Miami @ Buffalo
Over the past couple months as the standings started to shake out and it was clear that some teams would offer no viewing value, be it in terms of entertainment or relevancy, I made jokes about how unnecessary it would be to tune in to certain games. Now, in the last week of the season, the need to watch many of these games had reached its nadir. There are no postseason implications, no fantasy implications, no familial implications (meaning even the players’ wives, parents, and/or children don’t need to see these). This match-up certainly falls into that category. I assume the game will be a sell-out, because Bills fans are maniacs and the only reason they’d miss a game is because they got knocked out in the parking lot on a botched flaming table spot, but outside of a select group of folks in western New York there won’t be a lot of eyes on this one. I’ll bet Buffalo win, because at this point they’re used to having nothing to play for.
Detroit @ Green Bay
The Packers have reportedly interviewed Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano in regards to their head coaching vacancy. So in other words, Green Bay is hoping to avoid the playoffs at all costs for the foreseeable future. Look, I’m not saying that those are uninspired choices, I’m saying that they’re lame, foolish, and uninspired choices. However, if the goal is to get Aaron Rodgers to retire then these coaching possibilities make a lot of sense. And to be fair, the Packers let their fans own the team, so it’s no wonder that this coaching search has gotten off to a bit of a scatter shot start. As far as I can tell any of the fan owners can simply call up and suggest a coaching candidate, at which point the GM must schedule an interview. It’s taxing and a waste of time, but it’s so cool to be able to say the fans own the team!
New York Jets @ New England
Surprise! New England is back in line for a first round bye. It’s like death, we all know it’s coming, but that doesn’t make it less lame. The Patriots will surely win this game and enjoy next week at home sacrificing babies, or whatever it is they do for fun. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the fans in New England should be comfortable with the state of their team. The Patriots have been anything but impressive lately, and a potential second round match-up with the Texans, Ravens, Chargers, or Colts could present serious problems for Brady and Belichick ... and Edelman, and Gronkowski, and McDaniels, and ... sorry I was going to list the entirety of the roster and coaching staff, but you get the idea, right? In summation, rest easy New England, for now.
Carolina @ New Orleans
The Saints have clinched the top spot in the NFC playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. On the other occasion, in 2009, the Saints went to the Super Bowl, so this bodes well for New Orleans. As a result of their confirmed status they now have the option to rest starters if they so choose. I, for one, believe they should at least sit Drew Brees, seeing as how their backup QB Teddy Bridgewater is still much better than Kyle Allen, who will be taking snaps for Carolina. Allen is starting in place of the Panthers' original Cam Newton replacement Taylor Heinicke, who was hurt during last week’s loss to the Falcons but returned to the game despite the fact that Allen looked better in his short appearance in fill-in duty. Perhaps the refusal to stick with Allen was just stubbornness. It’s like someone insisting upon only drinking Bud light over Coors or Miller. Look pal, they all suck, why are you so preoccupied with one over the other? Like I said though, neither one will be good enough to get a win here, even over a depleted New Orleans roster.
Dallas @ New York Giants
The Cowboys have no reason to start anybody in this game. Ok, well of course they’ll have to put at least 11 players on the field at a time, but that’s not my point. And actually saying at least 11 players is misleading and downright incorrect. 11 is the maximum amount of players they can put on the field. They can’t just trot 14 people out there and see what happens. Anyway, what was my point? Oh right, Dallas should not risk injuring any of their stars (meaning the players, not the logos) in this inconsequential game. That being said, Sean Lee hasn’t played much lately, likely making him a bit rusty and in need of plenty of reps to get prepped for the playoffs. And with Lee, Dallas doesn’t have to worry about an unnecessary injury because the guy’s an iron man on the level of a Gehrig, or a Ripken, or an Oden. I say throw him in there and let him get his hands dirty. What’s the worst that could happen?
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Two seasons ago the Falcons were on the verge of a Super Bowl title. Last season they were on the verge of making it to the NFC title game. Now they’re on the verge of a cliff, and they’re about to fall off. Just hang on Atlanta, we have a helicopter in the form of a new season coming to rescue you. Um, ok we just talked to the pilot and it turns out he’s not going to be here until next September ... Sorry ... Can you wait until then? We’ll bring you some food in the meantime, what do you guys like? Uh huh; well we have Slim Jims, and store brand cola, so that will have to do for now. But we haven’t forgotten about you buds! Just hang in there! Literally! Haha ... Yes, I understand that that’s not very funny in this moment, I apologize. I mean, I think we’ll all laugh about it later, but yes, I should have read the room.
Jacksonville @ Houston
A few weeks ago I theorized that we had seen Blake Bortles’ last start as a Jacksonville Jaguar. It now appears I was wrong. Gloriously, magnificently wrong. With Cody Kessler’s injury last week, all signs point to Bortles returning to the QB1 slot for one last hurrah. What should we expect from this beautiful boy in his grand finale? Six picks? Possibly. Five TDs? Probably not, but perhaps. A lackluster 220 yard, 1TD, 1 INT performance? No! I refuse to accept that. Something amazing or disastrous or amazingly disastrous must happen this Sunday, and I will accept nothing less.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver
The AFC playoff picture is like jell-o in a broken fridge, far from solidified. While four teams have clinched a spot, no one is currently locked into a seed. For instance, the Chargers could still end up as the #1 seed or remain in the fifth spot and start their playoff run next week on the road. So, as you can see the situation is a lot like jell-o in a working refrigerator, there’s still a whole lot of movement possible.
