Wacky Week 17: So Who's Motivated?
NFL Week 17 is problematic for fantasy football, which is why most leagues hold their championship games in Week 16. But we realize some of you are still playing, and to those of you who are, this is the most important week of the season.
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This weekend, some teams will be highly motivated. Others, not so much. Unlike some years past, the NFL will not play on Saturday in Week 17. Rather, all 32 teams will compete Sunday, December 29th with no Monday Night action. The Cowboys and Eagles face off Sunday Night with the NFC East crown on the line. Some records will also be at stake, with Peyton Manning looking to extend his single-season TD record and break Drew Brees single-season passing yardage record.
In 2010: We had two AFC teams and five NFC teams battling for the final three spots in Week 17, including a Sunday Night thriller with Seattle and St. Louis facing off for the NFC West title. Seattle won the game 16-6 and went on to beat the Saints at Qwest field on Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch's historic run that actually registered on a nearby seismograph.
In 2011: Sixteen of the NFL's 32 teams had secured a playoff spot or were still in the hunt heading into Week 17. The Packers and Texans were the only teams with nothing to play for while the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, Lions, Falcons and 49ers were jockeying for position and the Giants, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders, Jets, Bengals and Titans were fighting to get in.
Last Season: The six AFC playoff teams were set heading into Week 17, with the Colts and Bengals locked into the 5th and 6th seeds respectively, and the Texans, Broncos, Patriots & Ravens jockeying for home-field and first-round BYEs. In the NFC, the Falcons clinched the #1 seed, while the Packers, Seahawks and 49ers had also clinched playoff berths. The Cowboys, Redskins, Bears and Giants were fighting for the final two spots.
This Season: The four AFC division champions are determined and the Chiefs have locked up the top Wild Card spot with Miami, Baltimore, San Diego and Pittsburgh fighting for the final spot. In the NFC, all four division crowns are up for grabs. Carolina, Seattle and San Francisco have clinched playoff spots with six other teams in the mix including two win-or-go-home games for the NFC East and North titles.
So who's motivated?
Eagles - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Eagles travel to Dallas with their playoff fate resting squarely in their own hands. Beat the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and the Eagles win the NFC East. Lose and they go home. Simple as that. Expect another big game from the Eagles offense as the leaky Cowboys defense is #29 vs QBs, #31 vs RBs and #25 vs WRs in aFPA.
Cowboys - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Cowboys also control their own destiny. Win Sunday Night and they clinch the NFC East. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it looks like they'll be without Tony Romo. Kyle Orton will get the start in a must-win game. It's a downgrade for all Cowboys pass-catchers, but the matchup is still a favorable one on paper.
Bears - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
Like the Eagles and Cowboys, the Bears and Packers will play Sunday for the NFC North crown. Unlike the Eagles and Cowboys, both teams are coming off of losses. Look for bounce-back games from Jay Cutler and Matt Forte as the Packers have been generous to both RBs and QBs, allowing the 26th and 20th most adjusted fantasy points respectively.
Packers - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
Win and they're in. Lose and go home. Aaron Rodgers availability may go a long way in determining the Packers' fate. Either way, Eddie Lacy should have a huge day if he can play (ankle). The Bears are dead last in aFPA to RBs.
Broncos - MOTIVATED
Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win this week over Oakland. The Broncos could also back into home-field advantage with a Patriots loss to Buffalo. Peyton Manning is also playing for a spot in the record books. He needs 266 passing yards to break the single-season record (5476) set by Drew Brees in 2011 and can improve on his own record 51 passing TDs. The Raiders are no strangers to giving up big days to opponents. This season they have already given up a seven passing TD day to Nick Foles and a five-touchdown day to Jamaal Charles.
