FORT MYERS, FLORIDA, December 25, 2017: The 2017 National Football League regular season now has 16 weeks in the books. The 17th and final week of the 2017 regular season is fast approaching. Phrases not spoken for 358 days are removed from the closet, dusted off, and recycled. Playoff games are around the corner.
We learn which teams control their own destiny and who needs help.
Six of the eight AFC Week 17 games have playoff implications.
In the AFC, all four division winners have already been decided. The only thing left to determine among them is seedings. The wildcards, on the other hand, are up for grabs as four teams compete for two spots.
The NFC playoff picture is another matter entirely.
Here is the AFC playoff picture with one week to go, complete with permutations, combinations, and predictions.
1.) The New England Patriots (12-3):
The Patriots have clinched the AFC East and right now are the top seed, but they have not locked it up. They have clinched a first-round bye and are at worst the two seed. If they win next week or if Pittsburgh loses, the Patriots have home field throughout the playoffs. If the Patriots lose and the Steelers win, the Patriots fall to the two seed.
2.) The Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3):
The Steelers have clinched the AFC North and are currently the two seed. They have clinched a first-round bye. If Pittsburgh wins next week and New England loses, Pittsburgh gets the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
3.) The Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5):
The Jaguars have clinched the AFC South and are locked into the three seed. They will host a Wildcard game with the lowest Wildcard team.
4.) The Kansas City Chiefs (9-6):
The Chiefs have clinched the AFC West and are locked into the four seed. They will host a Wildcard game with the highest Wildcard team.
5.) The Baltimore Ravens (9-6):
The Ravens, at this moment, are the five seed. If they win next week, they are in the playoffs. The Ravens can lose and still make the playoffs as long as Tennessee and Buffalo both lose. If Baltimore loses and either Tennessee or Buffalo wins, the Ravens are out.
6.) The Tennessee Titans (8-7):
The Titans, at this moment are the six seed.They win next week, they are in the playoffs. If they lose, they can still make the playoffs if both Buffalo and the Los Angeles Chargers lose. If Tennessee loses and either Buffalo or the LA Chargers win, the Titans are out.
7.) The Los Angeles Chargers (8-7):
The Chargers are currently on the outside looking in. They make the playoffs if they win, Tennessee loses, and if either Baltimore wins or Buffalo loses. If the Chargers lose, they are out regardless of other results.
8.) The Buffalo Bills (8-7)
The Bills are currently on the outside looking in. They make the playoffs if they win and either Baltimore loses or Tennessee and the LA Chargers both loses. If Buffalo loses, they are out regardless of there results.
New York Jets (5-10) at New England Patriots (12-3)
Cleveland Browns (0-15) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9)
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Absolutely none. Not one early game will produce a result that will allow any teams playing in the late games to rest their players. This is exactly how the NFL wants it. Nothing is settled. Everything is up for grabs.
Regular season predictions:
1.) New England Patriots (13-3) — Tom Brady and Bill Belichick never pass up an opportunity to humiliate the Jets. They will again easily.
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) — The Steelers host the Cleveland Browns, who need to win to avoid an 0-16 season. The Browns are on the clock for the 2018 NFL Draft, and they will reach infamy with a winless season.
3.) Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) — The Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans, who with a loss could miss the playoffs. Doug Marrone could choose to rest his starters, but eliminating a divisional rival who beat them earlier this season means the starters most likely play.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) — With nothing to play for, Walrus Lite Andy Reid may rest his starters to keep them healthy.
5.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) — John Harbaugh’s Ravens are not going to lose at home to the Bengals, sending Marvin Lewis out of Cincinnati after 15 years with a loss.
6.) Tennessee Titans (8-8) — Tennessee will be the luckiest team on earth. They will lose, but make the playoffs anyway. The Chargers are technically the home team in Los Angeles, but the Raiders may have more fans show up to make it a de facto road game for the Chargers. The Dolphins are a bad team, but helping extend the Bills misery of 18 straight non-playoff seasons will motivate them. Everyone will choke, and Tennessee will make the playoffs by default.
AFC Playoff Predictions:
Wild Cards: 6.) Titans at 3.) Jaguars, 5.) Ravens at 4.) Chiefs
Divisionals: 5.) Ravens at 1.) Patriots, 3.) Jaguars at 2.) Steelers
AFC Title Game: 2.) Steelers at 1.) Patriots
AFC Champion: Patriots. These Steelers never beat the Patriots. Until teams stop throwing over the middle into traffic with the game on the line, the Patriots will keep winning even when outplayed.