NFL Week 17 Viewer's Guide: Top Matchups Plus SI Team Publisher Predictions

The Miami Dolphins will be involved in one the many Week 17 games with major playoff implications
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Each week we count down the weekend games in terms of viewer appeal, but when it comes to Week 17 that usually boils down to which matchups have the biggest playoff implications.

That, of course, makes the Miami Dolphins game at Buffalo very significant.

16. Minnesota (6-9) at Detroit (5-10), 1 p.m. — The Vikings were perhaps the most disappointing team in the NFL this season and they close out with this game with little significance.

15. Atlanta (4-11) at Tampa Bay (10-5), 1 p.m. — The only significance of this game is to determine the Falcons' final draft position in 2021 because the Buccaneers are pretty much locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC and will open on the road against the eventual NFC East champions. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has said he's going to play to win, but those plans certainly could change if even one player gets nicked up.

14. Las Vegas (7-8) at Denver (5-10), 4:25 p.m. — There is nothing at stake here between these two non-playoff teams. A Denver victory here would help the Dolphins in the 2021 draft, though, if Houston ends up upsetting Tennessee.

13. N.Y. Jets (2-13) at New England (6-9), 1 p.m. — This is one of those games with nothing at stake beyond draft positioning, though that applies only to the Patriots here since the Jets will have the 2021 second pick regardless. Maybe the morbid curiosity of seeing how far the Pats can fall this season has some appeal to some fans.

12. L.A. Chargers (6-9) at Kansas City (14-1), 4:25 p.m. — The Chiefs already have clinched the top seed in the AFC, so they'll be going with former Dolphins QB Chad Henne in this game. And it's entirely possible they'll be resting other key players. For the Chargers, the big question is whether a win here to finish 7-9 would be enough to save the job of head coach Anthony Lynn. Justin Herbert also could further boost his NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidacy, though it seems almost a given he'll win the award regardless.

11. New Orleans (11-4) at Carolina (5-10), 4:25 p.m.: The Saints can clinch the top seed in the NFC with a victory here, a loss by the Packers at Chicago and a Seattle win at San Francisco, and they won't have to deal with Christian McCaffrey. They also shouldn't expect six touchdowns from Alvin Kamara again, though.

10. Baltimore (10-5) at Cincinnati (4-10-1), 1 p.m. — It's a win-and-in game for the Ravens, who have been on a roll since that crazy Monday night win at Cleveland, and this doesn't look like much of a contest.

9. Seattle (11-4) at San Francisco (6-9), 4:25 p.m. — The Seahawks have an outside chance of getting the top seed in the NFC if  two other games break their way in the late window, but regardless they'll want to continue their recent surge (particularly on defense), which has re-established them as a serious threat to reach the Super Bowl.

8. Jacksonville (1-14) at Indianapolis (10-5), 4:25 p.m. — The Jaguars already have secured the first overall spot in the 2021 draft, but the Colts need to win here to have any chance to make the playoffs — though they'll need help from at least one other team. If things go all wrong for the Dolphins in the 1 p.m. games (they lose and Baltimore and Cleveland win, this becomes must-see for them and their fans because they would need the Colts to lose to make the playoffs).

7. Tennessee (10-5) at Houston (4-11), 4:25 p.m. — This game has double meaning for playoff and draft purposes. A win here clinches the AFC South title for Tennessee as well as locks in the third overall pick for Houston — and we all know that pick belongs to the Dolphins as a result of the 2019 Laremy Tunsil trade. This might be a better matchup than the records indicate because the Texans took the Titans to overtime in their first game this year and Deshaun Watson is expected to play in Week 17.

6. Washington (6-9) at Philadelphia (4-10-1), 8:20 p.m. — The NFL decided to put this game as the Sunday night finale because Washington will be in a win-or-else situation when it comes to the playoffs. The truth, though, is it's a bad matchup because the Eagles have been so disappointing. What could make this really interesting, though, would be Alex Smith returning from his calf injury to try to lead WFT to the playoffs. If he can't play, it'll be Taylor Heinicke and good Washington defense against a bad Eagles team.

5. Dallas (6-9) at N.Y. Giants (5-10), 1 p.m. — This is a true elimination game, with the winner needing Washington to lose Sunday night to capture (steal?) the NFC East title.

4. Pittsburgh (12-3) at Cleveland (10-5), 1 p.m. — This might have been the slam-dunk game of the week if the Steelers had great incentive to win, but they're already declared that not only Ben Roethlisberger but also Maurkice Pouncey, Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt will sit out. Still, there's still something exciting about watching the Browns try to clinch their first playoff berth since 2002.

3. Miami (10-5) at Buffalo (12-3), 1 p.m. — Unlike Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Sean McDermott has decided to keep his plans for this game private in terms of whether his front-line players (most notably QB Josh Allen) will play, which adds a layer of intrigue to this matchup. There's also the Tua factor and seeing how the Dolphins rookie will respond after being benched last Saturday night — particularly in light of the fact the Dolphins won't be able to turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick if things aren't going to well on offense.

RELATED: The Dolphins Week 17 Playoff and Draft Scenarios

2. Green Bay (12-3) at Chicago (8-7), 4:25 p.m. — The Packers will clinch the first seed in the NFC with a victory here, otherwise will need for the 49ers to upset the Seahawks. Chicago somehow finds itself in a position to clinch a playoff spot with a victory or a loss by Arizona against the Rams. The Packers have been rolling but now have to deal with the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari to a knee injury suffered in practice Thursday.

1. Arizona (8-7) at L.A. Rams (9-6), 4:25 p.m. — This becomes a pure elimination game if the Bears defeat the Packers, otherwise it's just win-and-in for the Cardinals. The two games will be played at the same time, which means the intensity will be ramped up from the start. Of course, a key plot is this game is the absence of Jared Goff with a thumb injury, with the Rams offense turning to backup John Wolford, who has never played a regular season NFL snap. Kyler Murray also is banged up, but he's expected to play for Arizona.

And here are the SI team publisher predictions: