LOS ANGELES, December 27, 2016 — With 16 weeks of the 2016 NFL regular season in the history books, Week 17 is upon us. This is the week where football jargon not used for 358 days is said repeatedly. We learn who controls their own destiny and who needs help to make the playoffs. Some years it seems almost everybody has a shot at the playoffs. This year most of the issues involve seedings.
Five of the eight Week 17 NFC games have playoff implications. Five of the six NFC playoff spots have been clinched. Most of the issues involve seedings. Here is the NFC playoff picture with one week to go, complete with permutations, combinations and predictions.
Permutations and Combinations:
1.) The Dallas Cowboys (13-2) have clinched the NFC East and home field throughout the playoffs.
2.) The Atlanta Falcons (10-5) have clinched the NFC South. Right now they are the two seed with a first round bye. With a win next week, they would clinch the two seed with a first round bye. If they lose they can still keep the two seed if Seattle and Detroit also lose. If the Falcons lose their season finale and the Seahawks or Lions win, the Falcons could fall to the three seed and have to host a game on WildCard Weekend. If the Falcons lose and the Seahawks and Lions both wins, the Falcons would fall to the four seed.
3.) The Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) have clinched the NFC West and right now are the three seed. If they win next week and Atlanta loses, the Seahawks jump to the two seed and a first round bye. If Seattle loses next week, they fall to the four seed (assuming the Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers game does not end in a tie).
4.) The Green Bay Packers (9-6) are tied for the NFC North lead with the Detroit Lions (9-6). Next Sunday these two teams have a division showdown in Detroit for the NFC North crown. Earlier this year the Packers beat the Lions 34-27 in Green Bay. Because the Packers lost to Atlanta 33-32 earlier this year, a first round bye is out of reach. If the Packers win and the Seahawks lose, the Packers move up to the three seed. If the Packers lose their season finale and the Redskins also lose, the Packers are in the playoffs as the six seed Wildcard. If the Packers lose and the Redskins win, the Packers are out of the playoffs altogether.
5.) The New York Giants (10-5) have clinched a playoff spot and are locked into the five seed Wildcard.
6.) The Detroit Lions (9-6) right now are the six seed. Although they are tied atop the NFC North, they lost earlier in the year to Green Bay. The Lions host the Packers next week. If the Lions win, they capture the NFC North and jump to the four seed, allowing them to host a Wildcard game. If the Lions win and the Seahawks or Falcons lose, the Lions move up to the three seed. If the Lions win and the Falcons and Seahawks both lose, the Lions jump to the two seed with a first round bye. If the Lions lose and the Redskins also lose, the Lions keep the six seed. If the Lions lose and the Redskins win, the Lions miss the playoffs entirely.
The 8-6-1 Washington Redskins are on the outside looking in, but for the most part they control their own destiny anyway. In their season finale they host a Giants team locked into their Wildcard spot. If Washington wins next week, they will make the playoffs as the six seed Wildcard as long as the Lions and Packers do not play to a tie. If the Redskins lose, they are out.
The 8-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the outside looking in. For all intents and purposes they are eliminated. However, if a ton of things happen next week, they could sneak into the playoffs. They even need some AFC games to go a certain way for statistical strength of schedule purposes. Just for fun, the following things need to happen in Week 17 for the Buccaneers to make the playoffs:
1.) Buccaneers beat Panthers , 2.) Colts beat Jaguars, 3.)Cowboys beat Eagles, 4.) Lions beat Packers, 5.) Titans beat Texans, 6.) 49ers beat Seahawks, 7.) Redskins and Giants tie.
In realistic terms, the Buccaneers are eliminated.
Giants (10-5) at Redskins (8-6-1)
Seahawks (9-5-1) at 49ers (2-13)
Saints (7-8) at Falcons (10-5)
Packers (9-6) at Lions (9-6)
Virtually none. None of these teams play the early games, so none of them except the Giants can rest their starters. Because the Packers and Lions play at night, they will know if Washington won or lost. If Washington lost, then both the Packers and Lions are in the playoffs. However, they will still both need to play their starters since hosting a Wildcard game as the NFC North champion is an easier path than going on the road.
Regular season predictions:
1.) Dallas Cowboys (13-3) — On the road at the Philadelphia Eagles, Jason Garrett may just rest all of his starters.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (11-5) — They host the Saints. Drew Brees can match Matt Ryan blow for blow, but the Falcons have the superior team.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) — The Seahawks will not have a letdown at the 2-13 49ers.
4.) Detroit Lions (10-6) — With everything on the line, the Lions will win at home over Green Bay.
5.) New York Giants (10-6) — On the road at Washington, Ben McAdoo may just rest of all his starters.
6.) Washington Redskins (9-6-1) — The Redskins host the 10-5 Giants, who are locked into their spot and may just give their starters clipboards to hold. The Redskins have enough talent to make this game competitive at home against starters. They can certainly defeat the backups.
The Green Bay Packers at 9-7 will miss out. Despite winning five straight and Detroit losing two straight, go with the Lions at home. Aaron Rodgers is playing fantastic football, but trust Matthew Stafford in front of the home crowd.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 9-7 will miss out because it would take everything short of winning the lottery to win the various NFL tiebreakers that nobody understands.
NFC Playoff Predictions:
Wild Cards: 6.) Redskins at 3.) Seahawks, 5.) Giants at 4.) Lions
Divisionals: 3.) Seahawks at 2.) Falcons, 4.) Lions at 1.) Cowboys
NFC Title Game: 3.) Seahawks at 1.) Cowboys
NFC Champion: The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons have the best records, but the Seattle Seahawks have the most experience. Experience will win out and lead to the Seahawks holding up the George Halas Trophy. They will not hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Forget the NFC, and Seattle getting revenge. The New England Patriots will win Super Bowl 51.