Week 17 brings us plenty of games with playoff implications under the Christmas tree.
We know of eight teams that are already in: Denver, New England, Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cincinnati.
There are four spots remaining spread out amongst New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Green Bay, San Diego, Arizona and Pittsburgh.
Only four of those 10 teams can make it. Who is it going to be? Below, we'll predict every game before focusing on the games with the biggest postseason impact.
|Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||PIT|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||NYG|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN|
|Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||IND|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||MIA|
|Detroit Lions||Minnesota Vikings||MIN|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||CAR|
|Buffalo Bills||New England Patriots||NE|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||SEA|
|Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||GB|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||AZ|
|Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||SD|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||PHI|
|Houston Texans||Tennessee Titans||TEN|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||NO|
|Denver Broncos||Oakland Raiders||DEN|
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
It's going to be an uphill climb for the Ravens to make the playoffs, but it's not impossible.
In order to secure a berth, the Ravens need to win and hope that either San Diego or Miami loses. They could also clinch a spot if the Dolphins, Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers all lose.
They first have to get past the Bengals, which won't be easy. Coach John Harbaugh admitted that his team was listless on Sunday, after playing the previous Monday, telling Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun that the shortened week impacted them:
It did, we felt it. We fought through it all week as best we could. Our guys were excited to play, and I thought the effort was there. They fought like crazy, but we just didn’t have enough juice to pull it off. It’s a legitimate factor. Everybody has scheduling issues that they’ve got to deal with in the NFL, and that was one of ours.
It's troubling, though, that the Ravens couldn't get up for a must-win game against of one of the league's best teams.
But it's been like that all year. The team has bad losses to Buffalo and Cleveland, and they haven't been able to get the running game going all season long.
The Bengals are in the playoffs, but they would love nothing more than to keep their division foes out. Plus, the Bengals are just the better team.
Final Score: Bengals 21, Ravens 14
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals need a win and a Saints home loss in order to make the playoffs.
But they can only focus on their matchup with the Niners.
The Cards are coming off an impressive win in Seattle, a game in which they overcame four Carson Palmer interceptions. Coach Bruce Arians is impressed with Palmer's steely resolve, telling Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals official website:
He’s so resilient it’s scary, sometimes. I’m the one that goes crazy. He’s calm and he knows why he did things. If they’re good, bad or ugly, he forgets about it and goes to the next one. He’s really a corner playing quarterback.
What's helping the Cardinals the most, however, is their defense. The unit has the best run defense, giving up only 84.5 yards per game. They have the 15th-ranked pass defense.
Karlos Dansby told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN that the unit still has work to do: "It’s up there. It’s up there. We still got a lot of growing to do. We still left a lot of plays out on the field. We gave them a little too much than we wanted to give them, but they’re a great offense. You can only shut them down for so long."
Their defense will be tested against San Francisco, which has the league's fifth-ranked rushing attack. The Cardinals should have no problem stopping Colin Kaepernick and the 31st-ranked pass offense.
Assuming Palmer doesn't throw four interceptions again, the Cards have a good chance of winning. Now, if only New Orleans could help them out.
Final Score: Cardinals 24, 49ers 17
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
To Romo or not to Romo, that is the question. The hobbled quarterback had an epidural injection, but Ed Werder of ESPN reports that it's still unlikely he plays:
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
Even if Romo does end up playing, he's not going to be 100 percent, and the Eagles defense will be able to take advantage of that.
Besides, do you really think the Cowboys can stop Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy? The Cowboys have the 31st-ranked pass defense and the 27th-ranked rush defense.
Coach Chip Kelly was very effusive in his praise of Foles, telling Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Daily Times: "I think it was Nick’s second or third game playing. He’s got a lot more reps in there and people are getting comfortable and understand the situation. I just think the experience factor is a lot different than when we played them earlier in the season."
Foles has been simply remarkable this season, throwing for 2,628 yards, 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Meanwhile, McCoy has been even better, leading the league with 1,476 yards.
Unless one of the two gets hurt, I simply cannot see a scenario where the Eagles lose. Yes, they are 9-6, but this is a team that has won six of their last seven. They are as dangerous as any in the NFC.
Final Score: Eagles 31, Cowboys 10