Well, folks, here we are.
One game remains in the 2013 NFL season for each team. Some teams, like the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, have already punched their tickets to the postseason. Others, such as the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, are simply playing out the string after a bitterly disappointing year.
However, there are also a number of big games on the final Sunday of 2013, including a pair of winner-take-all contests in the Windy City and Dallas.
As we gear up for the last (and biggest) week of NFL action in 2013, here's a look at how writers, players and pundits from around cyberspace expect Week 17 to play out.
Before we move on to Week 17's games, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, as well as former players such as Eric Allen and Mark Schlereth.
CBS Sports: The CBS Sports picks feature eight writers, including senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco and NFL insider Jason La Canfora.
NFL Network: Melissa Stark, Shaun O'Hara and Sterling Sharpe of NFL Gameday First join this week's panel as late-season injury replacements.
USA Today: As with the other sites on our panel, USA Today uses a committee approach, with seven writers offering their picks for this week's games.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for Bleacher Report's picks team features each of the national lead writers as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it: more than 40 NFL experts all offering their takes on this week's games.
Week 16 went OK for the experts, although for the second straight week, our panel missed on seven games.
Last Week: 9-7
Final Verdict: Well, Texans fans, the 2013 season is finally, mercifully over.
By virtue of their 16-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Texans finished the year losers of a staggering 14 games in a row.
A team pegged by many as a Super Bowl contender has now sewn up the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Mr. Bridgewater, please pick up the red courtesy phone.
ESPN: Titans (13-0)
CBS Sports: Titans (7-1)
NFL Network: Titans (3-0)
USA Today: Titans (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Titans (12-0)
Overall: Titans (42-1)
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Houston Texans in 2013. They were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender.
Instead, a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday will sew up the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
The Texans have sailed past struggling, rocketed past reeling and flailed through floundering en route to 13 consecutive losses.
Not surprisingly, Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen and the panel went with the Titans:
The Texans are the only team that has lost to the sorry Raiders in the last eight games. The Titans are probably better than their record indicates because they have been trying to get by with a backup quarterback for most of this season.
Final Verdict: Speaking of collapses, how about those Detroit Lions?
The Lions, who once appeared almost destined to win the NFC North, lost six of their last seven games. Sunday's 14-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was the capper on a 6-3 start that became a 7-9 nightmare.
It isn't like the Vikings did any better, and both Minnesota's Leslie Frazier and Detroit's Jim Schwartz are expected to be among the coaching casualties on "Black Monday."
ESPN: Vikings (9-4)
CBS Sports: Vikings (5-3)
NFL Network: Vikings (2-1)
USA Today: Vikings (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Tied (6-6)
Overall: Vikings (27-16)
As recently as a month ago, the Detroit Lions were considered the NFC North favorite by many. With the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers racked by injuries, the table looked set for the Lions to win the North.
Instead, the Lions lurched their way to five losses in six games, and now they're out of the playoff race altogether.
In fact, the majority of our voters, including Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse, think the Vikings will hand Detroit one last disappointment this season:
The Vikings will give one last Metrodome crowd a winning effort, while the Lions have one last disappointment left under Jim Schwartz. Both teams will be ready for this tumultuous season to be over.
Final Verdict: The Colts have long since locked up a playoff berth, but with seeding and an outside shot at a first-round bye on the line it was expected the Colts would come out firing against the Jaguars.
Cincinnati's win over the Baltimore Ravens may have spoiled the Colts plans of moving up, but in craving up the Jags 30-10 the Colts enter the playoffs coming off back-to-back impressive victories.
ESPN: Colts (12-1)
CBS Sports: Colts (8-0)
NFL Network: Colts (3-0)
USA Today: Colts (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Colts (11-1)
Overall: Colts (41-2)
With the offense sputtering, questions were growing around the Indianapolis Colts, even as the team clinched the 2013 AFC South title.
However, the Colts secured their most impressive win since downing the Denver Broncos, dominating the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead last week, 23-7.
The Colts still have an outside shot at the AFC's second seed, so with that to play for, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen and the experts look for the Colts to pull this one out.
"Another opportunity for the young talent on the Jags roster to play some football this season," Bowen wrote, "but I like the Colts here to pick up another win as they work toward the playoffs."
Final Verdict: There will be no repeat champion in the NFL in 2013.
In fact, for the second straight season the reigning Super Bowl champion won't make the playoffs at all.
Despite Andy Dalton's best efforts to hand the game to the Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco kept it handing it back.
Flacco's pick-six to Dre Kirkpatrick in the fourth quarter was a backbreaker, and by virtue of a 34-17 loss to the Bengals the Ravens are out of the playoffs.
ESPN: Bengals (12-1)
CBS Sports: Bengals (7-1)
NFL Network: Ravens (2-1)
USA Today: Bengals (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Bengals (12-0)
Overall: Bengals (38-5)
Entering Week 16, both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens controlled their own destiny in the AFC North.
