With plenty of playoff seedings still uncertain, here’s a look at the top five games for NFL Week 17 of the 2016 season.
From a critical matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in which the winner will earn the NFC North title to the Washington Redskins hoping to earn the final Wild Card spot in the NFC, there’s plenty on the line for the top games of NFL Week 17.
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Thanks to the Lions losing back-to-back games against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the Packers find themselves in a position only the team believed they would be in as the winner of Sunday night’s game will be lucky enough to host a playoff game next weekend. After losing five of six games in the middle of the season, Green Bay seemed to be all but done when it comes to earning a spot in the postseason as they’re currently one of the hottest teams in the NFC.
Speaking of Detroit, Washington has them to thank for being in better position to earn a Wild Card spot if they can find a way to win against the New York Giants on Sunday. Kirk Cousins has been doing everything in his power to prove he’s worthy of a long-term deal, and if the quarterback can help the Redskins clinch a playoff berth, it would hard to ignore what he’s done.
Starting off with a showdown in the NFC South between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, here’s a look at the top five games for NFL Week 17 of the 2016 season.
Oct 10, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) kicks the game winning field goal against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Buccaneers won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
5. Buccaneers vs. Panthers
The good news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is they haven’t officially been eliminated from the postseason, as there’s still a slim chance, depending on what happens in Week 17. Unfortunately, a million other things would need to fall into place in order for that to happen, which means the Buccaneers will most likely be watching this year’s playoffs from home.
Still, that doesn’t mean Tampa Bay isn’t going to go down without a fight, as they look to take down the Carolina Panthers for the second time this season. After falling short of winning the Super Bowl last February, the Panthers were one of the early favorites to be strong contenders in the NFC once again at the beginning of the year.
Instead, Ron Rivera‘s squad will go down as one of the biggest disappointments from the 2016 season by going from NFC champions to finishing with a losing record. Clearly, the defense was far from the dominant level from a year ago, but that doesn’t mean Carolina isn’t capable of ending the year on a strong note.
It’s a shame the Buccaneers struggled to come up on the winning end in each of their last two games against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, or this game would have more meaning for the NFC playoff picture.
Sep 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) drives the ball for the first down against the Miami Dolphins in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 31-24. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
4. Patriots vs. Dolphins
Who would have thought after a 1-4 start to the season, it would be the Miami Dolphins earning one of the two Wild Card spots in the AFC? Not even losing Ryan Tannehill has slowed the Dolphins down as they enter their regular-season finale against the New England Patriots winning nine of their last 10 games.
While Miami waits to see whether they will play the Pittsburgh Steelers or Houston Texans, New England hopes to pull through with the win so they can hold on to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. After everything the Patriots went through at the beginning of the season, with Tom Brady missing the first four games due to suspension, seeing this team emerge as the top seed in the AFC would be simply amazing to see.
Plus, if all goes well for the Dolphins in the first round, this could easily turn into an early preview of the Divisional Round against the Patriots. Miami may have came up short during their 31-24 loss in Week 2 when these AFC East rivals met for the first time in 2016, but keep in mind that game was without Brady.
In other words, the Dolphins face a much more difficult challenge this time around with the Patriots motivated to lockup that No. 1 seed.
Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) carries the ball past Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
3. Giants vs. Redskins
Even if they fell short of stealing the NFC East title from the Dallas Cowboys at the last second, the New York Giants have every reason in the world to feel confident heading into the playoffs. The offense has always been the strong point of this team, but the Giants defense has been one of the biggest stories from the 2016 season as they seem capable of handling any offense that stands in their way of reaching the Super Bowl.
As for the Washington Redskins, the process is simple as all they have to do is win at home against their division rivals to secure a Wild Card spot in the NFC. This year certainly has been a roller coaster for the Redskins when considering all of the inconsistency on both sides of the football, but none of that will matter if they can just find a way to get into the postseason.
Kirk Cousins has made a strong case for earning a long-term deal all season, and if he can lead Washington to a win over New York, it will only benefit him even more. Luckily, the Redskins have the advantage of playing a meaningful while the Giants only care about keeping key players healthy.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
2. Raiders vs. Broncos
It’s a shame to see the Oakland Raiders emerge as one of the top contenders in the AFC with a chance to win the AFC West and earn a first-round bye while playing the regular-season finale without Derek Carr. While Matt McGloin may not be the preference to lead the way compared to Carr, there’s no reason why the Raiders shouldn’t feel confident with relying on their backup quarterback moving forward.
With Oakland already locking up a playoff berth, all McGloin has to do is figure out a way to escape a road game against the Denver Broncos—who have already been eliminated from playoff contention—with a win. This seemed like an impossible task at the beginning of the season, but the Broncos defense hasn’t been playing at the dominant level over the last few months that helped them earn a Super Bowl title last year.
Other than draft order, the only thing Denver has to play for on Sunday is ruining Oakland’s chances of winning the division title over the Kansas City Chiefs. With that being said, don’t be surprised if the Broncos play with a little extra motivation during their final game to make sure that happens for the Raiders as this game could easily go right down to the wire.
Sep 25, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry (53) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
1. Packers vs. Lions
A couple of weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers made a bold statement by saying the Green Bay Packers had what it takes to run the table and still make the playoffs. This came despite Green Bay losing five of their previous six games at the time. Now, the Packers are in position not only to take away the NFC North title from the Detroit Lions, but possibly eliminate Matthew Stafford and company from the postseason all together, depending on what happens with the Washington Redskins.
The frustrating thing for the Lions is they were in the perfect position to win the division title over the Packers before suffering back-to-back tough losses against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. Prior to their Week 15 matchup against Dallas, Detroit happened to be one of the hottest teams in the league by winning eight of their previous nine games.
The Lions may be playing at home, but when seeing how Rodgers has been playing at an MVP level over the last five games, that may not even matter on Sunday night. Either way, football fans couldn’t ask for a better way to officially end the 2016 regular season when considering all that’s on the line for these NFC North rivals.