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 Daily Fantasy Sports section of our 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 3rd with no Monday Night action. The Packers and Vikings face off Sunday Night with the NFC 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.
In 2013: 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.
Last Season: New England had clinched home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, while Denver, Indy, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had locked down playoff spots. The Chargers, Ravens, Chiefs and Texans were all in the hunt for the final Wild Card spot. In the NFC, the only playoff spot still up for grabs was the NFC South. The Lions and Packers played for the division in Week 17, and the Cowboys, Seahawks and Cardinals were all jockeying for position.
This Season: The NFC's six teams are all set, with the Packers and Vikings battling for the NFC North and the #1 seed still up for grabs. In the AFC, New England has one BYE wrapped up, but the other is still to be determined, as is the #1 overall seed. Either the Texans or Colts will win the AFC South with the other team staying home, and the final Wild Card spot is up for grabs between the Jets and Steelers.
So who's motivated?
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Ravens (1PM) HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Bengals are the AFC North champions. They can clinch a first round BYE with a win and Denver loss. If the Bengals lose, they can still back in to a BYE with a Broncos loss (4PM vs Chargers) and a Chiefs win (4PM vs Raiders). With Andy Dalton still a couple of weeks away and AJ McCarron dealing with a sprained wrist, the Bengals need a 1st round BYE as badly as anybody.
Denver Broncos vs. Chargers (4PM) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
Denver is in the playoffs. They can clinch the AFC West and a first round BYE with a win on Sunday. They could also back in with a loss and Chiefs (4PM vs Raiders) and Bengals (1PM vs Ravens) losses (unlikely). The Broncos are alive for the #1 seed in the AFC with a win and a Patriots loss.
New York Jets at Bills (1PM) HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Jets win and they are in as the AFC's final Wild Card team. They could lose and back in with a Steelers loss (1PM at Browns). Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid streaming option this week as he looks to throw his 30th TD of the season. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall have combined for 24 of them.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (SNF) - HIGHLY MOTIVATED
The Packers play the Vikings on Sunday Night Football with the NFC North title on the line. The winner enters the playoffs as the #3 seed and a home game while the loser will be a Wild Card. The Packers beat the Vikings soundly in Minnesota a few weeks ago.
New England Patriots at Dolphins (1PM) - MOTIVATED
New England has the AFC East and a first round BYE locked up. They can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or Broncos loss (4PM vs Chargers). Tom Brady will look to get back on track against a Dolphins team he shredded for 356 yards and 4 TDs back in Week 8.
Houston Texans vs. Jaguars (1PM) - MOTIVATED
Beat the Jaguars Sunday and Brandon Weeden is going to the playoffs as king of the AFC South. Even if the Texans lose and the Colts win on Sunday, the teams would both be 8-8 and the Texans would most likely get in based on strength of schedule.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Browns (1PM) - MOTIVATED
The Steelers have a shot at a Wild Card spot, but need to win and get help in the form of a 1PM Jets loss to the Bills to grab the AFC's final Wild Card spot. If the Jets get out to a big lead on the Bills, the second half of the Steelers game could become meaningless. The Steelers beat the Browns earlier this season with huge days from Martavis Bryant (6-178-1) and Antonio Brown (10-139-2).
Carolina Panthers vs. Bucs (4PM) - MOTIVATED
The Panthers have clinched the NFC South and a first round BYE. The Panthers can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win or Cardinals loss. We expect RB Cameron Artis-Payne to continue to carry the bulk of the load with Jonathan Stewart resting for a playoff run.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seahawks (4PM) - MOTIVATED
The Cardinals have already won the NFC West and clinched a top two seed and first round BYE. They can enter the NFC playoffs as the #1 seed with a win Sunday and a Panthers loss. Michael Floyd (7-113-2) and Larry Fitzgerald (10-130-0) exploded the last time these teams played.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Titans (1PM) - SOMEWHAT MOTIVATED
The Colts' only playoff hope is to beat the Titans Sunday and get a lot of help. If they win and the Falcons, Ravens, Bills, Broncos and Dolphins all win OR the Raiders AND Steelers win, the Colts could pass the Texans in strength of schedule and sneak into the playoffs as the AFC South champ. Unfortunately for the Colts, it looks like they may be starting Stephen Morris at quarterback. (WHO? He's a 2014 UDFA from Miami yet to take an NFL snap.)
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Raiders (4PM) - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Chiefs have already locked up a playoff spot. A win and a Broncos loss (4PM vs Chargers) would give them the AFC West, otherwise the Chiefs will enter the playoffs as a Wild Card.
Seattle Seahawks at Cardinals (4PM) - SLIGHTLY MOTIVATED
The Seahawks have clinched a playoff birth and will most likely be the second Wild Card team in from the NFC. If the Seahawks can upset the Cardinals on Sunday, the Hawks could move up to a #5 seed if the Packers can beat the Vikings on Sunday Night. Doug Baldwin began his historic second half with a big game against the Cardinals in Week 10 (7-134-1).
Washington at Cowboys (1PM) - NOT MOTIVATED
Washington has clinched the NFC East and will be the #4 seed. They have nothing to play for. Jay Gruden is on the record saying Washington has to "be smart" and indicated Kirk Cousins and other starters could be rested.
Eliminated from Playoffs:
49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, Buccaneers, Chargers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Titans
Something to Lose For:
The Browns and Titans currently hold the NFL's worst records at 3-12. One of these teams will be picking first come April.