NFL Week 17: Wait, the playoffs aren’t next weekend?

Unbelievable. I guess I’ll publish the playoff preview next week instead of this week.

First, Week 15, we get a colossal upset: The Detroit Lions (2–11–1) tear apart the Arizona Cardinals (10–4) by a score of 30–12.

Then, Week 16, we get another: The Davis Mills-led Houston Texans (4–11) defeat the COVID-ridden Los Angeles Chargers (8–7) by a score of 41–29.

We came so close to yet another. Even as we yearned for the New York Jets (now 4–12) to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (now 12–4) in Metlife Stadium, we knew it was simply too good to be true. Even with NYJ favored by 99.9% by ESPN’s win probability tracker with just 39 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, we still somehow managed to forget that 1. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but even more importantly: 2. He despises the city of New York. Remember those two Super Bowl losses he had against the New York Giants? Yeah, he hasn’t forgotten either. He may not have been playing against the Giants on Sunday, but it didn’t matter- the Jets are guilty by association, and he would have his vengeance.

Alas, we all flew a little too close to the Sun. But hey, at least Kansas City lost!

Bills 29, Falcons 15

  • Somehow, this game resembled Atlanta’s season thus far. Despite it seeming close on the scoreboard (much like Atlanta’s record has seemed regarding the playoff race), the game was decided before the first snap. Even though Atlanta being out of the playoff picture keeps them from having the title of “Worst Team to Ever Play in the Playoffs”, they can still compete for “Worst Team to Ever Somehow Win 8 Games”. Currently sitting at 7–9, the Falcons have amassed a point differential of -136. For reference, the only teams last year with a lower point differential were the Detroit Lions (5–11, PD -142), the Jacksonville Jaguars (1–15, PD -186), & the New York Jets (2–14, PD -214). Meanwhile, Buffalo did what it normally does in games that it knows it’ll win: turn the ball over, play ugly, and end up winning by Vegas’s margins.

Bears 29, Giants 3

  • The happiness I have by not watching this game is exponentially higher than the sadness I would have had by watching it. Thus, in the name of mental health, I decided to not risk my sanity by watching this game. However, I will respond to this game how I respond to most of these two teams’ games: Wow, the Bears won? Oh… it’s against the Giants. Nevermind.

Bengals 34, Chiefs 31

  • Finally. The signature performance of a game we’ve all been waiting for from the Bengals has come in the form of knocking off the defending AFC champs in what previewed like another inevitable Chiefs victory (and continued to feel that way through the first half) only to end up a heavyweight bout with the home team earning a much-needed victory. The parity of the AFC is absolutely insane this year, and I cannot wait to see how everyone is paired up in playoff seeding so that I can excitedly post all the inaccurate predictions I end up having. I’ll go on record saying this: the best way to beat the Chiefs is to have two eventual all-pro wide receivers and just chuck it over their imposing d-line every play. That way, these wide receivers can make incredible catches for massive gains, or draw pass interference penalties for massive gains. And trust me, with these defensive backs on the Chiefs, you’ll get plenty of both.

Titans 34, Dolphins 3

  • At one point this season, I was sad to see the state of the Dolphins team. Then, after 7 straight victories, I had hope for the Dolphins. Maybe this was destiny, maybe they were going to get into the playoffs after being at 1–7 and storming their way back to 8–7. Maybe they- oh. Whelp, that ended my brief experience of what it would be like if I were unfortunate enough to be a Miami fan. Admittedly, the team overperformed to get to this point, but it really takes the wind out of your sails to watch a team with wind in its sails get the wind taken out of its sails. Ah, sailboat metaphors. The Titans handled business, and are my pick for “Scariest AFC Team as of this exact moment”. I don’t think that’ll change until next week at the earliest, but we’ll see if the Browns-Steelers game changes my mind (it won’t).

Raiders 23, Colts 20

  • The Colts did exactly what most teams do after I hype them up for an entire season: lose to a team they weren’t supposed to and give their division away. Granted, the division was almost certainly Tennessee’s, but it was fun for those couple of weeks where all Tennessee had to do was lose against, well, everybody and then have Indy win out to seal the AFCE in its favor. I am the same person who has said (to many friends) that I thought the Colts were the biggest threat in the AFC, and at one point I said they could be a threat to grab the 1-seed. Someday, one of these moonshots will land. For now, though, I missed.

Patriots 50, Jaguars 10

  • Something Belichick vs rookie QB’s, something Jaguars dysfunctional, something “wow, that wasn’t at all surprising”. Did I cover all my bases? The Jaguars sure didn’t.

