The 17th week of the NFL season is upon us, and there is still plenty left to be decided. There are four playoff spots up for grabs and 10 teams vying for them.
Who is going to take advantage of the opportunity to make the playoffs, and which teams are going to fall flat on their face?
Below is a list of predictions for all the games, followed by an analysis of some of the most critical games of the weekend.
|Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||PIT|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||NYG|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN|
|Houston Texans||Tenessee Titans||TEN|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Indianapolis Colts||IND|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||MIA|
|Detroit Lions||Minnesota Vikings||MIN|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||CAR|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||NO|
|Buffalo Bills||New England Patriots||NE|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||SEA|
|Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||GB|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||AZ|
|Denver Broncos||Oakland Raiders||DEN|
|Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||SD|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||PHI|
Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)
It's "win and in" in the NFC East, and Philadelphia has all of the momentum. The have won six of their last seven and are coming off a trouncing of the Chicago Bears.
Dallas, meanwhile, may or may not have Tony Romo. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the star is unlikely to play:
Source says Tony Romo got epidural injection for herniated disk. Takes 2-3 days to determine effect of shot. Source very skeptical QB plays— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) December 24, 2013
If all else fails, they have Jon Kitna:
Cowboys to sign a 41-year-old Jon Kitna as third QB. Kitna last played in 2011, starting 3 games for Dallas. (via media reports)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 24, 2013
Look, even if Romo does play, there's just no way they win this game. The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in football. Nick Foles has been absolutely outstanding, throwing for 2,628 yards, 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
He's been historically good, too, as Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com points out:
And here's the big (meaningless) payoff: If you remove the first Dallas game, Nick Foles would have highest QB rating of all-time (126.89).— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidman) December 25, 2013
The Eagles have the best rushing attack, the ninth-ranked passing attack and the 12th-ranked rush defense. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have the 31st-ranked pass defense and the 27th-ranked rush defense.
This could get ugly. Look for Foles and McCoy to walk over the Cowboys' putrid defense and make the playoffs.
Final Score: Eagles 31, Cowboys 10
Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)
It's the same in the North as it is in the East, but the biggest question is: Will the Pack have Aaron Rodgers?
Right now, it's not looking likely, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports:
Aaron Rodgers fractured collarbone still "extraordinary risk" per sources. No real "organizational decision" as McCarthy repeated Friday— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 22, 2013
Matt Flynn has been decent in relief, throwing for 1,392 yards and eight touchdowns. Mike McCarthy praised the journeyman backup, telling Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
I thought Matt did a lot of good things. The no-huddle, we had some good moments there in the first half. We had some penalties that put us in a long down and distance, but he definitely gave us a spark in the second half.
Let's go with the assumption that Rodgers does not play. Can the Packers really win?
Yes. Did you see how bad the Bears looked against Philadelphia? They were manhandled, losing to the Eagles 54-11, and it wasn't even that close. The Bears seemingly made a tactical error in putting Jay Cutler back when Josh McCown had been playing so well.
This is how it's going to go down: Eddie Lacy and the Packers will run all day over the Bears' 32nd-ranked rush defense. Matt Flynn will make just enough throws to move the chains, and Jay Cutler will throw a costly interception. I think the Packers will take this one relatively easily.
Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 13
New York Jets (7-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Not much for the Jets to play for, but the Dolphins do have a chance to make the playoffs.
They do need some help, though. In order to make the second season, the Dolphins need to win against the Jets and hope the Baltimore Ravens lose. They could also get in with a win and a San Diego Chargers win. There are two other scenarios that involve a number of ties.
Can the Fins get in? With all the turmoil that has surrounded South Beach, it would be a bit of a surprise to see them in the postseason.
And they're coming off a woeful loss to Buffalo where they weren't even competitive. That's a game they should have easily won, but they ended up losing 19-0.
Meanwhile, the Jets are probably playing for Rex Ryan's job, although a win does not guarantee he stays as coach. They are coming off a nice win against the Cleveland Browns.
Miami should have all the motivation they need to make the playoffs. Cameron Wake should be able to fluster Geno Smith.
I think this will be a low-scoring game. The Jets offense is awful, and the Dolphins defense isn't too good.
Quite simply, the Dolphins have more to play for. I think they got their stinker out of the way last week and should be able to beat the Jets.
Final Score: Dolphins 21, Jets 14.