With the NFL’s 99th season all but completed, less than a week stands between the end of regular-season festivities and the beginning of an exciting set of playoff matchups. With a trio of both division titles and wildcard spots up for grabs, not to mention playoff seeding and home field advantage, a thorough examination of Week 17’s playoff-implicated matchups is in order.
New York Jets (4-11) @ New England Patriots (10-5)
QB with the highest QBR since Week 11? Sam Darnold #nyj— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) December 24, 2018
New England has already wrapped up their 10th straight division title as well as their 15th in the past 16 seasons. Despite already clinching that title they’ll be looking to pocket yet another first-round bye with a win against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
In a not-so-hot “hot-take,” Sam Darnold is the better quarterback in this game. He’s coming in scalding, as he’s posted the league’s top QBR since his return from an injury that shelved him between weeks ten and thirteen. Regardless, a banged up NYJ receiving corps, as well as a Patriots team that is better at just about every other aspect of the game, will prove too much for the number three pick to handle. This game won’t be close.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Jets 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) @ Houston Texans (10-5)
After a promising 2017, the Jaguars began 2018 strong and put together a 3-1 record, which included a decent beating of the Patriots. Meanwhile, Houston looked to be circling the drain with a disappointing 1-3 start to begin the year.
On a fateful September evening, however, the stars aligned, and lightning zapped away any leftover talent Blake Bortles may have had, while rain poured Deshaun Watson’s seemingly lost quarterbacking ability back over his head. The Texans rattled off nine straight wins, including Week 4, and Jalen Ramsey’s normally chirpy mouth was spoon-fed L’s en route to a 2-9 record, including a Week 4 win that feels like decades ago.
While the Jags’ have been long eliminated from the playoffs, the Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win, and a
Prediction: Texans 24, Jaguars 6
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) @ Denver Broncos (6-9)
In the first semi-competitive game on the list, the Chargers will roll into Mile High Stadium to take on the Phillip Lindsay-less Denver Broncos. Both of these teams have managed to disappoint their fans in their own special way, though the Broncos did a better job of such than the Chargers.
The Chargers are coming off a disappointing loss to the Ravens – which gave Kansas City the ability to control their playoff faith. The Broncos have spent their season juggling statement wins against the likes of the Seahawks, Chargers, and Steelers, with head-scratching losses, highlighted by beatings from the Jets, 49ers, and Raiders.
While injuries plagued this Denver team, mismanagement and underperformance are culprits of their unfortunate 2018 as well. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is achievable with a Chargers win, and a Chiefs loss – Los Angeles will play to for the W.
Prediction: Los Angeles 31, Denver 21
Oakland Raiders (4-11) @ Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Kansas City will do their best not to absolutely blow it against the division laughing-stock Oakland Raiders as a win gets them the #1 seed. The Raiders have done a fairly good job of tanking thus far this season, picking up a bevy of decent draft picks for the coming years. Their tanking has also reaffirmed who their QB of the future is, as Derek Carr has posted career-best numbers in spite of having virtually no weapons around him.
Patrick Mahomes – through 16 starts— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 27, 2018
391 completions (1st all time)
5,100 yards passing (1st all time)
48 touchdowns passing (1st all time)
379 completions – Carson Wentz
4,374 yards – Andrew Luck
39 touchdowns – Kurt Warner
Speaking of quarterbacks of the future, Patrick Mahomes will wrap up the season at Arrowhead, and in a gimme game, put an exclamation point on an MVP-caliber year. Expect the fire-raining sophomore QB and his tribe to paddle the built-for-posterity Jon Gruden-
Prediction: Kansas City 38, Oakland 21
San Francisco 49ers (4-11) @ Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
The Rams are looking to pick up a first-round bye for the upcoming playoffs, but they’ll need a win against the
CJ Anderson doing his best Todd Gurley impression pic.twitter.com/72AK9RrFDB— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) December 23, 2018
Prediction: Los Angeles 34, San Francisco 17
Chicago Bears (11-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
Minnesota has been flatly underwhelming this season, as their third-ranked defense has done it’s best to carry them. The defense has carried the load due to their offense sputtering to 17th overall in the league.
Minnesota will need a win, plus an Eagles loss or tie, to clinch them a playoff berth. Meanwhile, Chicago has clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2010 and will be fighting for a win against the Vikings, combined with a Rams loss, to snag a
Prediction: Minnesota 20, Chicago 16
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
Any season without a playoff berth is a disappointing one, especially for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of their shortcomings this year. Sophomore duo James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuester both had fabulous sophomore years, and Ben
On the opposite end of the ball, their defense ranked in the top third of the league. Regardless, Week 17 has arrived, and they’re fighting for their playoff lives. While they have a very manageable matchup against an injury-ravaged Cincinnati team, they’ll need a Ravens
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 17
Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) @ Washington Redskins (7-8)
The Redskins were unable to keep their playoff hopes alive during Week 16, as their loss to Tennessee sealed their fate. If you’re a fan of whacky quarterbacking, this is the game for you.
Nick Foles emotional thinking this could be his final game at the Linc— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 23, 2018
“It’s emotional. I love playing in Philly. I knew there’s a chance this could be it. This city means a lot to me. There’s a chance it’s coming to an end. I am very grateful for every opportunity to play here” pic.twitter.com/QapoeDUrhQ
Carson Wentz has been out since Week 15, so Nick Foles will be manning the signal-caller spot for Philly. Washington will employ former pickup basketball player/fourth string quarterback Josh Johnson for his third straight start for the Redskins. Washington will try to play spoiler as Philadelphia seeks a second straight season in the playoffs, which would require them to win while Minnesota loses. Philly will do their part – but will Chicago?
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Washington 20
Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
The Browns will march into Baltimore to take on their division rival Ravens, with a Zane Gonzalez missed kick-sized chip on their shoulder. It turns out that the missed field goal that would’ve won the Browns their only tie has loomed large – if they had won that game, they would be playing Baltimore for the division title this week.
Baker Mayfield 16 game pace: 4,121 yards 30 TD, 14 INT— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) December 29, 2018
Patrick Mahomes (5 months younger than Mayfield) 16 game pace: 5,137 yards 51 TD, 12 INT
Mahomes would have the 7th highest passing yards in a season and 2nd highest TD season of all time.
Both had outstanding seasons.
The Baltimore Ravens needs a win, or a Steelers loss, to clinch the AFC North. While Baker Mayfield would surely love to kick Baltimore’s playoff hopes to the curb, the Ravens’
Prediction: Baltimore 26, Cleveland 13
Indianapolis Colts (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (9-6)
The Colts ride into Tennessee to take on the Titans, led by Marcus Mariota who is questionable to play this week against Indianapolis. Even without him, the Titans’ hopes are not dashed.
The Titans have ridden Derrick Henry over their current four-game win streak, as he’s amassed eight touchdowns in their past four contests. The Colts, meanwhile, have gone 8-1 over their past nine contests, and comeback player of the year candidate Andrew Luck may be the biggest pro-bowl snub of the year after he finally returned from injury to post top-six QB numbers. He’s rekindled his phenomenal chemistry with stud WR T.Y. Hilton, and the Colts’ defense has surprisingly ranked in the top third of the league.
In an incredibly tight matchup with two solid defenses and quality offenses to match, Marcus Mariota’s health will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He’s currently viewed on the right side of questionable, and is likely to play – as such, the Titans will squeak out a playoff berth, and potentially a division title if the Texans lose as well.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 24