Buccaneers 28, Jets 24

  • I covered most of this game in my aside at the beginning of this article, but just let me say: what a wild game this was. First, of course, we have the on-field action, with the Jets punching far above their weight and putting the Bucs on the ropes only for the Bucs to respond and have old man Brady win yet another game against his former AFCE punching bags, but we also have the whole “Antonio Brown just pulled a Vontae Davis but in much more dramatic fashion”. I mean, wow. Good riddance of course, but Tampa is razor thin at several positions, most notably wideout. And that was before AB kicked himself out the door. We’ll see how Tampa does in the playoffs, as I have no doubt they’ll handle business next week against the terrible Carolina Panthers, but I worry about their chances come Wild Card Weekend, even against a team like the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eagles 20, Football Team 16

  • I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, the Eagles suck, the Cowboys just blew the doors off of the Football Team but the Eagles barely scraped by them!” This is where I say that NFL teams tend to play MUCH better after being blown to pieces, at least when they have decent coaches. And Ron Rivera is one of those. When teams get exposed on primetime, it can be major fuel moving forward, especially at home against a divisional rival. That said, I enjoy watching Dan Snyder’s team lose and I will continue doing so for years to come.

Rams 20, Ravens 19

  • Almoooosssstttttt…. The Ravens really weren’t given a shot to win this, least of all by myself, but they came out and played hard. Give them credit, they’ve lost a lot of games against a lot of very good teams, but they’ve played all of them close (except, well, the Bengals… twice). John Harbaugh remains a fantastic coach, and if the ball had bounced differently in some of those losses, we could be looking at a playoff-bound Ravens team. The Rams are still a team that looks incredible on paper but consistently underperforms, so that means they’ll probably smash several teams in the playoffs before hopefully losing to my Green Bay Packers in their own quest for the NFC crown. Not today, Matthew Stafford. Not today.

Chargers 34, Broncos 13

  • My buddy is a Broncos fan. When they win, he says things like “maybe Vic Fangio isn’t that bad of a coach,” and “maybe we do have a good offense”. Today, he is saying none of those things, because the Broncos are bad, Vic Fangio is bad, and their offense is bad. The Chargers continue to win losable games while also losing winnable games. Such is life as a Spanos-owned sports team.

49ers 23, Texans 7

  • Why was this game so close for so long? Why was Houston up 7–3 at halftime? Why was- oh, hey, it’s a Tre Lance appearance! All ended up being perfectly fine, the rookie just got off to a slow start but after being down 7–0, the 9ers scored 23 straight points en route to what felt like an easy victory before facing off against the Rams, a team they’ve won against with relative ease over these past few years.

Cardinals 25, Cowboys 22

  • Before writing this section, I almost spilled my water, which tells me that one or both of these teams are disasters. We thought it was the Cardinals for several weeks, but after they got Rodney Hudson back at center, it turns out that it was all an illusion, that the Cowboys were the disaster all along! I hyperbolize this, of course, because this is moreso a Cardinals victory than a Cowboys loss. Unfortunately, I cannot elaborate further because I live in the Carolina broadcast area, meaning that I had the less fun assignment: watching the Panthers-Saints game.

Saints 18, Panthers 10

  • I hate the Panthers. I hate them for making me watch this game, I hate them for giving me a slight shred of hope before tossing it away in the most boring fashion possible. Don’t draft a QB, you’re going to hurt and ruin them. Please, for the love of god, fire Rhule and invest in the o-line. Don’t let the mean man hurt you anymore. Also, how did the Panthers lose by less against the Saints (8 points) in their most recent matchup than the Buccaneers did (9 points)? The city of New Orleans has a voodoo doll of Tom Brady and I am going to stick to this theory no matter what.

Seahawks 51, Lions 29

  • The Russell Wilson sendoff game, perhaps? As expected, the Seahawks beat the brakes off of the Lions, who are much better as a home team than as an away team. The Lions were sent to the shadow realm, which makes me happy that the Packers have officially locked up the 1-seed, because I don’t trust that they won’t drag the Pack down with them next week.

Packers 37, Vikings 10

  • I love Aaron Rodgers. I love Davante Adams. I don’t love the Vikings. I dislove them, if you will (you don’t have to). I have nothing to say about this game because it went exactly as it was supposed to with Sean Mannion starting for the Vikings. I was so bored midway through the 3rd quarter that I almost wished for a more exciting game, only to remember that the Packers’ past 5 games have been far too exciting for my heart to handle for much longer. We need some good blowout games, otherwise I’ll forget that this team is actually good. Godspeed Packers, hopefully you’ll get to face someone like Philly in the Divisional Round.

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