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 28th with no Monday Night action. The Bengals and Steelers face off Sunday Night with the AFC North crown on the line.
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. If you missed it in 2010, Lynch had a comparable run on Sunday Night Football in Week 16.
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.
In 2012: 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.
Last Season: The four AFC division champions were determined, while the Chiefs had 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 were up for grabs heading into Week 17. Carolina, Seattle and San Francisco had clinched playoff spots with six other teams in the mix including two win-or-go-home games for the NFC East and North titles.
This Season: New England has clinched home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, while Denver, Indy, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have clinched playoff spots. The Chargers, Ravens, Chiefs and Texans are all in the hunt for the final Wild Card spot. In the NFC, the only playoff spot still up for grabs is the NFC South where either the Falcons or Panthers will get in with a losing record. The Lions and Packers are playing for the division and the Cowboys, Seahawks and Cardinals are jockeying for position.
So who's motivated?
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Panthers and the Falcons square off at 1 p.m. ET in Atlanta with the NFC South crown on the line. The winner of the unofficial NFC South Championship Game will be only the second team in the last 30 years to make the playoffs with a losing record. (In 2010 the Seahawks won the NFC West at 7-9 and went on to win a playoff game as mentioned above.) Needless to say, the loser goes home, while the winner hosts a playoff game.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
In the NFC North, two teams with winning records (11-4) meet for the division title in Green Bay at 4:25 p.m. ET. While the Lions beat the Packers 19-7 in September, Detroit has not managed to win at Lambeau Field in their last 22 tries. Both teams will be highly motivated to lock up a first round BYE, while the loser has to go on the road next week. Stafford and company will be without 14-year veteran center Dominic Raiola who has been suspended for the game after doing his best Ndamukong Suh impersonation on Bears DT Ego Ferguson (yes, his real name is Ego). Vegas expects significantly more points this week than last time these teams met, with an opening total of 48 points.
San Diego Chargers - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Chargers clinch a Wild Card spot with a win. Lose and they go home. Philip Rivers will reportedly play through a bulging disk in his back. The Bolts travel to Kansas City at 1 p.m. ET and will be highly motivated against a Chiefs team on playoff fumes. Keenan Allen's status is unknown at this time.
Seattle Seahawks - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Seahawks have clinched a playoff birth, but can sew up the NFC West and home-field throughout the playoffs with a win over a Rams team with nothing to play for (other than spoiling a division rival's home field advantage in the playoffs). Seattle plays at 4:25 p.m. ET. The Seahawks are firing on all cylinders and will be highly motivated Sunday.
Denver Broncos - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
Coming off an embarrassing Monday Night loss, Peyton Manning has now posted four underwhelming performances in a row, with six interceptions and only five touchdowns in that span. The Broncos host the Raiders in a "get-right" game. If they win, they earn a first round BYE. Denver can also back into a BYE with a loss and a Bengals loss on Sunday Night.
Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers - MOTIVATED
With a win over the Broncos on Monday Night, the Bengals clinched their fourth straight playoff appearance. The Steelers and Bengals have been flexed to prime time and will be playing on Sunday Night Football for the AFC North title. The winner hosts a playoff game while the other is a Wild Card. Both teams will be playing hard.
Baltimore Ravens - MOTIVATED
The Ravens still have a shot at a Wild Card spot, but they need to take care of business at 1 p.m. ET and get help. If the Ravens can knock off the Browns in Baltimore, they would then be in the playoffs with a Bengals or Chargers loss. It sounds like Justin Forsett should be good to go (ankle).
Kansas City Chiefs - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
If the Chiefs can knock off the Chargers at home at 1 p.m. ET, they could clinch a Wild Card spot with losses from the Ravens (vs. Browns) and Texans (vs. Jaguars). It's a bit of a long-shot, considering the matchups.
Houston Texans - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Texans are in as a Wild Card with a win over the Jaguars at 1 p.m. ET and losses by the Ravens (vs. Browns) and Chargers (vs. Chiefs) -- also a long-shot.
Arizona Cardinals - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
Arizona travels to San Francisco in Week 17 with a playoff spot already locked up. The Cardinals are most likely a Wild Card unless the Seahawks fall to the Rams in Seattle. The Seahawks are double digit favorites, and let's face it, the Cardinals' Super Bowl aspirations ended when Carson Palmer went down. Either Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas will be starting this game and all Cardinals should be avoided if possible.
Dallas Cowboys - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Cowboys have already locked up the NFC East and are a long-shot for a first-round BYE. Not considering tie possibilities, it makes no difference if Dallas wins or loses in Washington at 1 p.m. (they are 7 point favorites). If both Seattle and Arizona lose at 4:25 p.m., Dallas can take Week 18 off, but that is unlikely. Otherwise, Dallas will host a Wild Card game. For what it's worth, here's what owner Jerry Jones said about the game: "I feel strongly about going all out against the Redskins. There’s several reasons, but No. 1, I think there’s a bigger concern about losing your edge than there is ever about some of those other issues that are involved. There will be opportunities enough as the game goes along to see if anybody needs to be resting. But we need that win. We could really need it. It could really make a difference."
Indianapolis Colts - NOT MOTIVATED
The Colts have won the AFC South and are locked into a #4 seed. Indianapolis plays the 2-13 Titans at 1 p.m. ET, perhaps the worst team in the NFL, and should coast to victory. Coach Pagano has had chances to rest his starters in similar situations in the past, but has chosen to play them. Still, the Colts have little to play for this week and if you played Andrew Luck last week, you could make a good case the Colts have already stopped playing to win. For the record, Pagano said, "We gotta make decisions and protect guys from themselves in the right situation. But we're going to go try and win a football game." Logic dictates that questionable players like T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) would be given another week to heal, but logic doesn't always win out in the National Football League.
New England Patriots - NOT MOTIVATED
The Patriots have clinched the #1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout. With nothing to play for, don't expect more than a quarter or two from the Patriots' starters.
Eliminated from Playoffs:
49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Titans, Vikings, Washington
Something to Lose For:
The Bucs can lock up the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft with a loss to the Saints at 1 p.m.