With Week 17 in the books, we can now look forward to the bonus week the NFL has gifted us. In the past, the last week of NFL action has typically not meant much, as seeding and playoff bye weeks have allowed teams to rest star talents. This year, however, that is not the case. Here, I’ll be going through each meaningful game and laying out what’s on the line:
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Denver Broncos (7-9)
This game plays a role as to who will claim the top seed in the AFC, resulting in the lone bye week in the conference. Kansas City needs a win and Tennessee Titans road loss to the Houston Texans to clinch that coveted bye week. The Denver Broncos are mathematically eliminated, but would love to play spoiler to a division foe. Despite losing to Cincinnati last week, the Chiefs have been on a hot streak, winning each of their previous eight games.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs def. Denver Broncos, 37-14
Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Both teams have already clinched a playoff berth, however, the Philadelphia Eagles can improve their seeding with a victory and a San Francisco 49ers road loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys have claimed the NFC East and are locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Despite not being able to move in terms of seeding, Dallas is looking for a division sweep on Saturday. The Cowboys have averaged beating division opponents by over 21 points this year, and won by 20 last time out against the Eagles.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys def. Philadelphia Eagles, 24-14
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at Cleveland Browns (7-9)
A win could not only save the Cincinnati Bengals from potentially slipping to the No. 4 seed, but it could also result in rising to the No. 1 seed in the AFC with Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans losses. The Bengals have won five of their last seven games, while Joe Burrow has thrown for over 2,100 yards and 14 touchdowns during that stretch. The last time these teams met, the Bengals got stomped in a 41-16 loss. Still, I expect Cincinnati to flip the script in Week 18.
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals def. Cleveland Browns, 38-13
Indianapolis Colts (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
The Indianapolis Colts are playing to avoid playoff elimination and can do that by simply beating the Jacksonville Jaguars. A win also leaves the door open to move up one spot with a New England Patriots loss to the Miami Dolphins. Beating the Jaguars seems easy enough, however, the Colts have not beaten the Jaguars on the road since 2014. For Jacksonville, they haven’t won at home since early November.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts def. Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-20
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) at Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Both of these teams still have a slim chance to make the playoffs, but need help to get in. For the Steelers to get into the AFC playoffs, they will need to beat the Ravens and need the Jaguars to beat the Colts on Sunday. The Ravens on the other hand will need a win and for the Browns, Chargers, Colts, and Dolphins to lose this weekend. The last time these teams played, the Steelers defeated the Ravens by a single point. That was prior to the ankle injury that sidelined Lamar Jackson for three straight weeks.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens def. Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-21
Tennessee Titans (11-5) at Houston Texans (4-12)
The Titans at worst will be third seed should they lose, but a win could lock up the top seed in the AFC. Tennessee came up short against Houston earlier this year at home. The Texans this season are 1-7 at home, with that lone win coming against the Jaguars.
Prediction: Tennessee Titans def. Houston Texans, 31-17
New Orleans Saints (8-8) at Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Saints @ Falcons: Despite maintaining an 8-8 record, the Saints playoff hopes are still alive. They can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a San Francisco loss. The Saints lost in 27-25 fashion to the Falcons at home this year, which should make for another close contest in Week 18.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons def. New Orleans Saints, 16-13
New York Jets (4-12) at Buffalo Bills (10-6)
There is a lot at stake for the Bills this week, as they could be seeded anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5 in the AFC playoffs. A loss to the Jets leaves the door open for the Patriots to clinch the AFC East, while a win secures the division. The Bills are riding a three-game winning streak, scoring 29 or more points in each contest.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills def. New York Jets, 48-10
San Francisco 49ers (9-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
The NFC West title is still up for grabs for the Rams, while the 49ers can guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs with a win. The 49ers defeated the Rams earlier this season at home, but that was with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
Prediction: Los Angeles Rams def. San Francisco 49ers, 24-20
New England Patriots (10-6) at Miami Dolphins (8-8)
The New England Patriots could win the AFC East with a win and a Bills loss. Even if the Bills win on Sunday, the Patriots still need to protect the No. 5 seed. The Dolphins have won seven of their last eight games, but played a handful of weak opponents during that span.
Prediction: New England Patriots def. Miami Dolphins, 24-16
Seattle Seahawks (6-10) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
The Cardinals currently sit with the No. 5 seed in the NFC, but they could improve to the No. 2 seed with wins from the 49ers and Panthers this weekend. Since starting the season with a 7-0 record, the Cardinals have lost four of their last five games. They also haven’t won at home since beating the Texans in Week 7.
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks def. Arizona Cardinals, 20-17 (OT)
Carolina Panthers (5-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
The Buccaneers already clinched the NFC South, but are playing to protect their seeding in the NFC. Tampa Bay embarrassed Carolina just two weeks ago on the road and I’m not betting against Tom Brady in January.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers def. Carolina Panthers, 34-7
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
This game was flexed to Sunday night in ‘win or go home’ matchup. Should the game end in a tie, the Chargers own the tiebreaker and would advance. The last time these two met, the Chargers won in 28-14 fashion. In tough game to choose I usually like the home team, give me the Raiders 23-21.
Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders def. Los Angeles Chargers, 23-21
(1) Tennessee Titans
(7) Indianapolis Colts at (2) Kansas City Chiefs
(6) Las Vegas Raiders at (3) Cincinnati Bengals
(5) New England Patriots at (4) Buffalo Bills
(1) Green Bay Packers
(7) Philadelphia Eagles at (2) Los Angeles Rams
(6) San Francisco 49ers at (3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(5) Arizona Cardinals at (4) Dallas Cowboys