Despite 10 of 12 NFL Playoff spots being locked up heading into Week 17, a whole heck of a lot is still on the line as the league closes out its regular season.
Who will boast the top seed and home-field advantage in the NFC Playoffs? That will likely be settled Sunday night with the NFC West on the line in an epic matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Over in the AFC, the final wild card spot remains up in the air. Tennessee can clinch with a win over Houston. Meanwhile, both the Steelers and Raiders remain alive for that final spot.
It’s in this that we give you seven must-watch games on the Week 17 NFL schedule.
Packers at Lions (1:00 PM ET)
The NFL decided to keep both NFC North games on the early-afternoon slate. Maybe they knew beforehand that the Packers would clinch the division in Week 16 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Once that came to fruition, it became all about Aaron Rodgers and Co. potentially earning a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It starts Sunday afternoon against an injury-plagued Lions squad in Detroit. With a win against Detroit, Green Bay would put pressure on other NFC contenders to win later on Sunday. It would need Seattle to take out San Francisco in order to earn home-field throughout the playoffs.
Eagles at Giants (4:25 PM ET)
Following last week’s win over Dallas, these Eagles have one task. That includes knocking off a streaking Giants team on the road and clinching the NFC East. It’s not going to be as easy as most might believe.
Philadelphia continues to struggle with injuries to its receiver group and will be tasked with going up against a Giants rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones who is coming off a five-touchdown performance.
The Eagles can’t afford to take their division rivals lightly. We know full well that Jones and Co. will want to rain on their parade. Without much of a margin for error, a loss here would likely send the Eagles packing for the winter.
Steelers at Ravens (4:25 PM ET)
Last week’s brutal loss to the New York Jets means that Pittsburgh must win Sunday in Baltimore and get some help in order to earn the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC. A win against the Jets would have enabled Pittsburgh to control its own destiny. Alas, that’s not the case.
There’s a couple major backdrops to this game. Baltimore is going to be resting its starters, MVP favorite Lamar Jackson included. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will be forced to go with the struggling Devlin Hodges now that Mason Rudolph is sidelined with a shoulder injury. This one should get interesting.
Raiders at Broncos (4:25 PM ET)
It’s shocking to realize that Oakland remains very much alive in the AFC Wild Card race. Jon Gruden’s squad needed five different things to happen this past week for this to come to fruition. Including their win over the Chargers, the Raiders saw all of the pieces fall into place.
The team is in very much the same situation heading into Week 17. Oakland must take care of the Broncos in Denver Sunday afternoon. From there, the team has to hope that the Steelers and Titans lose, Colts win and one from a grouping of the Patriots, Bears, Lions or Chargers come out on top. Stranger things have indeed happened.
Titans at Texans (4:25 PM ET)
Despite their loss to the Saints last week, it’s rather simple for Tennessee. If the Titans can come out on top against the Texans Sunday, they will be the sixth seed in the AFC Playoffs. That became possible after the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped an ugly contest against the New York Jets last week.
Though, there’s some bad news on this front. Despite winning the AFC South and being locked into the No. 4 seed, the Texans are going to be playing their starters in this one. That could set up several interesting scenarios. See the Raiders-Broncos blurb.
Redskins at Cowboys (4:25 PM ET)
Dallas’ brutal loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week sets the stage for this to be Jason Garrett’s final game as the team’s head coach. Having lost 8 of 12 since a 3-0 start to the season, things are desperate in Big D right now.
That could potentially change if the Giants are able to take out Philadelphia at about the same time this game is taking place in Dallas. If so, a Cowboys win over Washington would set the stage for the team to earn the NFC East title and host either Seattle or San Francisco in the wild card round.
49ers at Seahawks (8:20 PM ET)
Potentially the biggest season-ending game in the history of “Sunday Night Football,” everything seems to be on the line here. If San Francisco is able to go into the Pacific Northwest and come out on top, it will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A loss means these 49ers are the fifth seed and heading to either Dallas or Philadelphia for Wild Card Weekend.
Seattle’s situation is pretty similar. The best it can realistically hope for is the No. 3 seed in the NFC. But hosting a wild card game in the Pacific Northwest would seem to set the Hawks up pretty darn well. They also still have an outside shot for the top seed and home-field advantage.
The backstory here is even more amazing. Marshawn Lynch came out of “retirement” to sign with the Seahawks after a rash of injuries at running back. He’ll take on former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in the biggest game either of these dudes have played since being teammates years back. Yeah, get your popcorn ready here.