No TNF, Saturday night games, Monday Night Football. It’s Week 17, and it will be in the year 2017, even though it’s still the 2016 season.
There are still two playoff spots open, and they involve four teams. For a lack of a better word, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pretty much screwed. They have a chance at a Wild Card spot, but here are all the things they need to go their way:
– Buccaneers win
– Titans win
– Colts win
– Cowboys win
– 49ers win
– Washington tie
– Lions win
Thanks for playing, Tampa Bay. Washington has a much more realistic path to a Wild Card spot. They just need to win at home against a Giants team that is locked into the 5th seed and hope Sunday Night Football doesn’t end in a tie. Speaking of Sunday Night Football, it will be for the NFC North division title between Green Bay and Detroit. If Washington loses, then both the Packers and Lions will clinch playoff spots. The Cowboys have locked up the #1 seed, while the Falcons, Seahawks, and Lions have a shot at the #2 seed.
The AFC field is set, but the only team locked into their spots are Pittsburgh and Houston. The Raiders have a shot at homefield throughout the playoffs, but only if the Patriots lose in Miami; the Dolphins have locked up a Wild Card spot. The Chiefs also have a shot at a 1st round bye, but only if Oakland loses.
In more pertinent news, I got to +60 for the season after going 9-7 in Week 16. Another week over .500, and it may be my best season ever as far as predicting all 256 regular season games before Kickoff Weekend. But let’s see where I tripped up:
– The Eagles didn’t sack Giants QB Eli Manning, but they did intercept him three times in a 24-19 win on TNF.
– The Dolphins special teams produced another game-winning FG from K Andrew Franks, while Buffalo K Dan Carpenter missed 2 FGs in what turned out to be a 34-31 Miami win that cost Bills head coach Rex Ryan his job.
– The Falcons helped bolster QB Matt Ryan’s MVP candidacy as Ryan threw TD passes to TEs Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea – the 12th and 13th players to catch TD passes from Ryan this season, setting a new record as the Falcons beat Carolina 33-16.
– The Browns won a game! Cleveland DT Jamie Meder earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for blocking one of the two FGs that San Diego K Josh Lambo missed in the 4th quarter of what turned out to be a 20-17 win for the Browns.
– Even though the Vikings had four sacks, they failed to force a turnover in Green Bay as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw 4 TD without an INT in a 38-25 home win.
– The 49ers swept the Rams this season, winning 22-21 in Los Angeles after holding rookie Rams QB Jared Goff to 90 passing yards and a 35.1 passer rating.
– There were three more missed kicks between the Cardinals and Seahawks, but Arizona K Chandler Catanzaro ended his trash season 1 by making a game-winning FG to win 34-31 in Seattle.
Speaking of the Cardinals, the final part of the “Saint Louis Bowl” takes place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as they visit the Rams. Arizona QB Carson Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy Award winner, will be playing his first game at the Coliseum since throwing for 425 yards, 4 TD, and 2 INT in a 44-13 win against Notre Dame at USC. Look for Palmer and the Cardinals to end their season in Los Angeles on a high note.
Also, notice that the league-wide interception rate (2.2 percent) and sack rate (5.5 percent) headed into Week 17 would both be the lowest verified figures for a season in NFL history. And while the league-wide passer rating is headed for a decline for the first time since 2009, the 89.3 mark would still be the 2nd-highest in NFL history. It’s still borderline illegal to defend the pass!
On to Week 17:
— Law Murray ? (@LawMurrayTheNU) December 28, 2016
New England at Miami: The Patriots haven’t won at Miami since 2012, failing to score more than 20 points in the last three trips to South Beach. But this season’s Patriots are in line to do something that they’ve only done once in the Bill Belichick era, and that is lead the NFL in scoring defense. Despite trading Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins to non-2016 playoff teams, the Patriots are allowing a league-low 15.7 points per game this season. The last time New England allowed fewer points was in 2006 (14.8 points per game allowed), and New England won a Super Bowl in Houston the last time they brought the top scoring defense to the postseason (2003 season). A win against a Dolphins team starting Matt Moore at QB in the Game of the Week would also leave the Patriots as the only team to go undefeated on the road this season.
Carolina at Tampa Bay: For the first time since the 2003 season, both participants from the previous season’s Super Bowl failed to make the postseason. In 2003, it was the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers slipping to 7-9 after beating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. Now in 2016, the Panthers need a win just to get to 7-9 after going 15-1 in 2015, only to lose Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos. The Buccaneers need a lot of help just to keep their single-digit percentage postseason hopes alive, but they haven’t even helped themselves lately. Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin may have played his last snap for the team after getting suspended due to a failed drug test.
New York Giants at Washington: The Giants may feel like they have nothing to play for, but their bottom-10 offense needs some work. New York has won a Super Bowl before as a 5th-seed with a dank offense, back in 2007. You may remember that year for when the Giants were inspired by their close Week 17 loss against the Patriots, who they went on to defeat in Super Bowl XLII. Washington needs this game, they’re at home, and they narrowly defeated New York for their first win of the season back in September. But New York’s pass defense has been the NFL’s best outside of Denver, and defensive players are going to show up on the road.
Green Bay at Detroit: The Lions better hope the Giants show up, because they’re not beating the Packers. It’s just not happening, especially with the way Detroit has been playing on both sides of the ball. The Lions are T-29th in the NFL with only 25 sacks, T-22nd in the NFL with only 10 INT, and dead last in the NFL in passer rating allowed (105.0). No team in the Super Bowl era has even won their Conference with a defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league in all three of those categories. On the flipside, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has thrown 14 TD and 0 INT in the last 6 games while QB Matthew Stafford never gets rushing support 2 and has gone back-to-back games without a TD pass.