NFL Week 17 Preview: Four Division Titles, Five Playoff Spots to Be Decided

Sean Crowe@CroweKnowsSenior Writer IDecember 25, 2008

It’s Week 17 and the AFC East, AFC West, NFC North, and NFC South are all still up for grabs.

To some teams (Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Chargers, Broncos, Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Eagles) the playoffs start a week early. Winning doesn’t necessarily get them in, but losing definitely knocks them out.

Should make for a fantastic final weekend of what has been an unpredictable and exciting NFL season.



The NFL should do what the NCAA does when two teams who have no chance of winning anything meet in the last week of December: make it a bowl game!

The Chiefs and Bengals play a meaningless regular season game in week 17 and nobody cares. If they were to play in the Chevrolet Incompetent Management Bowl, then we’d care. OK, not us. But someone would care.

Probably the same person who cares about the EagleBank Bowl.

The Bengals are the Detroit Lions of the AFC. And the Chiefs are talking about bringing Herm Edwards back next season.

It doesn’t get any more incompetent than that!



The Giants are in a position similar to what they were in last season when they faced the undefeated Patriots in Week 17. Their playoff spot is set.  A win doesn’t help, a loss doesn’t hurt.

Last season, they played their starters, played well, and it propelled them to the Super Bowl. Will they do the same this season?

The Vikings, on the other hand, have plenty to play for. Or plenty for which they have left to play. Stupid hanging prepositions.

If the Vikings win, they win the NFC North. If they lose, they need help just making the playoffs. If they lose and the Bears win, the Bears win the NFC North and the Vikings would need both Dallas and Tampa Bay to lose just to get the sixth seed.

The Giants learned a valuable lesson last season: You play every game on the schedule. The only team that can turn it on and off week to week is the San Diego Chargers, and for them it’s not exactly voluntary.

The Giants will play to win the game. And they’ll win the game.



Detroit is one game away from making history. I remember the Patriots last year, going into week 17 just one game away from making history. It begins to weigh on a team. The Patriots nearly lost to the Giants. The pressure was amazing.

The Lions need to make sure they treat this like any other week. They need the same terrible game plans, the same awful players, and the same ridiculous play calling.

One game away from history. Now’s not the time to stop screwing it up.



Normally, I advocate doing what the Giants did last year and not resting starters. The Steelers are a special case. Ben Roethlisberger is beat up. The Steelers need him healthy. I’d get him out of this game as quickly as is humanly possible.

I mean, seriously. They could field a practice squad quarterback and still beat the Browns, who coincidentally ARE fielding a practice squad quarterback.



The Patriots need to beat Buffalo, then hope from some help from either the Jets or the Jaguars. The problem in New England is that nobody seems to be talking about the first part.

While everyone’s wasting time worrying about how they’re going to bring themselves to root for the Jets, nobody’s wasting any time worrying about the Buffalo Bills.

Maybe they shouldn't be worried about the Bills. Then again, the Patriots’ defense has made worse offenses than Buffalo look pretty good this season. No game is a lock.

I think the Patriots will win, but it’s not going to be as easy as people seem to think it will be.



The Titans have absolutely nothing to play for. The Colts have absolutely nothing to play for. Given Dungy’s history of resting players in meaningless games, I’m not sure this is going to be the game you would hope to get out of these two teams.



It’s really simple for the Buccaneers. They need to beat the Raiders (forgone conclusion), then hope Dallas loses to the Eagles. There are other, more complicated ways for them to get into the playoffs that include ties, the Bears, and the Vikings, but that’s way too confusing, so I’m going to assume it won’t happen.



Houston was just recently humiliated by the Oakland Raiders. If there were any justice in the world, that would be enough to get Gary Kubiak and his staff banished to Detroit.

Chicago needs the Giants to take care of business against the Vikings. If that happens, they’ll win the NFC North with a victory over the Texans. If the Vikings win, they’ll need both Dallas and Tampa Bay to lose.

Since Tampa’s playing Oakland (see my earlier comments), the Bears' only real hope for getting into the playoffs is a Vikings loss.



Believe it or not, the Falcons come into Week 17 with a pretty legitimate shot at winning the NFC South and earning a first round bye. If they win, and the Panthers lose, that’s exactly what will happen.

I don’t expect either team to lose, but Atlanta certainly has the easier of the two opponents.



The Panthers took a kick in the gut last week against the Giants. It’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back, especially considering the fact that a loss probably knocks them out of the two seed and a first round bye.

The Saints, my preseason NFC Champion, has been so insanely up and down it’s a wonder nobody’s talking about Sean Peyton’s job security.

Or maybe someone is talking about it. I was without power for quite a while last week...



The Patriots would really, really appreciate a Jacksonville victory here. For that matter, so would the Jets. But the Ravens are built for December football. And when you’re built for December football, you usually get to play in January.

The Ravens are better than the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins. Of the three teams, they deserve a playoff spot the most. Sometimes the football gods give you what you deserve. This is going to be one of those times.



The game that will decide the AFC East. If the Dolphins win, they go from worst to first in one season. If the Jets win, the Patriots likely repeat as AFC East champions.

A week ago, Favre was openly discussing his possible retirement (again). This week, Favre is openly discussing a possible shoulder injury. The Jets coaching staff, in theory anyway, knows that Favre’s arm is a problem. They should run the ball more. They should be able to have some success running the ball against the Dolphins.

But their coaching staff is terrible. They’ll probably throw the ball 50 times. And they’ll lose. And the Patriots will finish 11-5, yet miss the playoffs.



The Patriots miss the playoffs with 11 wins, and the team they beat by 40 points last week will make the playoffs with either eight or nine wins.

There is no justice.



The 49ers are reportedly going to offer Mike Singletary a multi-year contract extension. This is a fantastic move. The 49ers have played significantly better since he took over. Plus, he’s a little insane. I like a head coach that’s a little insane.

Other than that little news tidbit, this game is of absolutely no interest to anyone outside of Washington and San Francisco.



Forget the fact that both these teams are choking dogs with head coaches that probably shouldn’t return next year but likely will. Forget the fact that these two quarterbacks have made choking in big games an art form.

Someone has to win this game.

Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb will both have the games of their lives. Wade Phillips and Andy Reid will have a coaching chess match for the ages. The Eagles will win with a late Elway-like touchdown drive by McNabb.

And none of it will matter, because the Eagles already be eliminated from the playoffs...



Out of the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins and Ravens, two teams will miss the playoffs. Those two teams will have won at least nine games. One of those teams, likely the Patriots, will miss the playoffs winning at least 10 games.

Yet the 7-8 Chargers are facing the 8-7 Broncos to see who gets the four seed in the playoffs. Completely and utterly unfair.

That said, this should be a fantastic game. Both teams absolutely hate each other. Both quarterbacks absolutely hate each other.

I want to pick the Chargers. They have more talent. They have a better team. But I can’t get past Norv Turner trying to match whits with Mike Shanahan.

The Broncos will make the playoffs, and will get crushed by the Colts next weekend.


Be sure to check out this week’s Power 10. Also, make sure you vote in our NFL MVP poll.

Happy belated Christmas!

Sean Crowe covers the New England Patriots for and writes a bi-weekly column for

He is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at His archive can be found here.


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