCoy has tortured the Giants throughout his career.
The New York Giants' playoff aspirations are slim, but none of the necessary outcomes are too implausible.
They need Chicago to lose to Detroit, a feasible scenario broken down in the last slide. The Packers, winners of eight of their last nine who are clamoring for a first-round bye, must top the Vikings.
And then the Washington Redskins will have to best the Dallas Cowboys in the battle for the NFC East.
All three cookies could crumble in the Giants' favor, but they still need to take care of business against the last-place Philadelphia Eagles.
Facing a four-win team still is a welcome relief for a club that has battled through a challenging schedule, and Eli Manning has a knack for rallying the club to play its best in high-pressure situations.
So why are Giants fans all afraid of the Eagles? Andy Reid will man the Eagles sidelines for the last time after 14 years of coaching, so his players could feel propelled to play hard during their coach's swan song.
New York also has to deal with Philadelphia's two returning stars. Michael Vick, who played arguably his best game of the season against the G-Men, will start for the first time in seven weeks in place of the injured Nick Foles.
After missing four games with a concussion, LeSean McCoy, who has burned New York for over 100 rushing yards in each of their last three meetings, returned last week.
Also, there's the fact that the Giants were obliterated by the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in back-to-back weeks.
The Eagles have cut the Giants' season short before. At least DeSean Jackson won't be around for this one.