NFL Week 17 Recap: 3 Spots Left

nfl week 17 recap

Week 17 in the NFL will finish up with Monday Night’s heavyweight matchup between the Bengals and Bills, but while that matchup is crucial for seeding at the top of the AFC, it will not affect the playoff field, which is down to one open spot in the NFC and two in the AFC.

Daniel Jones led the Giants into the playoffs on Sunday with a four-touchdown performance against the Colts while Carson Wentz took the Commanders out of the playoffs with a three-interception meltdown, leaving one spot for the Seahawks, Lions, and Packers on the NFC side. In the AFC, the Jaguars and Titans are set to square off for the AFC South Title on the NFL’s Saturday Night Game, while the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers will scramble for the final Wild Card berth on Sunday.

We’ll get into each of these three contests, but before we do, be sure to sign up for The Oracle’s Picks! The Oracle put together a terrific 2022 and is rolling into 2023 hot. The NFL action will draw to a close soon, but don’t worry – The Oracle will continue to crush it with MLB, NHL, and NBA picks as we get into the next part of the calendar.

Now, on to the NFL Playoff picture. Odds are from DraftKings.

NFC: Three Teams, One Spot

Before we dive into the game of musical chairs that will be played for the seventh spot, it’s worth noting that the race for the NFC’s top seed has suddenly become somewhat heated. Until Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder ahead of a Week 16 matchup with the Cowboys, it appeared Philadelphia would run away with the NFC East and the #1 seed, but both things are now in question.

This turn of events has also put a spin on a Week 18 game where many assumed the Giants might play Philadelphia’s backups; instead, the Giants, who are locked into the sixth seed, are the team with the opportunity to rest their starters. Given that star running back Saquon Barkley has been battling through several issues in recent weeks, it would not be a surprise to see him sit, nor if the Giants decide to sit Daniel Jones. There’s certainly a counter-argument that New York is still evaluating their quarterback, but given the dimension Jones adds on the ground when his legs are right, head coach Brian Daboll could elect to ensure Jones doesn’t get nicked up in a meaningless game.

If the Eagles do lose, it’s probable that we will see four 13-4 teams in the NFC. The 49ers get the Cardinals, who could start David Blough again, the Vikings get the Bears, and the Cowboys get a Washington team that is officially eliminated after Sunday’s action. Granted, it may not help Dallas if Taylor Heinicke is back under center, but the most likely scenario is that all three teams win, which would set up a chaotic tie-breaker situation.

While Minnesota can finish with the same record as the other teams, they would lose the tie-breaker in any scenario, which leaves the Eagles (-1200), 49ers (+700), and Cowboys (+6000) in competition for the NFC’s #1 seed. In other words, if you’re betting on the Giants (+600 ML) to beat the Eagles, you might want to take the 49ers (-675 ML vs. ARI) to get the #1 seed at +700.

As for the seventh seed, Green Bay is a 4.5 point favorite against Detroit next week while Seattle is a 6.5 point favorite against the Rams. On DraftKings, the odds to make the playoffs are not up, but we can look at Green Bay’s money line (-215), a Detroit-Seattle win parlay (+285), and a Detroit-Rams win parlay (+869) to get a general idea of the odds.

Perhaps this is the year that Detroit finally stops being the “same old Lions”, but this is starting to feel a lot more like Aaron Rodgers will complete another improbable run into the playoffs. If the Lions do manage to win, you can count on the Seahawks winning against the Rams to render Detroit’s victory meaningless. Unless Detroit pays back Calvin Johnson this week, I’ll count on the curse to continue, and take the Packers to make the playoffs, though I’d pass on betting at -215.

The AFC South Championship Game

It wasn’t quite a division championship game, but Tom Brady and the Buccaneers officially sewed up one of the NFL’s two worst divisions with their furious comeback against the Panthers. With the NFC South in the books, Brady and the Bucs can take next week off (if their absence for the first 16 wasn’t sufficient), but it’s a different story for Trevor Lawrence and whoever will play quarterback for Tennessee as the Jaguars and Titans gear up for the AFC South Title.

Jacksonville is a 6.5 point favorite, and you could argue the game is likely to end up on the other side of 7. The Jaguars have their flaws, but with the Titans trotting out the recently-signed Joshua Dobbs to start against the Cowboys last week, this seems like the perfect opportunity for Trevor Lawrence to assert his dominance over the AFC South for the forseeable future.

Whether they win this game or not, the Titans fired general manager Jon Robinson in the middle of the season, which tells you all you need to know about the state of their roster. Indianapolis got a breath of life in Jeff Saturday’s first game as head coach, but things have gone back off the rails since then. As for Houston, the Texans have found several useful rookies this season, and possess plenty of resources to upgrade the roster, but this 2-13-1 team appears to be more than one offseason away from contending for anything unless the quarterback they draft first overall thoroughly exceeds expectations as a rookie.

Tennessee should suit up more players than they did for Thursday Night Football against the Cowboys, but even if star defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons and others return, there is no quarterback walking through the door, and an offensive line that was top-five in Ryan Tannehill’s first year as a Titan has been among the NFL’s worst this season. Derrick Henry is a freak, but under the circumstances, expect Jacksonville to take this one home.

The Last AFC Wild Card

It has not been much of a season for Miami at quarterback from an injury standpoint.

With starter Tua Tagovailoa once again sidelined by a concussion, the Dolphins were forced to turn to Teddy Bridgewater against New England. Bridgewater proceeded to suffer a finger injury on the same play that he threw a game-changing pick-six to Patriots safety Kyle Dugger, and for the second time this season, seventh-round pick Skylar Thompson was called on to lead the way.

Unfortunately, Thompson was not able to rally the Dolphins, and now Miami holds the short end of the stick on tiebreakers if they finish with the same record as the Patriots. The Dolphins finish with the Jets, who were eliminated this week and may elect to play Zach Wilson again as they prepare their “talented” quarterback to be a “great” player in the future, but if it’s Mike White at the helm, the Jets are unlikely to roll over. White disappointed with a two-interception performance this week, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one more big game in him this season.

Mike Tomlin’s Steelers still need the Patriots and Dolphins to lose for a Week 18 win against Cleveland to matter, but for the second straight year, it appears that Tomlin will defy the odds to finish with a record over .500. It wasn’t a standout performance from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett against Baltimore, but their first-round pick made the plays he needed to with the game on the line. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is coming off another shaky performance – while he threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions, he completed only 50% of his passes – so the Steelers aren’t facing the best competition in Week 18.

The Patriots are 8.5 point underdogs against the Bills next week, and because Josh Allen and company will be competing for the #1 seed, a New England win is certainly a long shot, particularly in light of their recent history. That should leave the Dolphins with a last chance to get in, but this feels like a team that is unraveling, particularly as it would seem questionable to bring Tagovailoa back to the field this season after yet another concussion. The Steelers, at +450, might see things tumble their way on Sunday – things certainly seem to be lining up that way.

What’s Next

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.