Wacky Week 17: So Who's Motivated?
NFL Week 17 is problematic for fantasy football, which is why most leagues hold their Championship Game 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.
Don't worry, we will continue through the Super Bowl with our weekly rankings and projections, as well as one-time NFL Playoff redraft materials available next week. If you aren't playing this week, or simply want more action, we encourage you to check out the DFS section of the site, where you can compete in one-week fantasy contests. (I hear they are, like, the best adrenaline rush ever.)
This weekend, some teams will be highly motivated. Others, not so much. Unlike in some years past, the NFL will not play on Saturday in Week 17. Rather, all 32 teams will compete Sunday, January 1st with no Monday Night action. The Packers and Lions face off Sunday Night with the NFC North crown on the line.
History has given us many a Week 17 dud, but also some fantastic finishes. I'll never forget, In 2010 watching 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.
Last Season: The NFC's six teams were all set heading into Week 17, as the Vikings defeated the Packers 20-13 in Prime Time for the NFC North Title. In the AFC, New England had a BYE wrapped up heading in, and the eventual Super Bowl winner Denver Broncos wrapped up the other with a win over San Diego. The Colts beat the Titans for the AFC South crown, and the Steelers crushed the Browns on the back of a 13-187-1 day from Antonio Brown to eliminate the Jets.
This Season: All 6 AFC teams are settled, with the Chiefs and a hobbled Raiders squad fighting to join the Patriots with a week off. In the NFC, the Cowboys have locked up the 1st overall seed, with the Falcons, Lions and Seahawks all alive for the second BYE. Depending what happens Sunday, it will be the final game of the season for either the Packers, Lions or Washington. As noted above, the Lions and Packers face off on Sunday Night Football for the NFC North title.
So... who's motivated?
Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers (Sunday Night) - BOTH HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The winner of this game wins the NFC North, so you can be sure both teams will be fired up come Sunday Night and #Game256. If Washington wins earlier in the day, this becomes an elimination game, with both teams that much more motivated. In the unlikely event of a tie, both the Lions and Packers would make the playoffs. Good thing this isn't soccer.
Washington (4PM vs NYG) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
If Washington wins against an unmotivated Giants team, they are almost certainly in as the last Wild Card team. As noted above, a Lions Packers tie would send Washington packing, but we'll go out on a limb and predict that doesn't happen. Kirk Cousins is 370 passing yards shy of a 5000-yard season and playing for a new (and large) contract.
Atlanta Falcons (4PM vs NO) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
If the Falcons beat the Saints, they clinch the 2nd seed and a first round BYE. We expect them to be full go in this one, but Julio Jones is battling a toe injury and may be rested a bit if the Falcons get up big.
Kansas City Chiefs (4PM @ SD) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Chiefs are alive for the AFC West and the 2nd seed if the Matt McGloin Raiders lose to the Broncos (also 4PM) and the Chiefs can defeat a Chargers team with a strong tradition of underperforming. We expect the Chiefs to be highly motivated in this one.
On the other side of the ball, Antonio Gates is one touchdown shy of Tony Gonzalez' record for career touchdowns by a tight end. If San Diego is motivated to do anything, it's to get Gates the record.
Seattle Seahawks (4PM @ SF) - MOTIVATED
The Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot and still have a shot at a first round BYE if the Falcons lose to the Saints (also at 4PM). The Seahawks shouldn't have much trouble handing the 49ers their 14th loss of the season, but players could get pulled for rest if the Seahawks or Falcons get up big.
New England Patriots (1PM @ MIA) - MOTIVATED
The Patriots have already locked up a first round BYE, but they can secure the 1st overall seed in the AFC with a win against the Dolphins. When asked about resting starters, Bill Belichick replied, "I don't understand that question. I don't know how many starters we have." Good luck getting inside the mind of Belichick on this one.
Oakland Raiders (4PM @ DEN) - MOTIVATED BUT SAD AND LIMPING
A win against a Broncos team with nothing to play for and the Raiders can secure a first round BYE. The problem is, Matt McGloin (career 58.3 completion %, 11:11 TD:INT ratio) will be under center after young stud Derek Carr suffered a brutal, season ending broken leg. The Raiders will be motivated, but are limping into the playoffs and face the top pass defense in the league. Expect a lot of the Raiders three-headed RBBC attack.
Miami Dolphins (1PM vs NE) - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Dolphins have locked up a Wild Card spot. If they win and the Chiefs lose, they can move up to the 5th spot. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Matt Moore will be under center with Ryan Tannehill sidelined.
Tampa Bay Bucs (1PM vs CAR) - ONLY MOTIVATED IF YOU SQUINT REAL HARD
The Bucs are alive for the final NFC playoff spot, but it requires a Giants/Washington tie and a number of other dominos falling just right. We'll go ahead and put them in the Golfing in January column. It's already being reported Doug Martin will be inactive, leaving Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims to carry the load at RB.
Houston Texans (1PM @ TEN) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Texans are locked into the AFC's 4th seed, and HC Bill O'Brien has said the Texans will "play to win." However, O'Brien also said, "we'll be smart about it." The team needs to get recently promoted QB Tom Savage more work, but I would expect them to be extra cautious with banged up Lamar Miller, and don't be surprised to see a short leash on DeAndre Hopkins.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1PM vs CLE) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Steelers are locked into the 3rd seed and have nothing to gain in a juicy matchup against the Browns. Owners relying on Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell in Week 17 are probably in trouble.
Dallas Cowboys (1PM @ PHI) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Cowboys have locked up the 1st overall seed in the NFC and home field throughout the playoffs. This didn't stop them from playing to win on Monday Night, but it did result in Ezekiel Elliot's fewest touches of the season (13). The Cowboys are in a weird place with Tony Romo. He could use the live reps, but a great game out of Romo, and the Dallas Media becomes insufferable heading into the BYE. After seeing young stars Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill suffer season-ending injuries late, we would not at all be surprised to see a heavy dose of Mark Sanchez, Darren McFadden and Bryce Butler against the Eagles.
New York Giants (4PM @ WAS) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Giants are locked into the 5th seed and have absolutely nothing to play for. We wouldn't be surprised to see Ben McAdoo rest Eli Manning, Odell Beckham and some top defenders, but they could eliminate the division rival Washington, so anything is possible.
Something to Lose For:
The Browns currently hold the league's worst record at 1-14, but a win against the unmotivated Steelers this week and the 49ers (2-13 vs Seahawks) could leapfrog the Browns for the #1 overall pick and some much-needed quarterback help.