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Six teams on upset alert in NFL Week 17

Tom Brady
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 17 provides teams and players with one final chance to make an impression this season. The stakes are even higher for some teams on Sunday, as it’s the last chance to get into the playoffs.

The regular season closes out with a 16-game Sunday, and it’s capped off by an NFC West showdown with major postseason implications. With so much on the line, we’re bound to see some interesting stuff go down.

Looking at the Week 17 schedule, we’re putting six teams on upset alert.

Chicago Bears (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings

Sure, the Vikings may rest some key starters. But the Bears aren’t very good. Period.

Looking back at the last five games Chicago has played, it’s not impressive. It eked out single-digit wins over the lowly New York Giants and Detroit Lions, beat a bad Dallas Cowboys team by a touchdown and lost in blowout fashion to the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

The Vikings have talent and depth on both sides of the ball, especially defensively. They still have enough potency to serve the perpetually underwhelming Mitchell Trubisky and Co. with one final loss to close out the season.

Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots (-16.5)

Now, the Patriots have a ton to play for, because a win guarantees them a much-needed first-round bye. But the truth is, despite last weekend’s strong showing by Tom Brady, this is a team that’s still very sketchy on the offensive side of the ball.

Will the Dolphins pull off the upset of the year in Foxborough this Sunday? Probably not. But can they do it? Absolutely. What it really boils down to is whether Ryan Fitzpatrick arrives fully charged with FitzMagic. If he has the kind of outing he’s capable of producing (like last Sunday), the Dolphins can deal their divisional rival a huge serving of humble pie.

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys (-11)

Sure, the Redskins have just three wins all season and come into NFL Week 17 banged up. But have you seen the Cowboys play lately? This team has lost its way, and in the process, it’s wasted yet another season despite featuring significantly more talent than many teams around the league.

Washington is led by a couple of grizzled vets in Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson, who won’t let their teammates treat this final game as an early vacation. On the other side, Dak Prescott is still banged up, and Amari Cooper hasn’t been a viable star in weeks. Despite a significant talent gap between these two teams, don’t be surprised if Dallas finishes its season with yet another embarrassing loss that sends Jason Garrett packing for good.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens

Due to Pittsburgh’s desperation and Baltimore’s apparent nonchalance, having already sewn up the top seed, it’s not surprising that the Steelers are favored to win. However, that’s far from a guarantee.

It’s going to be fascinating to see Robert Griffin III play an entire game under center for the Ravens, with Lamar Jackson and other key starters set to sit this one out. If he shows the same kind of playmaking abilities that made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2012 and earned him NFL Rookie of the Year honors, the Ravens absolutely have a chance to win and win big.

It also helps Baltimore’s cause here that the Steelers have been plagued by turnovers by their quarterbacks. It’s going to be Devlin Hodges or bust for this crucial game, not ideal for Pittsburgh.

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (-3.5)

The Raiders have everything to play for in NFL Week 17. Meanwhile, the Broncos have already lost their chance to make the playoffs. Oakland has to win, and then it needs a ton of help to get in (7% chance to make it).

With that in mind, we’re expecting Jon Gruden to have his team charged up and ready to replicate their Week 1 victory over the Broncos. Derek Carr shredded Denver’s secondary in that game and has plenty to prove heading into what could potentially be his last game as the leader of Oakland’s offense. This team is absolutely dialed in and sold out for a win.

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks

Given the incredible rash of injuries the Seahawks have sustained lately, it’s not surprising that the 49ers are favored to win in Seattle this Sunday night. But the last time these teams clashed, Seattle found a way to get a victory in Santa Clara, and with Russell Wilson under center you can never count this team out in any game.

Aside from Wilson’s ability to conjure wins seemingly out of thin air, the 49ers have injuries defensively and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been turnover prone this season. With the NFC West on the line, and given the boost Marshawn Lynch will give the fans in Seattle, don’t be surprised if the 49ers end up getting swept by their rival on Sunday night.