Oakland @ Kansas City
The only way for the Chargers to snare that top spot in the AFC, as discussed above, is for the Chiefs to fall at home to the Raiders. Yes, Kansas City has lost two straight, but losing here to Oakland is nearly inconceivable. Then again, when these teams met four weeks ago the Chiefs only won by 7, so perhaps it’s not as inconceivable as I first thought. Then again ... again, Patrick Mahomes can set an NFL single season record for passing TDs in a season if he throws for 8 scores in this game, which could mean that there’s even more incentive for the Chiefs to win in a blow out. Then again ... again ... again, 8 passing TDs in one game would be an NFL record in its own right, so maybe that’s not very realistic. Then again ... again ... again ... again, the Raiders did give up 7 TDs to Nick Foles back in 2013, which is almost a precedent, so who who knows? Then again ... again ... again ... again ... again, none of the Raiders who played defense in that game are still on the team, so that 2013 contest is probably irrelevant. Then again ... again ... again ... again ... again ... again ...
San Francisco @ Los Angeles Rams
Over the past seven games, since Nick Mullens was made the 49ers starter, here’s how he compares with Jared Goff:
Mullens - 1,995 yds 10 TDs/7 Ints
Goff - 2,064 yds 11 TDs/7 Ints
So does that mean Nick Mullens has been playing well or that Jared Goff has not been great? Probably both. But when you look at Goff’s most recent four games, he’s thrown just 2 TDs and 6 Ints. Now those are first rate lousy numbers, and I imagine not encouraging for the Rams or their fans. But Angelinos can take solace in the fact that they have C.J. Anderson, who is averaging 167 yards rushing per game with the Rams. Granted, he’s only played one game with LA so far, and Todd Gurley figures to be fully ready to go for the playoffs, if not this Sunday, but at this point the Rams have to find silver linings where they can, because their season is completely coming off the rails. Anyway, I’ll think they’ll win here to finish this disaster at 13-3.
Chicago @ Minnesota
If the Vikings win this game they’ll be in the playoffs and likely play the Bears again next week in Chicago. That begs the following questions: do the Bears unfurl a full game plan on Sunday, or do they hold their cards closer to the vest in case of a rematch? Also, would the Bears prefer to play the Vikings over the Eagles and, to that end, rest their starters here to aid in a Minnesota victory? Furthermore, what’s that smell? If it was you just say something, because I'm starting to assume you’re lying and I’m losing respect for you. In response to the first two queries, I would assume that Chicago goes for the win at least in the beginning of the game because they still have an outside shot at getting the #2 seed in the NFC and a first round bye. But if the Rams are pulling away from San Francisco the Bears may call off the ... bears and, in effect, escort the Vikings into the playoffs. So in other words there will be a lot of moving parts in addition to the normal ones, i.e. the players’ arms and legs.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
The Steelers are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and they have no one to blame but themselves. Well, themselves and all the teams that have beaten them. Kind of a jerk move by those guys. I mean what the heck, Pittsburgh was just trying to go undefeated, why did everybody feel it necessary to get in their way? Lame. But the Steelers can’t worry about that now, their sole focus needs to be on the Bengals. Well actually they can probably afford to keep one eye on Cincy and the other on the scoreboard to monitor that Browns/Ravens game where they need a Cleveland win to help get them into the postseason. Will they get the assistance they require? Pittsburgh will have to wait until Sunday to find out. Or if they’re readers they can just skip ahead a couple of games and find out.
Arizona @ Seattle
The Cardinals are one loss away from securing the number 1 pick in the 2019 draft. It seems obvious that they should take a loss here to secure that spot; I mean what reason could they possibly have to want to win? Oh I don’t know, how about saving Steve Wilks’ job?!? The Cards’ first year head coach is fighting for his professional life, and a fourth win could really push him over the ... actually, he’s probably screwed either way, so he might as well go out with a bang. I’m talking no punts, no extra point attempts. Of course, they may turn the ball over on every possession and not score any TDs, so those two might take care of themselves. Or Wilks could go the other way and remain completely silent and motionless for the entirety of the game. You think you can do this without me? Let’s see you try! Though that could completely backfire if Arizona ends up winning. I guess what we’ve learned here is that this is a no-win scenario for Steve Wilks, and that he’s probably better off just returning to hosting duties on his talk show. Wait that’s a different guy? Yikes, he’s really screwed then.
Philadelphia @ Washington
The Eagles’ Super Bowl title defense that seemed dead in the water for much of the season, and as recently as two weeks ago, has made it to Week 17 with its heart still beating. Sure they’re going to need a blood transfusion from Chicago to keep it pumping after Sunday, but if we’ve learned one thing from these Eagles over the last two seasons it’s that you should never count them out. If we’ve learned a second thing from them it’s that you should almost always go for it on fourth down. And if we’ve learned a third thing it’s that you can go your own way. Oh wait, I was thinking of the band Eagles, not the football team. And actually, “Go Your Own Way” is a Fleetwood Mac song, so really that last piece of information is completely irrelevant. Still, this team has taught us two things; pretty good, right?
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Baker Mayfield seems to really enjoy pissing people off. So there’s likely nothing he’d enjoy more than knocking Baltimore out of the playoffs. Then again, his distaste for the Steelers is probably greater than it is for the Ravens, and if he lost in Baltimore he’d really ruffle Pittsburgh’s feathers. So actually it’s a win-win situation for Mayfield, either way someone’s going to hate him. The Browns have won five of their last six, however none of those were against a team above .500. In fact, their only win over such a team all season is their Week 5 W over these Ravens. On second thought though, these Ravens aren’t those Ravens. Meaning with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, and homefield advantage Baltimore should prevail this week and win the AFC North as a result. In the postgame press conference look for Mayfield to really stick it to Pittsburgh by talking about how stupid it is to put fries on a sandwich (his words, not mine).
Indianapolis @ Tennessee