No sooner had we caught our breath from Sunday’s afternoon games than the NFL revealed its Week 17 lineup, chock-full of late-afternoon games with playoff implications and a winner-take-all Sunday night meeting between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.
As with many games on the season’s final day, there’s a domino effect at play. Earlier in the day, the Houston Texans, already assured of a playoff berth, face the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. If the favored Texans were to lose, the Colts-Titans winner would take the AFC South. Otherwise the winner of the night game will earn a wild-card berth.
Both Indy and Tennessee are 9-6, with the Colts in position to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014 thanks to their come-from-behind, last-minute win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Here’s the full lineup for Sunday games, with most of those with playoff implications moving into the 4:25 Eastern time window, including the Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks; Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings; Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers; Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens; Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos; Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs; Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins; and San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams.
In the 1 p.m. window (in which there is much less at stake) the schedule has these games: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints; Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants; Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers; Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans; Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills; and New York Jets at New England Patriots.
Where things stand: If the playoffs began today…
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4 x)
2. New England Patriots (10-5 y)
3. Houston Texans (10-5 x)
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4 x)
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
In the Hunt
7. Tennessee Titans (9-6)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
1. New Orleans Saints (13-2 z)
2. Los Angeles Rams (12-3 y)
3. Chicago Bears (11-4 y)
4. Dallas Cowboys (9-6 y)
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-6 x)
6. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
In the Hunt
7. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
(x=clinched playoff berth; y=clinched division; z=clinched home-field advantage)
What happened Sunday and what it means: In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) need a win against the Cincinnati Bengals and a loss or tie by the Baltimore Ravens at home against the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North and get in. The Ravens can win the division with a win or a Pittsburgh loss.
On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in another 4:25 game, needing a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss at home against Chicago. The Vikings are in with either a win or an Eagles loss.
The Seattle Seahawks punched their ticket to the postseason with a 38-31 win over the Chiefs — go figure, a shootout with Patrick Mahomes involved. While the Kansas City quarterback tossed three touchdown passes, upping his season total to 48, Seattle counterpart Russell Wilson matched that feat and completed some eye-opening late-game passes to hold off the Chiefs.
With a Week 17 win over the lowly Cardinals, the Seahawks can lock up the NFC’s No. 5 seed and a date with the Cowboys, whom they beat in Week 3, 24-13.
The Chiefs can grab the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over the Raiders, but if they lose and the Chargers beat the Broncos, Los Angeles wins the AFC West. If the Chiefs lose and the Patriots win, New England will ascend to the top seed.
Also notable are the fates of the Bears and Los Angeles Rams. L.A. holds a one-game edge on Chicago and only needs a win at home against the San Francisco 49ers to lock up the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. But if the Rams lose and the Bears win in Minnesota, Chicago jumps into that second slot behind the New Orleans Saints, who have the No. 1 seed wrapped up.
In the 1 p.m. window, if the Patriots beat the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium, they will be assured of at least the No. 2 seed and a bye. But if they lose and the Texans beat the Jaguars at home, Houston gets that spot, knocking New England into its first wild-card weekend appearance since 2009.
Saints get past Steelers: The Saints stopped the Steelers’ last-minute drive and dealt a major blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes. New Orleans’s 31-28 win dropped Ben Roethlisberger and Co. to 8-6-1 on the season and a half-game behind the Ravens with one week left in the season.
Drew Brees found wide receiver Michael Thomas on a one-yard play that was ruled a touchdown upon review with 1:25 left in the game, but the Steelers had time to move back downfield for an attempt at a game-tying field goal or even a game-winning touchdown. Roethlisberger completed a 19-yard pass to Antonio Brown to overcome a fourth-and-15 situation, but four plays later, JuJu Smith-Schuster was stripped of the ball after a reception and the Saints recovered the fumble.
New Orleans moved to 13-2 and locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. In other late-afternoon games, the Rams and Bears both won, meaning the battle for the conference’s No. 2 seed and other first-round bye will go to the regular season’s final week — the 11-4 Bears need to win and hope the Rams (12-3) lose .
The Steelers can still take the AFC North if they win next week and the Ravens lose, a scenario that’s hardly out of the question. Pittsburgh will host the 6-9 Bengals, who have lost six of their past seven games, while Baltimore takes on the visiting Browns (7-7-1), who have won five of their past six.
Bears, 49ers brawl: Fisticuffs broke out in the fourth quarter of the Chicago-San Francisco game, resulting in the ejections of Bears wide receivers Anthony Miller and Josh Bellamy and 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman. The melee erupted on Chicago’s sideline after Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was dealt a late hit by San Francisco safety Marcell Harris.
Crown ’em: Two division titles have been settled with victories by the Cowboys and Patriots in the early games.
Dallas wrapped up the NFC East with a 27-20 victory over the Buccaneers, and New England won the AFC East, moving to 10-5 with a 24-12 victory over the Bills. The Patriots’ win, coupled with the Texans’ loss in Philadelphia, puts the Patriots in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye.
But before there was joy in Dallas, there were some nervous moments following a scary-looking injury.
Defensive end Tyrone Crawford was taken to a Dallas area hospital after suffering a scary injury on the second play from scrimmage in the game against the Buccaneers.
Crawford, who reportedly had movement in his arms and legs, was carted off the field after the shoulder of Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen struck him in the head and neck area. A hush fell over AT&T Stadium as Crawford remained motionless and his teammates surrounded him as the cart came onto the field. Crawford was taken to a hospital with what was being called a neck injury, and according to owner Jerry Jones, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
“Everything checks out really good. We’re very pleased with the initial reports MRIs and all the examinations,” Jones said (via Dallas Morning News). “He went on to the hospital and had those examinations. I won’t have the status for next week, but we are real pleased with what we’ve gotten so far.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles, Vikings and Colts remain in the playoff hunt. Philadelphia beat the Texans, 32-30, on a Jake Elliott field goal with three seconds left. The win keeps the Eagles in contention for a wild-card spot along with the Vikings and officially eliminated the Redskins. The Vikings had little trouble with the Lions, winning 27-9. Among the highlights in Detroit was this Hail Mary pass by Kirk Cousins as the first half ended.
Too much Rodgers: The 6-8-1 Packers had to fight and claw their way to a victory over the Jets, which pretty much says everything about how their season has gone. Aaron Rodgers completed 37 of 55 passes for 442 yards and two touchdowns and had five carries for 32 yards and two more touchdowns. Still, Green Bay had to go to overtime for the 44-38 victory over the Jets.
Quite a haul: The Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey set an NFL record for running backs by pushing his season receptions total to 106, breaking the mark of 102 set by the Bears’ Matt Forte in 2014. The second-year Carolina star, who had 12 catches in his team’s 24-10 loss to the Falcons, also gained family bragging rights by topping the highest single-season mark for receptions, 101, posted by his father, former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
Welcome to the club: With their 26-18 win over the Bengals, the Browns assured themselves of their first winning record in the AFC North since the NFL’s divisional realignment in 2002, becoming the final team to accomplish the feat, per ESPN.
Energizer Edelman: Julian Edelman scored what may have been the smartest touchdown of the day. Realizing he wasn’t down, he just kept going, straight to the end zone.
A FitzMas Festivus: In what may be his last game in Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald threw a touchdown pass. He hasn’t indicated yet whether this season will be his last.
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