Week 17 in the NFL and the playoff picture isn’t quite wrapped up yet. Unless you’re the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears or the Philadelphia Eagles, where you currently stand can still change.
Now for some teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, etc. your playoff birth is guaranteed, but whether or not you’ll stay atop the division isn’t. However, if you’re a team like the St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts (yes the Colts, that’s not a typo), among others, you’re still looking to lock up the playoff spot.
Now, I’m here to quickly run down what I think will happen in Week 17 and who will end up in the playoffs and who will end up on the outside looking in. I will also break down where the team will sit, if they haven’t locked up the division yet.
First let’s break down who has already clinched the division. These teams are:
New England Patriots-AFC East (Current Record: 13-2)
Kansas City Chiefs-AFC West (Current Record: 10-5)
Chicago Bears-NFC North (Current Record: 11-4)
Philaldephia Eagles (Current Record: 10-5)
So with that being said let’s start breaking down our NFL playoff picture.
This is a no brainer, you’ve got to go with the Indianapolis Colts. The reason is simple, the Jags are going to be without star RB, Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars success as a team is basically centered around the success of this young man. Without him, I don’t like their odds.
David Garrard will also miss the game with a right finger injury. So think for a minute here, no Garrard or Jones-Drew for the Jags? Throw in the fact that Indianapolis has an easy matchup against the 6-9 Titans. It all adds up to one thing, the Colts clinching the AFC South. Sorry Jacksonville fans, try again next year..
This is a situation where no harm can be done. Both teams have clinched a trip to the playoffs, the question is which team will get wild card week off and which one will have to earn their spot in the next round.
Both these teams have an intimidating defense that can send a message to the opposing teams offense. Both teams have fairly light Week 17 matchups as the Steelers will take on the Browns and the Ravens will take on the Bengals. So what will be the difference here?
If the Ravens have a good day on the ground, running the football against a less than stellar Bengals defense then that will bring them the “W”. Big Ben and the Steelers won’t have too much trouble against a weak Browns defense either. Throw in that the Steelers love to score with their defense and it looks like an easy victory for both these teams.
There is a tiny chance in my mind that the Browns could upset the Steelers like they did the Pats, but it’s not that likely. Steelers will likely clinch the division and force Baltimore to play the extra week. If you’re a Ravens fan, the upside of that is you would face the Colts who have a weak rush defense that you could exploit for the victory.
This one isn’t too hard to call either. You take one look at who the Falcons and Saints are facing and you can make a fairly accurate guess at who gets the it. Now, no victory is eve guaranteed, but in this case it’s kind of hard not to say that the Falcons can take it with ease.
The Atlanta Falcons, who own the second best record in football will take on the worst team in the National Football League, the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and company will take on the Tampa Bay Bucs a team that could still lock up a wild card spot (I’ll get to that in a moment). Throw in that Matt Ryan is playing at the Georgia Dome and you get a Falcons squad improving to 13-3, locking up the NFC South.
Again, just like there was for Baltimore, there’s a bright side for the Saints. The New Orleans Saints would go on to battle the winner of the NFC West. You know, the same NFC West that won’t have a single team above .500 come the end of the regular season. Saints have it easy come wild card week.
Although the NFC West can be a bore, which it usually is, when it comes to Week 17 it might be the most exciting to watch. The way either team clinches a playoff spot here is easy, beat the other.
The Seahawks are going up against the Rams in Week 17 action so the way to the divisional title is simple, win and you’re in. A victory for the Seahawks means they would have the same division record as the Rams, but with the better division record (which would come with the win) means they are in. Standing in the way, however, are Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams.
What will be the difference maker? Well they say defense wins championships, in this case it’s not championship, but division. The Rams are more solid on the defensive end of the field, throw in Bradford, rising to the occassion of guiding the Rams to the playoffs for the first time since 03 and you get the Rams taking the victory at Qwest Field to win the NFC West.
Last, but not least we still have one NFC Wild Card spot up for grabs in Week 17 with the Bucs, Packers and Giants all having a shot at it. The three teams head into Week 17 with them all having the same record, 9-6.
The Packers will host the Chicago Bears (11-4), the Giants will travel to Washington to face the Redskins (6-9) and the Buc will clash with the New Orleans Saints (11-4) at the Superdome. If you’re looking at this on paper, the Giants have the easiest game and with the victory and losses from both the Packers and the Bucs likely they can win it. If you view things like that, you need to consider much more here.
First off, let’s take one team out of the equation to make things more simple. The Bucs chances are looking slim as they are going to visit New Orleans to face a Saints squad which is one of the best teams in the NFL. Throw in that the Saints might still have the AFC South title on their minds and things are not looking good for Tampa Bay.
So, assuming that the Bucs have lost to the Saints we have the Giants and Packers still in the mix. Now, the Giants have an easy victory ahead of them (as previously mentioned) when they face the Redskins. Considering the Giants can do it all: run, pass and play defense they’ll likely improve to 10-6 on the day.
So you’ve now got the Bucs out of it and the Giants holding the spot with a 10-6 record. The last part of the equation is the Packers-Bears game. In case anyone missed last week’s Packers-Giants game let me recap what happened between the two. The Packers destroyed the Giants 45-17, making sure they still have a shot at the wild card spot. This week, I expect the Packers to once against step up and get the “W.”
Aaron Rodgers can step up in big game situations and there’s none bigger than a game that determines if you get in to the playoffs or not. Granted, the Bears have a dangerous defense, but as do the Packers. Both teams are solid at both ends, but if Rodgers can deliver then Green Bay has the victory.
So with the Packers and Giants both having a 10-6 record, the Packers would be the ones getting in because they have the better division record of the two. It’s a shame for Giants fans that their team didn’t put away the Packers when they had the chance because now it might come back to haunt them.
So there you have it, those are my thoughts on the playoff picture. If you’re looking for an early Super Bowl pick from me, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and go with the New England Patriots. However, don’t count out teams like the Saints, Bears, Falcons, Ravens and even the Packers. Thanks for reading and enjoy Week 17 of the National Football league.
This article was originally posted on The Sports Dossier under the name "Week 17 Predictions: NFC West, NFC Wild Card, AFC South And More!" Check out more great pieces from our talented staff of writers.
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