Not only did the Baltimore Ravens squander that opportunity by falling to the New England Patriots last week, but that blowout loss, coupled with the Bengals' win over the Vikings, gave Cincinnati the division crown.
Now, the Ravens need a win over the Bengals and help just to make the postseason at all.
The Ravens downed the Bengals 20-17 back in Week 10. However, that game was in Baltimore, and as Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst points out, this one is not:
The Bengals are undefeated at home, and there's no reason to think that will change. They have the deepest, most complete team in the league, while the Ravens—especially on offense—are shells of their former selves. Another blowout loss for Baltimore could be coming.
Final Verdict: Speaking of out of the playoffs.
Of the four teams fighting for the last playoff spot, most thought the Miami Dolphins had the easiest path. Beat the Jets, and the Dolphins would be in with a Ravens loss.
Well, one of those things happened.
Just as they have all year, the Jets refused to quit, while the Dolphins looked sloppy and out of sorts.
ESPN: Dolphins (9-4)
CBS Sports: Tied (4-4)
NFL Network: Dolphins (3-0)
USA Today: Dolphins (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Dolphins (11-1)
Overall: Dolphins (31-12)
There are four teams still in the hunt for the last wild-card spot in the AFC. None control their own destiny.
The Miami Dolphins are one of those teams, needing a win over the New York Jets and either a win by the San Diego Chargers or a loss by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Jets have shown to be a tough out at times this season. However, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey is among the majority who feels the Dolphins will hold up their end of the deal:
This game had all the makings of a stinker a few weeks ago, but both teams have trended upward, and this should be a competitive one. As the Dolphins look to gain momentum for a playoff run, I think they beat Rex Ryan, who may not even be able to save his job.
Final Verdict: Riverboat Ron is a bad man.
Heading into Week 5, the Panthers were a 1-3 mess of a football team. Head coach Ron Rivera had one foot out the door.
Then Rivera started taking chances, and the players bought in.
Now, the Panthers enter the playoffs for the first time since 2008, NFC South champions after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 21-20 to close the season 12-4.
ESPN: Panthers (12-1)
CBS Sports: Panthers (8-0)
NFL Network: Panthers (3-0)
USA Today: Panthers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Panthers (12-0)
Overall: Panthers (41-2)
By virtue of their huge win over the New Orleans Saints last week, the Carolina Panthers not only notched their 10th victory in 11 games but also locked up their first postseason trip since 2008.
This week, the Panthers can take things one step further. Defeat the Atlanta Falcons, and the Panthers win the NFC South and secure a first-round bye.
The experts expect Carolina to get that win, but Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen cautions that it may not be easy:
The Panthers have solidified a playoff spot, but they still need this game to win the division and earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. They’ll have to win this rivalry game without Steve Smith, which will prove harder than expected as emotions run high in this season finale.
Final Verdict: In order to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-4, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed approximately 37 things to happen over the last two weeks of the season.
Including a lunar eclipse.
Well, break out the special glasses, because thanks to the Steelers 20-7 win over the corpse of the Cleveland Browns the Steelers need only a loss by the San Diego Chargers to advance to the postseason.
ESPN: Steelers (13-0)
CBS Sports: Steelers (8-0)
NFL Network: Steelers (3-0)
USA Today: Steelers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Steelers (12-0)
Overall: Steelers (43-0)
Despite losing their first four games this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a shot at making the playoffs in 2013.
Well, sort of.
To make the postseason, they need a win, plus losses by the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
Their chances of pulling off that long shot may not be good, but Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman predicts that Pittsburgh will take care of the one part of that scenario they have control over.
"Unreal how the Steelers are still alive for the playoffs," Freeman said. "Even if only remotely. That minor bit of hope pushes them past a sorry Browns team."
Final Verdict: If the point of starting Kirk Cousins at quarterback over the season's last three games was in any way an attempt to showcase the second-year pro for potential trade partners, then the Redskins failed as miserably at that as they have everything else in 2013.
Cousins was atrocious against a bad Giants defense in Week 17, completing only 19 of 49 passes while tossing a pair of interceptions in a 20-6 loss.
It was a happy day for the St. Louis Rams, who will get Washington's first pick next April.
Gonna be an interesting offseason in DC.
ESPN: Giants (13-0)
CBS Sports: Giants (6-2)
NFL Network: Giants (3-0)
USA Today: Giants (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Giants (8-4)
Overall: Giants (36-7)
If the New York Giants' 2013 season has been a disaster, then what do you call what's happened to the Washington Redskins?
The 2012 NFC East champions have gone from worst to first and back to worst. Mike Shanahan is probably coaching his last game with the team. The surest bet in town (RGIII) is now anything but.
