The most difficult aspect of Week 17 is determining which teams and players have a desire to play. Some teams will save their stars for the playoffs. Some are fighting for a spot in the playoffs or seeding; their stars will play as usual. Teams recently eliminated (like the Panthers) might be inclined to rest some weary players (as they did in Week 16 with Cam Newton). Teams who had their playoff dreams dashed weeks ago (like the Raiders) will generally play as usual.
To that end, here's a rundown of what we (think we) know about Week 17. The point spreads are in parentheses.
Teams that need a win
- Patriots (-13 at home vs. NYJ) - Need a win to clinch a first-round bye. Playing earlier than Chiefs and Chargers, who are trying to do the same.
- Texans (-8 at home vs. JAX) - HOU is likely playing on Wild Card weekend either way, but a win clinches the division, and a win plus a Patriots loss would make them the No. 2 seed. It's doubtful they pull their starters since a loss could drop them all the way to the No. 6 seed in the AFC and force them to play on the road in Round 1.
- Ravens (-5.5 at home vs. CLE) - Need a win to clinch the division. Playing at the same time as Steelers
- Steelers (-14 at home vs. CIN) - Need a win and Ravens loss to clinch the division. Playing at the same time as the Ravens.
- Colts (-3 at TEN) - Need a win to clinch a playoff berth in a loser-leaves-town match.
- Titans (+3 at home vs. IND - See above.
- Vikings (-6 at home vs. CHI) - Need a win or PHI loss to clinch a playoff spot. Playing at the same time as Eagles.
- Eagles (-7 at WAS) - Need a win and Vikings loss to clinch a playoff spot.
Teams that need a win but could pull starters early
- Chiefs (-13.5 at home vs. OAK) - Need a win or Chargers loss to lock up home-field advantage. May pull starters if they get out to a big lead and/or the Chargers are losing.
- Chargers (-6.5 at DEN) - Need a win and KC loss to clinch division but could pull starters if they're scoreboard watching.
- LA Rams (-9.5 at home vs. SF) - Need a win or Bears loss to clinch a first-round bye. The team won't risk further injury to Todd Gurley this week and McVay has shown he will pull his starters as early as possible.
- Bears (+6 at vs. MIN) - Need a win and LA loss to get a first-round bye. Opening point spread indicated Vegas was not expecting Bears to go all out but Matt Nagy says the team is not in a position to rest starters. With the spread now down to -3 at some sports books, Nagy might be worth listening to.
- Seahawks (-13.5 at home vs. ARI) - There is playoff seeding on the line and Pete Carroll (probably the least trustworthy coach to listen to on these matters) says he hasn't liked the results in the past when he rested starters. Still a possibility the Seahawks regulars get pulled early if they get out to a big lead.
Playoff Teams with Nothing to Play For
- Saints (-9 at home vs. CAR) - New Orleans confirmed Teddy Bridgewater will start against Carolina, which makes it safe to assume the balance of their key starters will rest as well.
- Cowboys (+6 at NYG) - Locked into the 4 seed. Jerry Jones says they'll play to win, but that doesn't mean the starters won't rest.
Eliminated Teams Likely to Rest Starters
- Panthers (+9 at NO) - Sounds like they're thinking about resting starters. Keep an eye on Christian McCaffrey's status.
- Buccaneers (-1 at home vs. ATL) - It should have been all systems go for the Bucs as they played out the string, but head coach Dirk Koetter sounds like he wants Ryan Griffin to be part of the game plan.
RECENTLY Eliminated Teams Likely to Play Starters
- Dolphins (+3 at BUF) - Dolphins coach Adam Gase has his sights set on finishing 8-8. Jeff Fisher would be proud.
- Browns (+6 at BAL) - Shooting for their first winning record in what feels like forever. Interim coach Greg Williams says they will play it like a playoff game.
- Packers (-8 at home vs. DET) - Aaron Rodgers says he'll never quit on his teammates and is playing Sunday. Look for him to try getting Davante Adams into the record books (if Adams is healthy enough to play).
- Washington (+7 at home vs. PHI) - Should be motivated to block division opponent from playoffs.
eliminated for weeks - game plan should not change
- Giants (-6 at home vs. DAL) - Eli will be in there, so the rest of the starters should be too, besides Odell Beckham Jr.
- Raiders (+13.5 at KC) - Jon Gruden was prepping his team for this game before the Raiders played in Week 16. He would love to play spoiler vs. division rival.
- Jets (+13 at NE)
- Lions (+8 at GB)
- Jaguars (+8 at HOU) - Extra motivation to block division opponent from hosting a playoff game. Leonard Fournette will not play.
- Falcons (+1 at TB) - Keep an eye on Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman leading up to game time but early reports have both suiting up.
- Bills (-3 at home vs. MIA)
- Bengals (+14 at PIT)
- Broncos (+16.5 at home vs. LAC)
- Cardinals (+13.5 at SEA)
- 49ers (+9.5 at LAR)
This page will be updated this week as more information is gathered.
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