As the playoff picture gets clearer by the day, some teams are hanging on threads. Here are five things to look out for in Week 17
1. Can Teddy Bridgewater secure the Miami Dolphins’ playoff berth?
Mike McDaniel’s Dolphins are in big trouble after losing four straight and dropping from the second seed to just having a 59% chance of making the playoffs. They’ll face New England without their starting quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa threw three consecutive drive-ending interceptions after an impressive first half against Green Bay at home on Christmas Day. What seemed unusual at the time was later confirmed to be a concussion earlier this week.
Teddy Bridgewater will get the start against the Patriots, who look in disarray after two straight un-Belichickian losses from Rhamondre Stevenson’s mistakes. Could the worst New England team in over two decades make the playoffs?
2. Mike White is back for the New York Jets
Robert Saleh, one of McDaniel’s colleagues in San Francisco, would relish a loss, as a New England win followed by a Jets victory over Seattle puts everything on the line in Week 18.
That win will be crucial, as a loss will eliminate them from the playoffs. Luckily there was good news in New York this week as Mike White looks set to start after missing two games due to the painful rib injury he suffered against Buffalo.
Last Thursday night in Jacksonville provided many with the confirmation that New York is moving on at the quarterback position. Zach Wilson has likely played the team out of the playoffs.
3. Can the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South?
Carolina travels to Tampa Bay on Sunday knowing that a win puts them in control of the NFC South. In doing so, they could become the first team since Washington in 2020 to make the playoffs with a losing record.
They’ve found new life under interim head coach Steve Wilks, particularly on offense. Sam Darnold has led them to two wins in their last three games, aided by a strong defense and a difficult-to-stop run game.
As for the current division leaders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they should win the division if the Panthers do not score 17 points. The opponent has not scored more than 16 points in any of the Bucs’ seven victories this season.
4. Will the Green Bay Packers win again?
Green Bay could actually make the playoffs! We discussed this scenario a few weeks ago, but we never imagined it would become a reality. A win over Minnesota on Sunday will put them on path, heading into a big game at home to Detroit.
Matt La Fleur and Aaron Rodgers’ offense is really starting to flow now that the new guys are getting a feel of the scheme. It’s helped them win three in a row, averaging 25.6 points in their past five games.
Last week against the Giants, the Vikings won their 11th one-score game of the season, demonstrating their incredible ability to win close games. That will be very useful in January.
5. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen on MNF!
A win on Monday night would make it likely that the Buffalo Bills would secure the number one seed in the AFC. With a win and a Baltimore loss to Pittsburgh, their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, would clinch the AFC North.
Due to ESPN’s inability to flex games until the 2023 season, MNF has been rather dull in recent weeks. Fortunately, they have the best game of the week.
The matchup between Joe Burrow and Josh Allen on Monday is the first ESPN game featuring two teams without a losing record since Week 10, and only the fourth all season. I’ve been starting to think Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are being wasted.