With Griffin riding the pine to end the year, it's Kirk Cousins who will once again try for his first win this year when Washington travels to face the Giants Sunday.
He's in the minority, but Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon believes Cousins will get that win:
Somewhat surprisingly, neither team has given up. That said, Washington is probably fighting a little harder right now. Let's give Kirk Cousins and co. a win in a close one, although meaningless NFC East games are tough to predict.
Final Verdict: So grows the legend of Aaron Rodgers.
After missing nearly half the season with a broken collarbone, Rodgers returned to the lineup Sunday to face the Chicago Bears in a winner-take-all game with the NFC North on the line.
Rodgers passed for 318 yards in the game, and his 48-yard strike to Randall Cobb with less than a minute left gave the Packers a 33-28 win and the division title.
ESPN: Packers (9-4)
CBS Sports: Packers (6-2)
NFL Network: Bears (2-1)
USA Today: Bears (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Packers (10-2)
Overall: Packers (28-15)
The $64,000 question surrounding this week's winner-take-all game in Chicago has been answered.
As Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin reports, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has missed the last seven games with a broken collarbone (suffered the last time these teams met), will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a game that will decide the NFC North.
"We've got the best player on our team back in, but just because he's playing don't guarantee nothing," wide receiver James Jones said. "We've still got to go out there and play football, play it a high level in all three phases and we've got to win."
The panel, including a large majority of the writers here at Bleacher Report, believe the Packers will do just that.
Final Verdict: With Baltimore and Miami losing in Week 17, all the San Diego Chargers had to do was beat the Chiefs' second-stringers to make the playoffs.
No problem, right?
Well, someone forgot to tell the Chiefs to roll over.
The Chargers got the win in overtime and will head to Cincinnati next week, but not before giving fans of both the Bolts and the Steelers (who were eliminated in the process) a small heart attack or three in the process.
ESPN: Chargers (10-3)
CBS Sports: Chargers (8-0)
NFL Network: Chargers (2-1)
USA Today: Chargers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Chiefs (7-5)
Overall: Chargers (31-12)
The San Diego Chargers are among the quartet of teams vying for the final playoff spot in the AFC.
The Bolts need more than a little help, but the first step in San Diego securing a spot in the postseason tournament is a win over a Kansas City Chiefs squad already locked into the fifth seed in the conference.
Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports that head coach Andy Reid may rest the starters in what's essentially a meaningless game for the Chiefs, and that's enough for Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen to take the home team in this one:
This one will be gift-wrapped for the Chargers because the Chiefs would be foolish to put Jamaal Charles on the field in a meaningless game. Tamba Hali and Dwayne Bowe are nursing injuries, which means Andy Reid will probably sit his quarterback as well. The Chargers also need Miami and Baltimore to lose.
Final Verdict: 606 points scored
5,477 passing yards
55 passing touchdowns
Those were the NFL records that fell to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos Sunday.
The Oakland Raiders fell right along with them, and with their 34-14 victory Manning and the Broncos sewed up the AFC's top playoff seed.
ESPN: Broncos (13-0)
CBS Sports: Broncos (8-0)
NFL Network: Broncos (3-0)
USA Today: Broncos (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Broncos (12-0)
Overall: Broncos (43-0)
The Denver Broncos are the Super Bowl favorites in the AFC, an offensive juggernaut that has already sewn up the AFC West.
The only thing standing between them and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs is an Oakland Raiders team that's 2-8 over its last 10 games.
The Broncos dropped 37 points on the Raiders back in Week 3, and Bleacher Report NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland doesn't foresee the rematch proceeding any differently:
Peyton Manning or Terrelle Pryor? The Raiders are losers of five straight, and head coach Dennis Allen is doing anything he can to save his job. Unfortunately for him, Manning will embarrass Oakland in front of its home crowd, and Allen will be handed his walking papers by Monday morning.
Final Verdict: The New Orleans Saints are headed back to the playoffs.
It wasn't especially easy. After dropping their last two the Saints needed either a win at home against the Buccaneers or an Arizona loss to get back in the postseason.
However, the Saints weren't about to ask for help, and after dispatching the Bucs' 42-17 the Saints will be on the road next week in the Wild Card round.
ESPN: Saints (13-0)
CBS Sports: Saints (8-0)
NFL Network: Saints (3-0)
USA Today: Saints (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Saints (12-0)
Overall: Saints (43-0)
It wasn't that long ago that the New Orleans Saints appeared headed for the NFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. That's still a possibility, but after dropping two straight games (and three of four) the Saints now need a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to avoid potentially missing the playoffs altogether.
Luckily for fans in the Big Easy, not a single member of the panel predicts the Saints botching this must-win game at home.
In the words of Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter, "There's no way the Saints lose a needed game to the Buccaneers, especially in the Superdome."
Final Verdict: It's been a wild year for the New England Patriots.
