Get ready for an interesting and exciting week of NFL football for Week 17 throughout the league. With many teams still in the mix for a playoff spot, this week’s games could either set some teams apart or further jumble that wild race for the final playoff spots in both conferences.
With the Cleveland Browns setting off the week on Thursday Night Football with a 37-20 win over the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys defeating the Detroit Lions on Saturday night, Sunday’s schedule presents some big opportunities for a few teams who can’t afford a letdown. Who is on upset alert this week? Let’s start with that tight race in the AFC South.
Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) vs Indianapolis Colts (8-7): Raiders still in it
A Raiders win and a Kansas City Chiefs loss against the Cincinnati Bengals will suddenly put the AFC West up for grabs. That is what makes the matchup between the Raiders and Colts a dangerous one for Indianapolis who are tied atop the AFC South with the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Colts come in at favorites (-4), but this battle is probably as even as it gets, which means the team that make the least mistakes will come out victorious. That is exactly how the Raiders beat the Chiefs a week ago. With defensive plays leading to points, the Raiders will be out to force Colts quarterback Gardner Minchew into mistakes. If Maxx Crosby is disruptive in this game, could be a long day for the Colts’ offense even with Jonathan Taylor back at running back and the return of Michael Pittman
On the flipside, the Colts’ defense will be looking to do the same against a very inconsistent Raiders’ offense. If the Colts can get to Raiders rookie QB Aidan O’Connell on a consistent basis, that will make limiting the Raiders offensive weapons who Colts head coach Shane Steichen praised this week:
"Offensively, they have a lot of weapons. Davante Adams is a premier receiver, the back's really good, the tight end is good, Renfrow is a good player. They've got a lot of talent, so we've got to be ready to roll."
In all, this one will come to which defense creates the most mistakes. Colts should still come out on top, but the Raiders are in position to really make things interesting in the AFC Wild Card race.
Tennessee Titans (5-10) vs Houston Texans (8-7): C.J. Stroud is back!
Things haven’t been great for the Titans this season, but you can’t bet on Mike Vrabel getting the best out of his team against his former team. Despite the record, this one may not be much of an upset at all considering the Titans beat the Miami Dolphins in recent weeks and have played a string of one score games, including a 19-16 loss to the Texans in overtime just two weeks ago.
Yes, the Texans are 4-point favorites in this one, but this is a pretty even matchup which could come down to the return of outstanding rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and how well he returns from missing the past two games with a concussion.
With the Titans looking to play spoiler, there’s a big challenge ahead for Stroud who is trying to lead his team to the playoffs. After coming off the concussion protocol, Stroud says he feels great, and his coaching staff says he looks great.
"He's looked the same way he's always looked," Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik said, via the team’s official website. "There's really been no difference in that regard. He's doing a great job just progressing through the stages he's at. He's on track and we'll see where he's at on Sunday."
Can he hold off the Titans who are hungry for a win? The Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars will be scoreboard watching for sure!
New England Patriots (4-11) vs Buffalo Bills (9-6): Belichick’s last stand?
The Buffalo Bills come in as 14-point favorites in this AFC East battle which could be a set up for a major upset in Week 17. With the Bills still having a chance to win the division, a loss to the Patriots at home seems highly unlikely, but Buffalo has struggled against lesser opponents this season.
That does include the Patriots in the first battle at Gillette Stadium that saw Mac Jones lead the Patriots on a game-winning drive to end the game. With that result fresh in their minds, the Bills won’t take the Patriots lightly, but Bill Belichick has found a way recently to show down Josh Allen. But can the Patriots’ defense pull out a complete game against a Bills’ offense that suddenly features a running game as James Cook has emerged as a top running back in the league.
With Bailey Zappe finding confidence leading the Patriots’ offense, it would be a major step if he could keep up with the Bills’ offense in this one. Unless Allen turns the ball over, it will be tough for the Patriots to win the game, but somehow New England will be in the game. It will take a Belichick masterpiece for the Pats to pull it off, but don’t bet against Belichick. Take the points.
Pick’em game: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) vs Seattle Seahawks (8-7)
Two teams still fighting for their playoff lives square off in Seattle as the Steelers and Seahawks are set to battle in this interconference matchup.
With both teams up and down this season, the outcome of this one will come down to coaching. Will Mike Tomlin or Pete Carroll do a better job of motivating their teams and putting them in position to win? After a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers look like a rejuvenated team with Mason Rudolph at quarterback and a motivated George Pickens at wide receiver.
The Seahawks will have DK Metcalf available in this one, but this one will come down to defense and the edge goes to the Steelers who will get enough offensively to stay alive in the AFC playoff race.