Patriots - MOTIVATED
The Patriots have an outside shot at the #1 overall seed in the AFC with a win over Buffalo and a Broncos loss to the Raiders. Both games kick off at 4:25 p.m.. New England locks up a BYE with a win or losses from both the Bengals and Colts in the 1 p.m. games. The Bills have won two in a row and are playing tough against the QB, but we expect New England to win this game at home.
Seahawks - MOTIVATED
The Seahawks can clinch the NFC's #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Rams or a 49ers loss to a motivated Cardinals team. Both teams play at 4 p.m., so we doubt the Seahawks will be resting starters. The Rams are a favorable matchup for opposing RBs, so look for Marshawn Lynch to have a nice day.
Panthers - MOTIVATED
Carolina clinches a first-round BYE with a 1 p.m. win over the disappointing (but still-playing-hard) Falcons. The Panthers could also back in with an unlikely Saints loss at 4 p.m. and have an outside shot at the #1 overall seed with a 49ers win and Seattle loss. The Panthers have a lot to play for and the Falcons are a great matchup for QBs, RBs & WRs.
Saints - MOTIVATED
If the Panthers lose to the Falcons at 1 p.m. (unlikely), the Saints can clinch a first-round BYE with a victory over the Bucs. A more likely scenario is the Saints will be playing for a Wild Card birth. They can also back in with a Cardinals loss to the 49ers. The Bucs are a solid matchup for both WRs and QBs and Drew Brees has been money at home. Expect another big game.
Bengals - MOTIVATED
The Bengals have clinched the AFC North and have a shot at a first round BYE if they can take care of business at 1 p.m. against the Ravens. The Bengals will then need the Bills to beat the Patriots at 4 p.m. in Foxboro where New England is 9.5-point favorite.
Dolphins - MOTIVATED
The Dophins are in with a win at 1 p.m. against a struggling Jets team and either a Ravens loss at the hands of the Bengals or a Chargers win at 4 p.m. against a Chiefs team with nothing to play for.
49ers - MOTIVATED
The 49ers have clinched a playoff spot, but have a shot at a first-round BYE with a win over the Cardinals at 4 p.m. and a Seahawks loss to the Rams (also 4 p.m.). San Francisco also has an outside shot at the #1 NFC seed with a Seahawks loss AND a Panthers loss, but we expect the Panthers to take care of business against Atlanta at 1 p.m.. Either way, the Cardinals are allowing the fewest adjusted points to RBs, so don't count on much from Frank Gore.
Ravens - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Ravens need to beat the Bengals at 1 p.m. to have any shot at the playoffs. They then need help in the form of a Dolphins loss to the Jets or a Chargers loss to an unmotivated Chiefs team. They could also back in with a loss and losses from the Chargers, Dolphins and Steelers... an unlikely scenario.
Colts - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Colts have won the AFC South and have an outside shot at a first-round BYE. They need to beat the Jaguars at 1 p.m. and then get upsets from both the Bills over the Patriots and the Ravens over the Bengals.
Cardinals - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Cardinals can still make it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a win over the 49ers at 4 p.m., but it would require the Bucs to knock off a motivated Saints team in New Orleans. Not likely.
Steelers - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Steelers playoff hopes are slim but they can get in with a 1 p.m. victory over the Browns and losses by Miami, Baltimore and San Diego. The Steelers likely cemented a January trip to the couch by starting off the 2013 season 0-4.
Chargers - POSSIBLY MOTIVATED
The Chargers have an outside shot at a playoff birth if the Ravens (at Bengals) and Dolphins (vs Jets) both lose in their early games. The Chargers would then be in with a victory over an unmotivated Chiefs team. If the Ravens or Dolphins win early, the Chargers have nothing to play for.
Chiefs - NOT MOTIVATED
The Chiefs are locked into the top AFC Wild Card spot and can't improve or worsen their position Sunday. Andy Reid has not yet decided on a course of action in terms of resting his starters, but notes it has worked for him in the past. Even if Reid says his starters will play, they will likely have a short day. Don't expect typical numbers from Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith.