Friday Five, Week 17

The penultimate week of the NFL regular season brings plenty of drama as teams fight for the last remaining playoff spots. It also offers plenty of drama as those of us lucky enough to be in the fantasy championship game are fighting for a title. Good luck to all, and here’s the five games that caught my eye on a packed Sunday slate!

Sunday Early Games:

Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (7-8)
: This one is loaded with playoff implications. The Dolphins were once near the top of the AFC, but now that they went zero for December, they’re barely clinging on to the playoff race. In fact, there’s but one Wild Card spot left, and the Dolphins need to get past the competitors in their own division to get there. They also have to do it without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who entered the concussion protocol for the third time this season. The Patriots, meanwhile, have tried to do as much as they can with a makeshift offense. A win here would put them in the drivers’ seat for a return to the playoffs. This will be a crucial battle in the AFC.

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)
What does a battle of two sub-.500 teams have to do with the playoffs? Everything, as it turns out. The NFC South is wide open. The Buccaneers lead at 7-8 but have looked like far from a sure thing. The Panthers, meanwhile, fired Matt Rhule and have found a late-season surge with Sam Darnold. With a win, the Panthers could well control their own playoff fate. All four teams are within a game of each other, making every game down the stretch count.

Sunday Late Games:

New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-8)
: This is a fascinating battle of two teams desperate to remain in the playoff race. The Jets are clinging to life at 7-8 but led by a strong defense. They also get Mike White back for this one while Zach Wilson will be a game-day inactive. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were also a top team early in the season but have since faded to 7-8. They need wins and a lot of help to get back into the playoffs. It’s fair to say whoever ends up losing this one is out of the running.

Minnesota Vikings (12-3) at Green Bay Packers (7-8)
Has there been a 12-win team that people believed in less than the Vikings? Heck, going into this one you’d think the Packers were the team that won the NFC North. Such is life for the Vikings, who have a shot at the No. 1 seed but also could be a high seed eliminated in the Wild Card round. The Packers, meanwhile, have been on a run trying to win their last four games to get into the playoffs. They have gone two-for-two so far, but with big tests against the Vikings and Lions to end the season. Can Aaron Rodgers work his magic one last time? I’m not counting him out.

Sunday Night Game:

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5)
The Steelers are clinging to playoff life, also trying to keep Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s streak alive. He’s never had a losing season as Head Coach. If he loses one more, that streak ends. But the Steelers have a shot with a game against a beat up Ravens squad and then a finale against the Cleveland Browns. Can they get it done? Can the Ravens get a win and keep chasing the Bengals for the AFC North title? It’s all on the line in a good one that was flexed to Sunday night!

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.


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