It has been a largely disappointing season for both teams as they will not be going to the playoffs. The Bengals fate has been sealed for a long time as they never could find their groove, while the Ravens season was ended with a heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh on Christmas. The game will likely mark the end of Steve Smith’s Hall of Fame career, which could give at least some motivation for the Ravens to have a good game.
The Colts are missing the playoffs for a second straight season, as the development of Andrew Luck has stalled due to the Colts failure to put enough talent around him. The Jaguars coming off their best performance of the season are looking to finish strong after a disappointing season, while interim Coach Doug Marone tries to audition to keep the job full-time next season. The Jaguars beat the Colts in London, but in Indianapolis the Colts have too much pride to be swept.
Last season the Patriots went into Miami for the final game of the season needing a win to secure home field, but lost and paid the price when they dropped the AFC Championship Game in Denver. This year the same situation applies, but this season the Dolphins are a playoff team that is hurting and will be better off resting players. The Patriots get the lead early and never look back as the Dolphins focus is on Pittsburgh next weekend in the Wild Card round.
When you look at the Vikings now it is hard to believe they were the last unbeaten team in the NFL this season at 5-0. Needing a win just to finish .500 the purple gang has completely unraveled over the few weeks, suffering blowouts against the Colts and Packers. The Bears handed the Vikings a loss earlier this season, but have been just as bad all season as they go into the final week of the season with a terrible record of 3-12. The Vikings should win this one you would think.
What a way to close the season, two teams that an absolute train wreck. The Jets are back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after Bryce Petty got hurt in each of the last two games, while the Bills fired Rex Ryan because he would not bench Tyrod Taylor over fear of a big injury bonus. This is what makes these teams such poorly run organizations and why each of these teams will be stuck playing many Week 17 games in the future with nothing on the line. One thing for sure is tickets should be sold at a discount rate at the Meadowlands. Though it’s not worth it unless they pay you for going.
The Cowboys have officially turned the page from Tony Romo as he is listed as the third string quarterback with Mark Sanchez backing up Dak Prescott in Philadelphia. The move is foolhardy in that Prescott has no playoff experience and vulnerable to injury in the playoffs, which is all that matters for Dallas. I don’t expect the regulars to play the entire game, especially if it begins to get to physical with the hated rival Eagles. Philadelphia meanwhile will turn it up all the way and will give a max effort and get the win.
Don’t expect to see Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers are locked into the three seed after winning the AFC North last week. The Browns meanwhile are just happy to have won a game last week against the Chargers and will go into the game just looking to audition for next season. The Steelers will win this one though the Browns could give them a fight as the game will take on the feel of a pre-season exhibition rather than a Week 17 battle for playoff positioning.
After going 15-1 and losing Super Bowl 50 last season, there is no doubt that the Carolina Panthers were the NFL’s most disappointing team at 6-9. The Buccaneers who were on the verge of a playoff berth two weeks ago, now need a miracle, but first they must take care of business and beat the Panthers. The Buccaneers returning home get a boost from the home crowd and get the win, while the Panthers look like a team ready for the exit, while trying to forget this season ever happened.
This game was expected to decide the AFC South, but last week the Titans blew a tire when they were stunned by the Jaguars, while Quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a broken leg. The Texans meanwhile did just enough to beat the Bengals and clinch. The Texans could be one of the worst offenses to make the playoffs in years. The Texans top rated defense has been able to carry them especially in divisional games where they are a perfect 5-0. Expect that trend to continue as points will be at a premium.
With a win the Falcons can get a bye into the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The Saints meanwhile would love nothing more than to leave their arch rivals something to chew on as the season comes to an end. This one could light up the scoreboard as the Falcons have been among the NFL’s best offenses all season, while the Saints are always capable of a big performance from Drew Brees. Look for the Falcons to get the win, but it will be a high scoring affair in the last regular season game at the Georgia Dome.
The Oakland Raiders can win the AFC West if they beat the Broncos at Mile High on Sunday. The Broncos who came into the season as Super Bowl Champions already have their fate sealed as they lost three straight and are out of the playoffs. The Raiders would have the clear edge if they were healthy, but last week lost Quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg. Matt McGloin has started in the past and the results were less than stellar. The Broncos defense even in their struggles has been solid, and something says they have too much pride to just go out with a whimper.
A tale of two teams with nothing to play for were on display in the NFC West, as the Cardinals stunned the Seahawks in Seattle, while the Rams rolled over and lost for a second time to the 49ers, who are winless against the rest of the NFL. The Cardinals appear to have some pride, while the Rams are just week as a sheep. The Rams also must be questioning the decision to trade up and select Jared Goff as the rookie quarterback, taken with the number one overall pick has been baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.
The end of an era in San Diego, could come Sunday as the Chargers may be moving up the coast to Los Angeles after failing to secure a stadium deal. The Chargers come into this game after an embarrassing loss against the winless Browns. The Chiefs meanwhile can win the division if the Raiders lose, and will be out to make a statement. The Chiefs defense is solid and they get big plays from all aspects, including what could be the league’s best special teams. The Chargers also are at their worst in tight games, while the Chiefs have won several close tight games. This one won’t be tight as the Chiefs win with ease.
Last week the 49ers ended their 13-game losing streak by rallying to beat the Rams for a second time this season. The Niners can beat the Rams, but against the rest of the NFL they are hopeless. The Seahawks may be a bit banged up, but have an outside shot at a much-needed bye if the Falcons were to lose their game. Look for the Seahawks to do just enough to hold the 49ers at bay as one of the worst season in franchise history mercifully ends in San Francisco.
The Giants are locked into the fifth seed, while the Redskins can practically clinch a playoff spot with a win. Earlier this year the Redskins rallied to beat the Giants in the Meadowlands to jump start their season. The Giants would like to play well heading into the playoffs, but staying healthy is more important. This could lead the Giants to rest players late in the game, especially if they are sharp early. With the added importance and desperation, the Redskins go out and get the win.
When the Lions were playing at their best and in full control of the NFC North they still had their problems with the Packers, who at the time were stumbling but won the first match up at Lambeau Field. Now with the Packers rolling with five straight wins the division is on the line on Sunday Night and if the Redskins win, it will be an elimination game. The Lions who have won just one playoff game in 60 years don’t fare well in those situations. The Lions all season played with fire, rallying in the fourth quarter but after a while that magic runs out. Look for the Packers to get a big game from Aaron Rodgers to tame the Lions once again.