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 Sunday Night in Week 17 (NYE). Rather, all 32 teams will compete Sunday afternoon at either 1PM or 4:25PM ET.
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: All six AFC teams were settled heading into Week 17, and the Chiefs won their final game to clinch the second AFC BYE alongside the Patriots. In the NFC, the Cowboys had already locked up the 1st overall seed, while the Falcons eeked out a win over the division rival Saints to lock up the second BYE that left the Lions and Seahawks playing on Wild Card Weekend.
This Season: The AFC's four division winners are set, with the Ravens, Titans, Bills, and Chargers jockeying for the Wild Card spots. In the NFC, the Saints and Panthers are still fighting for the NFC South while the final Wild Card spot will go to either the Falcons or Seahawks.
So... who's motivated?
Minnesota Vikings (1PM vs CHI) HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Vikings are the NFC's No. 2 seed and get a first-round BYE with a win against the division rival Bears on Sunday. The Vikings can back in with a Panthers (@ ATL) loss or a win from the Saints (@ TB) or Rams (vs SF), but those teams all play at 4PM. We expect the Vikings to put a hurting on the Bears and lock up the No. 2 seed without help. They opened as 13-point favorites.
Atlanta Falcons (4PM vs CAR) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Falcons are in as a Wild Card with a win. They can back in with a Seattle loss (4PM vs ARI), but expect Matt Ryan and Co. to be playing for their playoff lives.
Baltimore Ravens (4PM vs CIN) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Ravens are in as a wildcard with a win. They could back in with a Bills (4PM @ MIA) or Titans (4PM vs JAX) loss, but expect them to be playing like it's all on the line.
Tennessee Titans (4PM vs JAX) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
Win and they are in at home against an unmotivated Jacksonville team. The Titans could also back in with losses by both the Bills (4PM @ MIA) and Chargers (4PM vs OAK).
Seattle Seahawks (4PM vs ARI) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED AT KICKOFF
The Seahawks need to beat a long-since eliminated Cardinals team and get a Falcons loss against a somewhat motivated Panthers team (4PM @ ATL) to get in as a Wild Card. Expect the Seahawks to be playing hard and scoreboard watching.
New England Patriots (1PM vs NYJ) - 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 Jets. In the past 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, but you can bet the Patriots want to win.
Buffalo Bills (4PM @ MIA) - MOTIVATED AT KICKOFF
The Bills still have a shot at a Wild Card birth, but they need to beat the Dolphins and get help from either a Ravens loss (4PM vs CIN) or losses from both the Chargers (4PM vs OAK) and Titans (4PM vs JAX).
Los Angeles Chargers (4PM vs OAK) - MOTIVATED AT KICKOFF
The Chargers need to win and get help. If LA wins, the Titans lose (4PM vs JAX) and either Buffalo loses (4PM @ MIA) or Baltimore wins (4PM vs CIN), the Chargers get in. The Chargers should come out motivated, but the reality of a playoff spot could be bleak come halftime.
Carolina Panthers (4PM @ ATL) - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Panthers have clinched a playoff spot. They could win the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss (4PM @ TB) and have an outside shot at a BYE if the Vikings lose at 1PM. Both those scenarios seem like long-shots.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1PM vs CLE) - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Steelers have locked up a first round BYE, but with a win and a Patriots loss (1PM vs NYJ) could lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers will be without Antonio Brown this week, but there's a chance Brown could return after the much-needed BYE next week. LeVeon Bell has touched the ball 406 times this season and could feasibly hit 500 touches if the Steelers make a run. UPDATE: Although Steelers can move up in seeding, it's been reported that they will rest Ben Roethlisberger and LeVeon Bell in their final game of the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4PM @ TEN) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Jaguars are the AFC's three seed no matter what happens Sunday and facing a highly motivated division rival. The Jags opened as six-point dogs, and we would not be surprised to see them resting starters in this one. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette seems like a logical choice to get the week off.
Kansas City Chiefs (4PM at DEN) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Chiefs are locked into the AFC's fourth seed and have nothing to play for in Week 17. Expect to see early departures if not inactive declarations for Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and company. Patrick Mahomes could even see his first NFL action.
Philadelphia Eagles (1PM vs DAL) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Eagles have the NFC's top seed and home-field throughout the playoffs wrapped up. However, with Nick Foles forced under center and not looking particularly good in Week 16, we wouldn't be surprised if HC Doug Pederson wants to get Foles some more reps before the games matter again.
Los Angeles Rams (4PM vs SF) - NOT MOTIVATED
The Rams have won the NFC West for the first time since the Kurt Warner era (2003), but are playing for only seeding (3rd or 4th) this weekend. We wouldn't be surprised to see HC Sean McVay elect to give his studs some time off. Sorry, Todd Gurley owners.
Something to Lose For:
The Browns currently hold the league's worst record at 0-15, and with a loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday, could become only the second NFL team in history to finish a perfect 0-16. (Lions, 2008)