Wacky Week 17: So Who's Motivated?

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By Josh Moore, Owner & Editor

NFL Week 17 is problematic for fantasy football. As such, most leagues hold their championship games in Week 16. But we realize some of your are still playing, and to those of you who are, this is the most important week of the season.

Don't worry, we've got you covered with full rankings and projections, as well as some materials specifically focused on the anomalies of Week 17. We will continue through the Super Bowl with weekly rankings and projections, as well as one-time Playoff Draft materials available next week. If you aren't playing this week, or simply want more action, we encourage you to check out the Daily Fantasy Sports section of our site.

Some teams will be highly motivated this weekend, others not so. Unlike 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 Giants and Cowboys will play Sunday Night for the NFC East crown and a playoff spot. Some records will also be at stake, with Drew Brees looking to extend his passing record, and Tom Brady looking to gain ground (Brady is currently 190 passing yards behind Brees on the season).

In 2006: We had 20 teams still in contention for the Super Bowl, the most ever with one week left in the season. Amazingly, 14 of 16 games had playoff implications in Week 17.

In 2007: The pendulum swung in the other direction. Only four games had playoff implications in Week 17.

In 2008: Eleven of the final 16 games had possible playoff implications.

In 2009: Seven AFC teams were still in the mix for the final two playoff spots, while the NFC playoff teams had all been decided heading into Week 17.

Last year: We had two AFC teams and 5 NFC teams battling for the final three spots, 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. Lynch has parlayed that huge day into a top 5 RB fantasy football season (ADP RB29), and likely a nice pay day. Lynch is only 25 years old and in the final year of his deal with the Seahawks that paid him $1.14 million this year.

This season: Sixteen of the NFL's 32 teams have secured a playoff spot or are still in the hunt. The Packers and Texans are the only teams with nothing to play for heading into the weekend. The Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, Lions, Falcons and 49ers are jockeying for position. And the Giants, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders, Jets, Bengals and Titans are fighting to get in.


So who's motivated?


New York Giants & Dallas Cowboys - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Giants and Cowboys meet Sunday Night at 8:20PM EST in what will be the final game of the 2011 NFL Regular Season. It's quite simple for both clubs: win the game and clinch the final NFC playoff spot as winners of the NFC East. Lose and go home. Tony Romo & Felix Jones should be available and would have played more last week had the game been meaningful. 

Baltimore Ravens - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Ravens play at 4PM and control their own destiny to a first round BYE. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they will win the AFC North and clinch a first round BYE. A loss and a Steelers win over the Browns would force the Ravens to play on Wild Card weekend (next week). If the Patriots lose to the Bills at 1PM, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would also be on the line. However you cut it, the Ravens should be highly motivated in this contest unless the Patriots win early and somehow the Browns mount a huge halftime lead over the Steelers (unlikely).

New England Patriots - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Patriots will clinch the #1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Bills at 1PM. Another interesting twist is that Tom Brady currently sits 190 passing yards behind the all time passing record, which now belongs to Drew Brees.

The Broncos clinch the AFC West title and a playoff berth with home win over the Chiefs or a Raiders loss to the Chargers. Both games will be played at 4PM.

Cincinnati Bengals - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Bengals control their destiny to a Wild Card spot with a win over the Ravens at 4PM. They could also back in with a Jets loss (1PM) paired with either a Broncos loss (4PM) or a Raiders loss (4PM).

Oakland Raiders - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Raiders can still win the AFC West, but they need to knock off the Chargers and get help from a Chiefs victory over the Broncos. The Raiders will also be alive for a Wild Card spot with a Denver win if the Titans lose (1PM) or the Jets win (1PM), along with a Bengals loss to the Ravens (4PM). Darren McFadden & Jacoby Ford could suit up, but would be very risky plays.

San Francisco 49ers - MOTIVATED
The 49ers can lock up a first-round bye as the #2 NFC seed with a win over the Rams (1PM). They could also back in with a Saints loss to the Panthers (1PM), but don't expect it to come to that.

Pittsburgh Steelers - MOTIVATED
The Steelers are alive for the AFC North title and a first-round BYE, but need help. If the Bengals can knock off the Ravens, a Steelers victory over the Browns would cement the #2 seed (both games at 4PM), or possibly the #1 seed if the Patriots lose to the Bills earlier in the day (unlikely). We wont know Ben Roethlisberger's status until later in the week.

Detroit Lions - MOTIVATED
The Lions are playing for Wild Card positioning with the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams have secured a Wild Card spot, but this weekend's games will determine seeding. If the Lions can beat an unmotivated Packers team at 1PM they would guarantee themselves the winner of the Cowboys Giants game Sunday Night. This is much preferred to traveling to New Orleans to face a Saints team that manhandled them in Week 13. As motivated as the Lions should be, this has the makings of a let-down game coming off the biggest Lions win in more than a decade. The Lions haven't won at Lambeau since 1991. Even in a must-win game, it sounds like Kevin Smith could be resting his ankle.

New York Jets - MOTIVATED
The Jets need to beat the Dolphins at 1PM to have a shot at a Wild Card spot, but also need help in the form of a Titans loss (1PM) and then either a Raiders or Broncos loss at 4PM.

The Titans still have an outside shot at a Wild Card berth but would need to beat the Texans and then get a lot of help: Bengals loss + (Jets win + Raiders Loss OR Jets win + Broncos loss OR Jets loss + Raiders win + Broncos win). It's a long shot. Chris Johnson also stands to gain $300,000 if he hits 1000 rushing yards this season. He needs 14 more.

The Saints can clinch a first-round BYE and the NFC's #2 seed with a win over the Panthers (1PM) and a 49ers loss to the Rams (1PM and highly unlikely). The Saints will most likely be the #3 seed, hosting the Lions or Falcons on Wild Card weekend.  Sean Payton said he will wait until later in the week to make a decision on playing time for his starters. One interesting angle, Tom Brady is only 190 yards behind Drew Brees' passing record. Brees and the Saints certainly wont want to give up that record.

If the Lions lose to the Packers at 1PM, the Falcons could move up to the 5th seed with a win over the Bucs (4PM). This would mean a date with the winner of the Giants/Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football. If the Lions win, the Falcons will be playing for nothing and likely headed to New Orleans for Wild Card weekend.

Green Bay Packers - NOT MOTIVATED
The Packers have clinched the NFC's #1 seed, and with a loss to the Chiefs are no longer playing for a perfect season. The Packers have nothing to play for except pride, hosting a Lions team that hasn't won in Green Bay since 1991. Aaron Rodgers noted that the #1 thing the Packers need to do is get healthy. HC Mike McCarthy said, "We do need to get healthy as a team... We'll look at all our options." James Starks will most certainly sit this one out.

Houston Texans - NOT MOTIVATED
The Texans have clinched the AFC South and can't improve on their situation. The Texans are locked in as the #3 seed, waiting to see who they face Wild Card weekend. It sounds like Andre Johnson would like to play, but we doubt he'd see anywhere near a full complement of snaps. Derrick Ward may also get some extra work. Ben Tate is coming off of a hamstring injury, so he's a wild card as Arian Foster's primary backup.


Eliminated From Playoffs
Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams

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