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 30th with no Monday Night action. The Cowboys and Redskins face off Sunday Night with the NFC East crown on the line. Some records will also be at stake, with Calvin Johnson looking to extend his receiving record, and Adrian Peterson looking to hit 2000 rushing yards and possibly challenge Eric Dickerson's single-season 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.
Last Season: 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.
This Season: The six AFC playoff teams are set. The Colts and Bengals are locked into the 5th and 6th seeds respectively, with the Texans, Broncos, Patriots & Ravens jockeying for home-field and first-round BYEs. In the NFC, the Falcons have clinched the #1 seed, while the Packers, Seahawks and 49ers have also clinched playoff berths. The Cowboys, Redskins, Bears and Giants are fighting for the final two spots.
So who's motivated?
Cowboys - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Cowboys travel to Washington with their playoff fate resting squarely in their own hands. Beat the Redskins on Sunday Night Football and the Cowboys win the NFC East. Lose and they go home. Simple as that. Expect another big game from Dez Bryant in a better than average matchup with the Redskins (#22 aFPA). Dez has posted a 46-808-10 stat line over his last 7 games.
Redskins - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Redskins also control their own destiny. Win Sunday Night and they clinch the NFC East. If the Bears (1PM EST) and Vikings (4PM) both lose, the Redskins could back into a Wild Card spot with a loss, but most likely that scenario won't be live at the Skins’ 8PM kickoff. Robert Griffin III will start again, another week removed from the knee injury that kept him out Week 15.
Vikings - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
A win over the Packers at 4PM would lock up a Wild Card spot for the Vikings. Adrian Peterson also sits at 1,898 rushing yards for the season. That’s 102 rushing yards from 2000 and 208 from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season record 2,105 set in 1984. If the Giants and Bears lose in the early round of games, the Vikings could back in with a loss at 4PM and a Cowboys loss, but the Cowboys play Sunday Night and will be highly motivated themselves.
Packers - MOTIVATED
The Packers can clinch a playoff BYE with a win on the road over the Vikings Sunday (4PM). The Packers could also clinch the #2 seed with losses by the 49ers (4PM) and Seahawks (4PM), but that seems unlikely as the 49ers take on the 5-10 Cardinals at home and the Seahawks get the Rams. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for over 600 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs in his last two games.
Texans - MOTIVATED
The Texans have now lost two in a row to the Patriots and Vikings, but can still lock up the #1 overall seed in the AFC and a playoff BYE with a win this week against the Colts (1PM). The Texans will need more than the 15 yards on 10 carries Arian Foster delivered last week before leaving the game due to an irregular heart beat. He should be fine for Sunday.
Broncos - MOTIVATED
If the Texans fall to the Colts at 1PM, only a 4PM home game against Brady Quinn and the 2-12 Chiefs would stand in the way of Peyton Manning locking up another #1 AFC seed and playoff BYE, this time with the Broncos. If the Texans win at 1PM, however, the Broncos will need a win or Patriots loss to the Dolphins (4PM) to hang on to a first-round BYE. Peyton and company are expected to put in an entire day's work.
49ers - MOTIVATED
The 49ers have already clinched a playoff spot, but after falling 13-42 to the Seahawks in Week 16, they need to beat the Cardinals in Arizona to lock up the NFC West. They can also back in with a Seahawks loss to the Rams, but count on the 49ers handling the Cardinals easily at home. The 49ers can only secure a BYE if the Packers fall to Minnesota. Both games kick at 4PM.
Bears - MOTIVATED
The Bears can clinch a Wild Card birth with a win over the Lions (1PM) and a Vikings loss to the Packers (4PM). Brandon Marshall has scored a touchdown or posted 90 yards receiving in each of his last 12 games.
Seahawks - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Seahawks clinched at least a Wild Card birth by beating the 49ers Sunday Night. The Seahawks and 49ers both play at 4PM this Sunday with the NFC West on the line. The Seahawks could take the West with a win over St. Louis and a 49ers loss to the Cardinals, however unlikely. Seattle could also clinch a first-round BYE with a Packers loss in addition to 49ers loss, but don’t count on it. Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 100 yards and a TD in each of his last three games and HC Pete Carroll isn't the type to let off the gas.
Ravens - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Ravens can move up to a #3 seed with a win over the Bengals (1PM) and a Patriots loss to the Dolphins (4PM). Otherwise, they are the AFC’s #4 seed. Ray Rice is coming off of a big day, but faces a tougher test in the Bengals who are #6 in aFPA to RBs.
Patriots - POSSIBLY MOTIVATED
If the Texans fall to the Colts at 1PM, the Patriots could secure a first-round BYE with a win over the Dolphins (4PM). If the Texans win, it would take a Broncos loss to the Chiefs (not happening).
Giants - POSSIBLY MOTIVATED, BUT JUST BARELY
The Giants still have an outside shot at an NFC Wild Card birth. The Giants would have to beat the Eagles in New York at 1PM and get losses from the Bears (1PM), Vikings (4PM) and Cowboys (8PM). If the Giants are scoreboard watching, playoff hopes will be crushed if the Bears pile up a lead on the Lions, who have lost seven straight and have nothing to play for.
Colts - NOT MOTIVATED
The Colts are locked into a Wild Card spot as the AFC’s 5th seed. Reggie Wayne is on the record saying a young team like the Colts needs to keep playing, but motivation is a concern.
Bengals - NOT MOTIVATED
The Bengals are locked into a Wild Card spot as the AFC’s 6th seed. HC Marvin Lewis has said he won't rest his starters, but there are no guarantees they will play a full 60 minutes.
Falcons - NOT MOTIVATED
The Falcons have clinched the #1 seed in the NFC and will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have nothing to play for. Expect Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner to be used sparingly this week against the Bucs.