It's forced the Patriots to go back to their roots a bit, but the results of this season from the workmanlike Pats is the same as their flashier counterparts of recent years.
12 wins, the AFC East title, and thanks to Sunday's 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills a first-round bye in the playoffs.
ESPN: Patriots (13-0)
CBS Sports: Patriots (8-0)
NFL Network: Patriots (3-0)
USA Today: Patriots (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Patriots (11-1)
Overall: Patriots (42-1)
The more things change in the AFC East, the more they stay the same.
For the 10th time in the last 11 years, the New England Patriots are the division champions. For the 14th year in a row, the Buffalo Bills will miss the playoffs.
The Patriots still have a shot at the AFC's top seed if the Broncos somehow falter in Oakland, and all but one expert thinks New England will take care of business against the Bills. But Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter is calling for the upset.
"The Bills are playing better and better for head coach Doug Marrone," Schalter wrote. "I believe the Bills pull out all the stops to repay New England for the heartbreaker earlier in the season."
Final Verdict: It's been a bittersweet season in the desert.
Yes, the Cardinals can hang their heads high. Even after a 23-20 loss to the streaking San Francisco 49ers, the Redbirds won 10 games in Bruce Arians first year as head coach.
However, in the 2013 NFC West, all 10 wins got the Cardinals was the title of "best team in the NFL that didn't make the playoffs."
And that looks like crap on a t-shirt.
ESPN: 49ers (8-5)
CBS Sports: Cardinals (5-3)
NFL Network: Cardinals (3-0)
USA Today: Cardinals (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Tied (6-6)
Overall: Cardinals (24-19)
Every few years, a really good NFL team gets hosed by the football gods. Just last year, a 10-win Chicago Bears team missed the playoffs.
This season it's the Arizona Cardinals. With a win Sunday at home against the 49ers, the Cards will finish the season 11-5, but if the Saints beat the Buccaneers, it's no playoffs in the desert.
The Cardinals won't know by kickoff if they're playing for pride or the playoffs, but in any event, Bleacher Report NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland thinks the red-hot Redbirds will finish the regular season strong:
The Cardinals have won seven of eight and are looking to punch their first playoff ticket since 2009. They can make the playoffs with a win and a New Orleans loss.
With the way the Cardinals defense is playing, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers offense doing anything through the air. Additionally, they’ve only lost one game in the desert this season, and momentum has been in their favor down the stretch. Arizona wins a hard-fought battle with a last-second field goal.
Final Verdict: I'm afraid I have some bad news for the the rest of the NFC.
The road to the Super Bowl contains a very long detour.
Thanks to their 27-9 beatdown of the St. Louis Rams, the Seattle Seahawks are the NFC's top seed.
It's not that bad. I mean, it's not like they play in the loudest stadium on Earth, with fans so loud they cause earthquakes, in a building where they've only lost once in two years.
See? Nothing to worry about.
ESPN: Seahawks (12-1)
CBS Sports: Seahawks (8-0)
NFL Network: Seahawks (3-0)
USA Today: Seahawks (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Seahawks (12-0)
Overall: Seahawks (42-1)
The Seattle Seahawks are generally considered the Super Bowl front-runners in the NFC, but their coronation hit a snag last week.
Last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals was Seattle's first home setback since 2011. Now, the Seahawks need a win over the St. Louis Rams to avoid possibly squandering the division title and home field throughout the playoffs.
The Rams gave the Seahawks all they could handle back in Week 8, but the experts are nearly unanimous in their assertion that Seattle will sew up the No. 1 seed this week.
That includes Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen, who wrote, "The Seahawks still have work to do to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed. That’s bad news for St. Louis since it will have to face the best Seattle can bring on Sunday. With something to play for, Seattle will easily thump the Rams."
Final Verdict: The members of the band may change, but the song remains the same.
For the third straight year, the Dallas Cowboys are 8-8. For the third straight year, the Cowboys had a chance to win the NFC East in Week 17.
For the third straight year, the Cowboys blew it, falling 24-22.
ESPN: Eagles (13-0)
CBS Sports: Eagles (8-0)
NFL Network: Eagles (3-0)
USA Today: Eagles (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Eagles (12-0)
Overall: Eagles (41-2)
For the third straight season, the last game of the regular season features the Dallas Cowboys playing one game for the NFC East title. The last two years, the Cowboys have come up short, and it won't be easy to reverse that trend.
Not only are the Cowboys facing a red-hot Philadelphia Eagles team, but they will do so without quarterback Tony Romo, who is out for the season after undergoing back surgery.
The experts, including Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon, don't see this season ending any differently in Dallas than the last two have:
The Cowboys are unpredictable regardless of who starts at quarterback, but you'd be crazy to pick them to beat the red-hot Eagles with guys like Tony Romo and Sean Lee dealing with injuries.